Ethical Computing: Instructional Design, Moral Reasoning and Imagination and Narrative

Argumentation Community Group,
Argumentation Theory,

In the United States, there is no ethics curriculum in American public schools.  Due to legal precedents (see also: , ,, curriculum about morality and ethics would tend to be both multicultural and secular, from a neutral academic viewpoint, and the topics could be discussed in entire courses, e.g. ethics, or portions of existing courses, e.g. social studies, civics, pre-law or legal studies.

Moral reasoning can be defined as being “the process in which an individual tries to determine the difference between what is right and what is wrong in a personal situation by using logic.” (

A new technology topic is that of ethical computing (, ethical reasoning and argumentation can be performed and generated by technology.  Advances in ethical computing can be of use to society, to scholars, scientists, theorists, instructional and curriculum designers.  Traditional moral values can have numerous arguments iterated, each mapping to explanations, and new moral values and insights, including pertaining to contemporary and future societal topics, can be discovered as well.

Technology can compare, for sets of moral claims, arguments and systems of arguments; arguments map to explanations, systems of arguments map to systems of explanations and the macrostructure and structure of systems of explanations map to the natural language of digital textbooks (natural language generation).  Adding complexity, the digital textbooks to be output are hypertext and multimedia.  From an input set of moral and ethical claims, or curriculum topics, to recommendations for authoring teams or to the natural language in the chapters and sections of the digital textbooks.

Ethical computing is a component of such systems.  Other topics include, towards getting at what works in terms of curricula, education psychology, developmental psychology and stages of moral development ('s_stages_of_moral_development).

Considering the philosophies of ethics and mathematics simultaneously, ​learning the argumentation for claims and the reasoning between claims can equip students’ moral reasoning, can enhance uses of conceptual and procedural knowledge to reason about new or unknown situations.

In addition to the aforementioned approaches to ethics and to moral reasoning curriculum, is narrative.  A Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article, Imagination, indicates that “Since ancient times, philosophers and others have argued that fiction can play a role in the ‘moral education’ of those who imaginatively engage with it through developing of their abilities to think and act in morally desirable ways. One suggested mechanism for this process is that fictions allow imaginative acquaintance with unfamiliar moral perspectives and emotions, and cultivate existing moral understanding and capabilities by directing the reader's attention in ways that allow that understanding to be applied. Theories along these lines are endorsed by Carroll, Currie, Jacobson, Mullin, Nussbaum, and Robinson, and explored throughout the works of Iris Murdoch passim.

“Martha Nussbaum maintains that one of the central moral skills is the ability to discern morally salient features of one's situation. This skill, she contends, is one that must be developed, and one to which the engagement with literature might effectively contribute by providing ‘close and careful interpretative descriptions’ of imagined scenarios that enable emotional involvement untainted by distorting self-interest. Hakemulder reviews some empirical psychological evidence for this hypothesis.

“Mark Johnson holds a view on which our moral understanding and moral development are both fundamentally tied to our imaginative abilities. On his account, our abilities to imagine morally relevant situations and alternatives aids in our moral understanding, and our moral education consists at least partly in the development of abilities to imaginatively apply moral concepts to events in our everyday lives.” (

A Wikipedia article, Metacognition, indicates that “Narrative works of art, including novels, movies and musical compositions, can be characterized as metacognitive artifacts which are designed by the artist to anticipate and regulate the beliefs and cognitive processes of the recipient [and] are something of a tool with which the creators of the work wish to attain certain aesthetical and even moral effects.” (

A synthesis between mathematical and narrative educational philosophies, as pertinent to the design of ethical curriculum, is that ethical computing and narrative computing can convenience instructional design processes for moral reasoning and imagination, digital textbooks include multimedia and video productions, and technologies can enhance creative and design processes, conveniencing the authors of digital textbooks and of narrative compositions, of narrative works of art.

Kind regards,

Adam Sobieski

Received on Saturday, 17 May 2014 17:54:36 UTC