The 2016 Mercer Law Review Symposium asked speakers to address some aspect of three organizing questions about educational interventions designed to cultivate professional identity in law students. The Symposium's first proposed question of whether it is worthwhile to establish such interventions seemed largely rhetorical. The third question asked about appropriate assessment of such interventions and will be addressed in this issue by leaders in the field of legal ethics and professional program assessment. Hence, as a teacher and psychologist whose primary role in the field has been to synthesize theory and research, I chose to question the second guiding question with its assumption that, if a decision was made to attempt an educational intervention, then James Rest and colleagues' Four Component Model of Morality (FCM) should guide curricular goals.
Accordingly, this Article aims to provide a brief overview of the rich and varied landscape of the field of moral psychology with a specific focus on the current debate about how much of a role actual conscious reasoning and deliberation plays in moral decisions and consequent actions. The FCM, while acknowledging the role of the intuitive and emotional reactions central to the new theory on the block, Jonathan Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory (MFT), 2 still privileges the kind of thoughtful moral deliberation that Haidt argues rarely actually occurs. I will argue that given the goals of legal education and practice, such privileging makes a great deal of sense. Secondly, however, I argue that while encouraging ethical professional identity through the lens of the FCM may be an excellent fit for a law school curriculum, we do students a real disservice if we do not also help them to understand both our evolutionarily pre-attuned propensity to make rapid, intuitive evaluations heavily influenced by cultural norms and our dark and dangerous capacity for moral disengagement.
Vozzola, Elizabeth C.
"The Case for the Four Component Model vs. Moral Foundations Theory: A Perspective from Moral Psychology,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 68:
3, Article 6.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol68/iss3/6