Kohlberg’s Theory of Moral Development Lawrence Kohlberg was a cognitive psychologist who applied developmental psychology specifically to moral development. He identified three primary stages of moral development and two sub stages within each. The three primary stages are: Pre-conventional moral thinking Conventional moral thinking Post-conventional moral thinking Background The theory concerns itself with the reasons behind an action, and not the action itself Six people can do the same thing , but each of them may do it for different reasons People are attracted to higher stages Encountering moral dilemmas allows for growth Stages of Moral Reasoning LEVEL 1 (Pre-Conventional) – FOCUS ON THE SELF Stage 1: Punishment and Obedience Stage 2: Personal Usefulness LEVEL 2 (Conventional) – FOCUS ON OTHERS Stage 3: Conforming to the Will of the Group Stage 4: Authority and Social Order (Law and Order) LEVEL 3 (Post-Conventional) – FOCUS ON PRINCIPLES Stage 5: Social Contract and Human Rights Stage 6: Universal Ethical Principles (Personal Conscience) Stage 1 – Punishment and Obedience This stage generally occurs from the ages of 2-6 At this stage, children see rules as fixed and absolute Physical consequences determine the goodness or badness of an act. Avoidance of punishment is the key motivation The person submits to power and authority to avoid punishment Example You do your chores because you do not want to get grounded. Stage 2 – Personal Usefulness This stage generally occurs from the ages of 7-11 What is right is that which satisfies one’s own needs and occasionally the needs of others. Human relations and fairness are interpreted in a physical and pragmatic way – what is useful to me? “You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours” is the basic mentality and motivation. Example Volunteering at a retirement home for community service hours Stage 3 – Conforming to the Will of the Group This stage generally occurs from the ages of 11-25 Good behaviour is that which pleases or helps others and gets approval from them One conforms to standard ideas of appropriate behaviour One earns acceptance by being ‘nice’ People in this stage have a great desire to belong to a group even if it means compromising their own individual belief system Example You allow your friend to cheat off your test because you want him/her to appreciate you and give you compliments for doing so. Stage 4 – Law and Order This stage generally begins around age 15 until 25 One sees obedience to rules for their own sake as a necessary to maintain order Right behaviour consists of doing one’s duty and respecting authority Flaws in the system are due to failure of the individuals to obey the system Example You decide not to J-walk because it is against the law. Stage 5 – Social Contract and Human Rights This stage can be reached around ages 21-25 The right action is described in terms of general values that have been agreed upon by the whole society Laws are justified because they maintain social order One may work within the system if they desire to change the law for the betterment of society Right action is seen as a matter of respecting the democratically accepted values of society Largely based on the principles of ethical relativism Example Because women were resorting to back- alley abortions you decide to encourage the government to legalize abortion. You work with existing social structures to improve a situation. Stage 6 – Personal Conscience This stage generally begins around age 15 until 25 Right is a decision of personal conscience in agreement with abstract ethical principles that apply to all persons everywhere. Decisions are based upon universal principles of justice, the reciprocity and equality of human rights, and respect for the dignity of human beings as individual persons Choices are grounded in genuine moral interest in the well-being of others, regardless of who or where they are. Largely based on the principles of ethical absolutism Example Because you believe the principle that all human life should be respected equally regardless of the circumstance you try to change the existing social structures (cultural, media, religious) that make pregnant woman believe that their only real alternative is abortion. In this case you will most likely be working against existing social institutions. The Reality These are natural steps There is no stage-skipping, but sometimes we slip back when we are stressed Someone can be at different levels in various aspects of life One can reason one way and act another way Some individuals become stuck in one stage – not everyone reaches mature morality 15-20% of American adults continue to think at the preconventional level – ½% reach Stage 6 Biases Men base moral judgement on principles of impartial justice, fairness, and equity Women base moral judgement on principles of caring, nurturing and responsibility Women experience intimacy, care and concern at an earlier age than men Kohlberg’s Dilemma Example A woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to produce. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $ 1,000, which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said, "No, I discovered the drug and I'm going to make money from it.” Should Heinz have brake into the laboratory to steal the drug for his wife? Read the following moral dilemma and elaborate on what the father (you) would do using each of Kohlberg’s six stages of moral development. For each of the six courses of action explain the reason for choosing this action using Kohlberg’s description of that stage. You are on holiday in Bali with your 18 year old son and wife. You have been there for a week and are ready to head home. All three of you are at the airport getting ready to board your plane, when an armed officer comes around with a sniffer dog. You have all your bags on a trolley, and the dog sniffs at both your wife and your bag, and passes over it, however when he gets to your sons bag, he begins to get a bit more active. You look over at your son and he’s looking a little nervous. You know he’s smoked a little marijuana in his time, but generally, he’s a good kid, and you certainly didn’t think he’d actually be stupid enough to bring it back on the plane with him. At first you feel angry that he would do such a thing and start planning your responsibility lecture, but then you realize that you are in Bali, and they have a zero tolerance policy on drugs, meaning your son could be jailed for life, or worse, executed, if he does have some illicit materials in his bag. You look at your wife and realize she has come to the same conclusion and has gone pale with fear. The armed officer accompanying the dog is beginning to look more stern with every sniff the dog takes and looks directly at you and asks you to open to the bag. You do, and as the officer begins to take things out of the bag, you see to your horror that there is a small quantity of marijuana stashed in with your sons belongings. The officer looks at you and asks “Who’s bag is this?” You realize you have to answer, but the answer won’t be easy. You see your wife in the corner of your eye, and she is about to step forward and claim it as her own; what do you say? Pre-Conventional Examples STAGE DESCRIPTION Examples of Moral Reasoning Favouring Heinz’s Theft Examples of Moral Reasoning Opposing Heinz’s Theft Punishment and - He should steal the drug, Obedience because he offered to pay for it and because it is only worth $200, not the $2000 the druggist was charging - He should steal it because if he let’s his wife die, he would fall into a depressive state -He shouldn’t steal the drug, because he might get caught and sent to jail -his law-breaking would cause him to feel guilty Personal Usefulness - He shouldn’t steal the drug, because he might get caught and his wife would probably die before he gets out of jail – it wouldn’t do much good - He shouldn’t steal, because the druggist was not doing a bad thing by wanting to make a profit - It is alright to steal the drug, because his wife needs it to live and he needs her companionship - He should steal the drug, because his wife needs it and he isn’t doing any harm to the druggist because he can pay him back later Pre-Conventional Examples STAGE DESCRIPTION Examples of Moral Reasoning Favouring Heinz’s Theft Examples of Moral Reasoning Opposing Heinz’s Theft Conforming to the Will of the Group - He should steal the drug, because society expects a loving husband to help his wife regardless of the consequences - He should steal the drug, because if he didn’t his family would think he was an uncaring human - He shouldn’t steal the drug, because he will bring dishonour on his family and they will be ashamed of him - He shouldn’t steal the drug, because no one would blame him for doing all he could legally (The druggist would be the heartless one) Law and Order - He should steal the drug, because if he did nothing, he would be responsible for his wife’s death. He should take it with the idea of paying the druggist back - He should steal the drug, because if people like the druggist are allowed to get away with being greedy and selfish, society would eventually break down - He should not steal the drug, because if people are allowed to take the law into their own hands, regardless of how they justify it, social order would break down - He shouldn’t steal the drug, because it’s still always wrong to steal Post-Conventional Examples STAGE DESCRIPTION Examples of Moral Reasoning Favouring Heinz’s Theft Examples of Moral Reasoning Opposing Heinz’s Theft Social Contract and Human Rights - The theft is justified, because the law is not set up to deal with the circumstances in which obeying it would cost a human life. - It is not reasonable to say that stealing is wrong, because the law should not allow the druggist to deny someone access to a life saving treatment - You can’t really blame him for stealing the drug, but even such extreme circumstances do not justify a person taking the law into their own hands - He shouldn’t steal the drug, because eventually he would pay the price of loss of self-respect for disregarding the rules of society Universal Ethical Principles - He must steal the drug, because when a choice must be made between disobeying a law and saving a life, one must act in accordance with the higher principle of preserving and respecting life - He is justified in stealing the drug, because if he had failed in this action to save his wife, he would not have lived up to his own standards of conscience - Heinz must consider the other principle who need the drug just as much as his wife. By stealing the drug he would be acting in accordance with his own particular feelings with utter disregard for the value of all the lives involved - He should not steal the drug, because though he would probably not be blamed by others, he would have to deal with his own self-condemnation, because he did not live up to his own conscience and standards of honesty.