Free «How Moral are You» Essay Sample

“How moral you” is a reading chapter which focuses on people's morality and more specifically on theoretical approach by Lawrence Kohlberg on children's orientations and development toward morality. Lawrence Kohlberg theory on the development of moral reasoning modifies and incorporates Jean Piaget's ideas about intellectual development.

According to Kohlberg, the exceptional ability of human beings in making any moral judgments develops during their childhood. He further points out that, intellectual ability of any child plays a great role in the development of a certain level of morality.

Kohlberg believes that morality in human beings develops further through a series of six special stages which are further classified into three levels; a move that gave birth to his morality development theory. The theory further explains that these stages of moral development are universally practiced regardless of the existence of different cultures, environments or experiences. To demonstrate his theory, he used children of different ages because they tend to function better depending on the moral stage they have achieved.

Kohlberg presented the children (who were of different age groups) with hypothetical moral dilemmas testing how these children would do if faced by such situation. The response given formed the basis for the formation of his moral development theory. The three levels each are elaborated by two stage and they include: The Premoral level, the conformity level and the self-accepted moral principles level.

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The first level was best tested in the elementary level. In stage one of this level, most children behave according to what authority figures like teachers or parents have told them and because this is what the society has accepted and practices. If they go against these accepted morals they will be punished. In stage two of the same level, the child starts to realize the needs of others and behaves right so that they can be treated right too.

Conformity is mostly tested in a society setting. Level 1 stage 3, the child starts to do what will gain the approval of others morally and strives to live up to these expectations while maintaining loyalty and trust of others. In stage four, there are more response to obligations and respect for law and order. The already established social order in the society should always stand as the law without any questioning.

According to Kohlberg, in stage five of the self-accepted moral principles level, a person will most likely face conflict while attempting to put together morality with what is legal. For example, what may be termed as moral in a society may not necessary be legal. Above all in this stage, a child will realize that some laws are better than others and might hence need to adjust to them with time. In the last stage, which according to Kohlberg is not reached by many people, is based on the value for the universal ethics and the demand of individual conscience. For example, if these ethics are violated by a law, a person will respond and behave according to these ethics regardless of the law.

Generally, the advancement of Lawrence Kohlberg’s moral development theory is dependent on the different age levels of people. As the children’s ages increased, their moral reasoning and proper responses to the different moral dilemmas’ presented to them increased.

On the criticisms, Kohlberg’s moral development theory does not connect two most vital issues; moral thinking (development) and moral behavior. In most situations moral thinking should result into a moral behavior. However this is not necessary the case, depending on situation and above all his theory only deals with moral development.

The two main moral dilemmas discussed in this chapter, were based and tested on the western individualistic society and Kohlberg claimed that it should work well universally. He should have also tested this theory with a collective society to see the outcome. What worked for the individualistic society may not work for a collective society.

Lastly, the concept of universal ethics superseding the law has been overemphasized under the Kohlberg’s moral development theory especially when making moral choices. He has left out the fact that interpersonal feelings may play an important role in making moral choices.


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