Moral Development Essay

1474 words - 6 pages

The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne
AP Language

Student Activity

For this novel, you will keep a dialectical journal, or reader-response journal, of a different kind. You will chart each main character’s stages of moral development. Read the information below about Kohlberg’s six levels of moral development.

In 1964, Lawrence Kohlberg argued that children progress through a sequence of stages, representing different orientations to moral rules and values. To study the development of moral judgment, Kohlberg devised hypothetical moral dilemmas. Each dilemma usually presents a conflict between obedience to law and response to human needs. Responses to these ...view middle of the document...

Definitions of the six stages, along with sample responses of each stage, follow. Notice that the stage of a person’s response is not determined by whether he says Henry should or should not have stolen the truck. Rather, orientations and concerns underlying the response determine the stage.

Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Judgment

Stage 1. Punishment and obedience orientation. Concern for obeying superior authority and for deference to superior power. The possibility of punishment as the chief concern in resolving moral dilemmas.

Sample responses to “Should Henry have stolen the truck?”:

No. The police might catch him and put him in jail.
Yes. No one was around and he wouldn’t get caught.

Stage 2. Egoistic and hedonistic orientation. Concern for satisfying one’s own needs. Occasionally a concern for satisfying the needs of others. An orientation to reciprocity (“You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours.”)

Sample responses to “Should Henry have stolen the truck?”:

Yes. He had to get his wife to the hospital. He needs her to keep the house clean and to do the shopping.
No. Someone would probably come by to help pretty soon. And anyway, if his wife died, he could probably find another one.

Stage 3. “Good-boy” morality and approval orientation. Concern for pleasing and helping others. Conforming to stereotyped role images, such as the “good boy,” “good husband,” and so on.

Sample responses to “Should Henry have stolen the truck?”:

Yes. He was only trying to help his wife because he loved her.
No. Taking the truck would make the farmer very angry.

Stage 4. Law-and-order orientation. Concern for showing respect for authority. Concern for doing one’s duty and for maintaining the social order. Deference to laws and religious authority. Laws are seen as absolute, to be obeyed in all circumstances.

Sample responses to “Should Henry have stolen the truck?”:

No. Even though Henry was desperate, he broke the law.
Yes. It was Henry’s duty to save his wife. God wants every man to do his duty to his wife.

Stage 5. Contractual, democratic orientation. Concern for individual rights and the general welfare of society. Laws are seen as valid because they have been democratically agreed upon and have a rational basis.

Sample responses to “Should Henry have stolen the truck?”:

No. Henry may have been desperate, but the rights of the farmer who owned the truck must be respected.
Yes. The farmer owned the truck, but the wife’s need for medical care was more important.

Stage 6. Conscience of principle orientation. Concern for living up to self-chosen moral principles, such as the Golden Rule or the greatest good for the greatest number of people. The value of human life is primary.

Sample responses to “Should Henry have stolen the truck?”:
Yes. The value of human life always takes precedence over obedience to laws and property rights.
Yes. If Henry had not taken is wife...

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