Stephanie J. Ferrera, MSW
Morality, neutrality, and differentiation of self are distinct but interrelated human processes. Neutrality arises from our effort to understand what is in nature; this is the hallmark of science and objective thought. Morality arises from our effort to determine and practice what ought to be in human affairs; it involves subjectivity and a bias as to right and wrong. Neutrality cannot replace morality, but it can enlighten and guide moral thought and practice. Both neutrality and morality are inherent in the process of differentiating a self, the individual's development of increasing ability to think on a complex level, to define personal values, and to act responsibly.
Darwin saw the moral sense as uniquely human, but rooted in the social instincts that humans have in common with other animals. Darwin suggested that altruism is the basic moral principle. Bowen's concept of the emotional system adds something to evolutionary theory. The emotional system provides a context for understanding the broad spectrum of moral thought and conduct, and the scale of differentiation sheds light on the ways that individuals and groups vary in their practice of altruism and other moral principles. This writer argues that the concept of differentiation of self is not only an accurate description of what is, but also a trustworthy basis for determining what ought to be. Based on this thinking, she advocates differentiation as a guide to choosing moral principles and working toward a more mature and responsible level of social and moral functioning.