Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Playground Jurisprudence

I don't pay too much attention to legal academics. But John Mikhail is a worthy exception. He has been arguing that the moral unconscious is structured both like a language (Chomskyan) and like a jurisprudence for a few years. His latest -- on the way children learn moral reasoning -- is worth a look.

Just as Chomsky argued that children are far better at picking up grammar than would be possible unless they, somehow, already knew it, Mikhail argues that kids are better at moral/legal reasoning than they could possibly have picked up from instruction. As the proud father of an eight-year-old who, when motivated, asks more penetrating questions and makes more subtle distinctions than the Court of Appeal, I am convinced he is on to something.

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