Date of Award

Summer 5-18-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Eddy Nahmias

Second Advisor

Daniel Weiskopf

Third Advisor

Andrea Scarantino


Recently it has been proposed that humans possess an innate, domain-specific moral faculty, and that this faculty might be fruitfully understood by drawing a close analogy with nativist theories in linguistics. This Linguistic Analogy (LA) hypothesizes that humans share a universal moral grammar. In this paper I argue that this conception is deeply flawed. After profiling a recent and appealing account of universal moral grammar, I suggest that recent empirical findings reveal a significant flaw, which takes the form of a dilemma: either there is something wrong with the moral grammar model because we do not actually possess the innate contents (rules, principles, and concepts) it says we have, or the moral grammar model is simply the wrong model of moral cognition. In light of this dilemma, I conclude we ought to be skeptical that the Linguistic Analogy can adequately serve as a general account of moral cognition.