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The Kohlberg Dilemma: A Literature Review of Moral Development.

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Caleb Hutchinson

on 9 October 2012

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Transcript of The Kohlberg Dilemma: A Literature Review of Moral Development.

What is Morality? "Moral behaviour is behaviour that conforms to a
generally accepted set of rules...about personal and
social behaviour" (Martin et al, 2010). Morality is: . Culturally specific . Socially constructed . Individually subjective (Moral Reasoning) ...How do we study morality? Jean Piaget (1895 - 1980) According to Piaget, the development of morality occurs in three general stages: Stage Description Pre-moral
(0-5 years) Moral Realism
(5-10 years) Moral Relativism
(10+ years) little understanding of rules or principles. Rules are obeyed quite rigidly. Judges a person's action by its consequences. Develops a belief in punishment & justice. Becomes more flexible in interpreting moral issues. Becomes aware that moral responses are relative,
that rules can be broken & that people are not always punished. Outline:

. What is morality? A definition

. History of research into moral development.

. Defining Kohlberg’s theory of moral development and the “Kohlberg Dilemma”.

. Strengths & limitations; what the critics say: A critique of Kohlberg’s theory.

. What does this mean? Conclusions drawn. The Kohlberg Dilemma: A literature Review of
Moral Development. The Kohlberg Dilemma: A literature Review of
Moral Development. Lawrence Kohlberg (1927 - 1987) Kohlberg argued that:

"All individuals in all cultures go through the same order or sequence of gross stages of development, though they vary in rate and terminal point of development".

This is referred to as a "moral ladder". "Moral Reasoning" His theory:

. Identifies specific stages of moral development

....AND..

. Elaborates & expands on previous theories of morality by addressing in more detail reasoning behind moral choices. "moral development" Levels and stages of Kohlberg's theory of moral development: The "Kohlberg Dilemma" Kohlberg frequently illustrated this using the story of the Heinz Dilemma:

Heinz’s wife is dying. The druggist in town has discovered the cure. It cost him $200 to make but offers it to Heinz for $2000. Heinz asks everyone he knows for money but can only come up with $1000. He promises to pay the rest later. The druggist says no: he wants to make money from his discovery. That night Heinz breaks into the store, takes the medicine, and saves his wife's life.

Was Heinz right? Why or why not? Common thinking at each stage: Stage 1: Avoiding punishment

Heinz was wrong: he will end up in prison! Punishment is proof that it is wrong. Stage 2: Self-interest

Heinz was right: he wanted to save his wife. After all, she takes care of his children. Maybe someday she will return the favour. OR: Maybe after a while he will see that going to prison to save his wife was a raw deal. Internalization: behavior that is controlled by internal, self-generated standards and principles.
Moral dilemmas: pit one moral choice against another; it matter less what the individual SAYS is right or wrong and more WHY they say it. Preconventional Stage: No internalization, moral thinking is based on punishments and rewards.

Stage 1- Punishment, obedience orientation Right and wrong depend on results
Stage 2- Individualism and purpose Right and wrong depends on hedonistic calculus.


Conventional Stage: Intermediate internalization; parental standards or societal laws.

Stage 3- Interpersonal norms Public opinion is basis for judging right & wrong
Stage 4- Social system morality Right & wrong is duty, respect the law because its the law.


Postconventional Stage: Full internalization, moral development is based on self-governing standards.

Stage 5- Community vs. individual rights The right thing is what is best for society; it is based on justice,
equality and absolute values.

Stage 6- Universal ethical principles Right and wrong are based on absolute values; sometimes those
values precede laws. Stage 4: Law & order morality

Heinz was wrong: without respect for the law, society would fall apart! If everyone took the same action as Heinz did, there would be anarchy.

Society has to function without creating chaos therefore laws determine right and wrong. Stage 5: Society vs individual rights

Heinz was wrong but the judge should go easy on him. The druggist has a right to profit from his discovery, but the wife has a right to live.

You judge society against your own ideas of right and wrong. After all, societies can be well-run whilst considered evil, like Nazi Germany or the Apartheid. Stage 6: Ethical principles

Heinz was right. We have a duty to justice to break unjust laws. It is ethically wrong for the druggist to allow Heinz's wife to die due to a lack of profit.

The value of human life takes precedence over monetary compensation; therefore, Heinz's actions were justified. "Moral stages are a reflection of cognitive development". ...What do the critics say? Critical review of Kohlberg's theory Primary strengths: . Addresses limitations of Piaget's theory.
. A more elaborate view of moral development. Primary Limitations: . Kohlberg’s post-conventional stage may be considered dangerous.

. Major disconnect between moral reasoning and moral behaviour.

. Some (cross-cultural) moral decisions do not fit in Kohlberg’s stages. Justice Perspective v. Care Perspective: Kohlberg’s theory operates from a justice perspective. Focuses on the rights of the individual.

Carol Gilligan argued that Kohlberg’s ideas were not accurate for girls and that an inherent

gender bias existed.

. The “care perspective” sees people in terms of their connectedness with others

. Males are concerned with the abstract, impersonal concept of justice.

. Females are concerned with protecting enduring relationships and fulfilling human needs (Care). Conclusions... Despite the limitations of Kohlberg's theory it seems primarily useful as more of an explanatory framework that addresses aspects of subjective moral choice.

It's strengths lie in its explanatory and predictive value, not as a predictor of moral behaviour. I also note that standards of socially acceptable and moral behaviour change over time and across cultures. Therefore Kohlberg's theory, is not comprehensive, but rather should be used whilst acknowledging its limitations. ...Questions? Stage 3: Social expectations

Heinz was right: it is what any good husband would do! No reasonable judge would put him in prison.
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