Six Stages of Moral Development, From Piaget to Kohlberg

18 07 2008

Kohlberg’s stages of moral development . . . explain the development of moral reasoning. . . inspired by the work of Jean Piaget and a fascination with children’s reactions to moral dilemmas.

. . .Expanding considerably upon [Piaget’s] groundwork, it was determined that the process of moral development was principally concerned with justice, and that its development continued throughout the lifespan, even spawning dialogue of philosophical implications of such research.

Kohlberg used stories about moral dilemmas in his studies, and was interested in how people would justify their actions if they were put in a similar moral crux. He would then categorize and classify evoked responses into one of six distinct stages.

Obedience to authority on pain of righteous punishment types will reject this, no doubt, but they are reasoning like little kids. As adults, the reasoning stage our majority politics seems obsessed with is the fourth, Authority and Social Order Maintenance.

School, State and Church too, all seem Very Authoritarian these days, as playing out in the UCF Catholic communion controversy, for example.

Level 1

1. Obedience and punishment orientation
(How can I avoid punishment?)

2. Self-interest orientation
(What’s in it for me?)

Level 2

3. Interpersonal accord and conformity
(The good boy/good girl attitude)

4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation
(Law and order morality)

Level 3

5. Social contract orientation
6. Universal ethical principles
(Principled conscience)

Dana at Principled Discovery thinks through some high level reasoning imo, about the different moral arguments for homeschooling, in “Homeschooling is Not the Gospel:” Read the rest of this entry »