The American psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg grouped together children while they were still small and did a study on the moral development of these people in a span of about twenty years. He was interested in the justification or reasoning behind the right behavior of the group and was able to mark out of six stages of development.
Pre-conventional Level Concerned with concrete consequences to individuals, focusing on pursuing concrete interest, while avoiding sanctions.
Stage one Punishment-Obedient Orientation What is right is to obey the rules, avoid physical damage to persons and property. The reason is that one wants to avoid punishment. Also, there is the deference to power and position. In relation to social perspective, what is considered is simply one’s own interest as there is still no sense of another’s point of view.
Stage two Instrumental-Purposive Orientation What is right is one’s own immediate interest, and letting others act also in their own interest. Thus, each to his own. What is right is what is fair. You do your thing, I do my thing; we have fair, equal exchange.
Stage two Instrumental-Purposive Orientation The reason for this is instrumental, to satisfy one’s need and admit the needs of others in their own self interest. While the other is after his/her own interest, I too have my own interest. And if I do what is wrong, I might not obtain my own interest. Human relations are seen as a market place, a place of exchange. Fairness, reciprocity, equal sharing are all interpreted in a physical, pragmatic way.
Conventional Level Concerned with fulfilling role expectations, maintaining and supporting the social order, and identifying persons or groups involved in this order .
Stage three Interpersonal Concordance Orientation What is deemed right is what pleases or helps others, what is approved by others, what reinforces mutual relationships such as trust, loyalty, respect, gratitude.
Stage three Interpersonal Concordance Orientation The reason for helping others, for pleasing others, for doing what is conventional or what is mutually good for everyone is the need to be seen by the self and others as a loyal, caring person (important here is my image to others), the desire to maintain rules and authority that support your typical good behavior and living up to what significant others expect.
Stage three Interpersonal Concordance Orientation In relation to the social perspective, one takes the third person perspective where one knows how the group will react, is aware of shared feelings, agreements, groups expectations that take primacy over individual interest.
Stage four Social Structure Orientation What is right is doing one’s duty; showing respects for laws, authority and society and contributing to the maintenance of society and institutions. One’s reason for doing one’s duty and the like is that, action which breaks the social or moral agreements impairs the system which is a value. It would be hazardous to digress from conformity, from social norms.
Stage four Social Structure Orientation One reason for this is that conscience is imperative to the moral law, to the ethical system. Another reason is the maintenance of the system for system for its own sake. The social perspective takes the perspective of a generalized other and not just the personal other. The generalized other is the institution, the society or the church. One sees a given social issue from the perspective of a fixed system of laws and beliefs.
Post – Conventional Level In this level, there is the effort to define the moral values and principles that have validity and application apart from the authority of groups or persons and the ability to see beyond laws and norms of society. It is here that one examines, adopts and applies the different ethical frameworks or principles.
Stage five Social Contract Orientation This stage includes what is right; individual rights and standards which have been critically examined, and agreed upon. One says “these rights have been examined, and since they are right, they are the ones to be followed.”
Stage five Social Contract Orientation Here, one is concerned that obligations be based on calculations of overall utility, what is really good for all. To a certain extent, there is universality in this good but still within basic human society, basic human agreements.
Stage five Social Contract Orientation The social perspective here views the rights of each as best protected when stability governs relations, when one recognizes that moral and legal perspective sometimes differ and thus one may question the legal, because it may not be moral.
Stage six Universal Ethical Principles ***Kohlberg was not able to observe this stage in his group, and thus he projected it. What is right is following self chosen ethical principles based on judgments that are universalizable, irreversible, and consistent.
What is right are the universal principles of justice, and the reasons given are the validity of universal moral principles and the sense of personal commitment to these principles. Stage six Universal Ethical Principles
The social perspective taken is the moral point of view from which even the social arrangements are derived; from this universalizable moral point of view, moral judgments are made. Stage six Universal Ethical Principles