Moral reasoning is the ability to judge the difference between what is right and wrong. The ability to do what is right and wrong is influenced by individual’s beliefs and the situations. We can either be motivated by care or justice according to the two famous scholars of moral reasoning, Kohlberg and Gilligan. Kohlberg’s perspective is justice oriented; in fact he carried out his earlier research exclusively on boys, before incorporating girls. He was inspired by Piaget’s stages of moral development, and for the first stage (Pre conventional stage) he concludes that younger children do the right thing because of fear of punishment. Kohlberg’s last stage of moral development concludes that older people reason with regard to the social contracts, individual and universal principles.
Gilligan, on the other hand, was a student of Kohlberg, but she came up with a different theory to deal with the issue of moral reasoning. She added a feminine perspective to moral reasoning, for one, the people she interviewed were female. She wanted to support her perspective that women reason with regard to care, love and maintaining good relationships. Gilligan came up with various stages of reasoning, which was inspired by Freud, and for the first stage, the major goal in decision making is individual goals, but one progresses to responsibility for others and self sacrifice.
I use Gilligan perspective mostly in my day to day reasoning. I think morality consists more of care than justice. Reasoning with care is more appropriate when dealing with people. Close people such as friends and family form the basis of our social interactions; they are people who care and want the best for me. If I reason with justice as my main motive, then I will end up ruining the relationship. Friends and family should have the best interests of their loved ones; maybe if care did not exist most parents would have locked up all their teenage children because they tend to disobey a lot.
When we reason with care, we think of what will benefit the whole society and not just for individual needs. We live in a community, in families and in schools. Nobody lives in isolation, when we care for others we live in harmony and in a place where one will help the other in case of a problem. For instance in a school situation, not all students are bright and if the bright student does not help out the poor students, chances are high they will not graduate. No reasonable classmate would be happy if his fellow classmate does not graduate, so he will help him out.
Human beings are to err; sometimes people make honest mistakes or accidents. We cannot deal with certain mistakes as if they are crimes. This is the time that calls for much care despite the fact that we are tempted to think in line of justice. However, we have to reason that at some point we will make a mistake and the same way you treat people is the same way they will treat you.
Gilligan’s perspective of care has its weaknesses. First of all it is viewed as a weak perspective; people who reason with Kohlberg’s perspective think it is a sign of weakness to care and say that we are too afraid to reason with justice. Another weakness is that people tend to take advantage of people who reason with care. Some do mistakes or take advantage of others because they know that they are caring. In as much as we reason with care, we need to evaluate the situation in order to know when care is necessary and when justice is necessary. Both perspectives are valid and they play a complementary role, only that one has to take the leading role.
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