Standing for the moral primacy of the individual in society

Document Type

Conference Presentation

Conference Title

Association for Moral Education


Montreal, Canada

Conference Dates

October 24-26, 2013

Date of Presentation



Western thinkers from Kant to Nietzsche to Kohlberg to Gilligan to Loevinger have pointed to the moral worth of the individual and to the development of human potential. In contrast, others have championed the necessity of authority within the binding ethos of traditions. A provocative case example from Shweder (1991) is re-evaluated to argue that the moral worth of the individual limits cultural relativism, even if the social constitution of the individual includes incommensurable cross-cultural meaning. These moral limits have implications for intercultural engagements and maintaining a pluralistic society. They also provide the basis for post-conventional stances.

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