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Kohlberg's theory of moral reasoning

Discussion in 'The Pub' started by Bravus, Jan 21, 2009.

  1. I'd been looking for the perfect exemplar, and jazzthechef kindly provided it in OldBellHelmet's thread about his adventures with the law:

    It happens in almost every discussion, both here and in the response sections of the daily newspapers, as well as on talkback radio and everywhere else. There is always at least one person's response that is 'the law is the law, OMG, someone broke the law!!!1!' I personally got lambasted for (allegedly) buying my daughter a few drinks for Schoolies, which happened to fall 3 weeks before her 18th birthday.

    I'm not really even having a go at jazzthechef - it's just that every time it happens, it makes me think of Lawrence Kohlberg's theory of moral reasoning. Kohlberg lists a number of levels of moral reasoning - the reasons people give for doing or not doing certain things. Here's a quick rundown from Wikipedia:

    So, while it's possible to pass judgement on someone doing 109 in a 60 zone from almost any level, the 'someone broke the law!!!1!' response is a pretty classic Kohlberg Stage 4 response.

    Simply recognising that this range of possible approaches exists actually makes reading a lot of the discussion here a lot clearer and less confusing... not everyone thinks about issues the same way I do.

  2. Oooookay. Im a little confused. Whats exactly is your point? :?
  3. Bad things happen to other people, then it's comedy.
    Good things happen to other people, then it's an outrage.
  4. Heh, I apologise for using you (edit: to jazzthechef, Marx sneaked in while I was writing this long screed :p) as the example, but it was just so perfect. But if you ask me to I'm happy to remove the quote from you and all references to you. I'm honestly not having a go at you, but your call.

    My point is purely and simply that I find knowing about Kohlberg's framework to be useful and entertaining when I read these debates, because it allows me to see and understand that there are a wide variety of possible approaches to thinking about the issues.

    It might not even be a fair characterisation of your thinking at all times, but that particular response seemed to say that what is important is the law and not breaking the law. That is the key form of moral reasoning used. So, for example, even if a particular law was stupid or unjust or misguided, someone using a Kohlberg Stage 4 moral reasoning framework would still feel bound to keep the law, and believe all others should keep the law.

    Take the example of buying alcohol for my daughter. Until quite recently, the law was that under 18s weren't allowed to buy alcohol themselves, but parents were not prohibited from giving their teens alcohol. A sensible approach with appropriate respect for the roles and responsibilities of parents. But take a few idiot parents who gave their kids whole ute trays full of booze for Schoolies, and a healthy dash of Today Tonight style sensationalism, and a law comes in that parents can no longer make this judgement for their kids. I believe that law is asinine and probably unconstitutional (or whatever the Australian equivalent is). I know my daughter well, she's very responsible, she enjoys 1-2 drinks in an evening and has a good time. So I chose to break the law, based on my own moral reasoning about costs and consequences and what's best for her. Kohlberg Stage 4 reasoning would not allow me to make that choice, and would damn others who made it.

    There are lots of possible grounds on which to disagree with my choice. Kohlberg's theory is about reasoning, not about outcomes, and various kinds of reasoning will get you to similar outcomes.

    As I said, I'm basically sharing something that I find really interesting, in the hope that others will also find it interesting.
  5. Now i get it (sorta). I agree with your buying of alcohol for you daughter but im still of the opinion that helmet wasnt just breaking the law by a little he did it quite extremely. As if you wee buying alcohol for a 9 year old.
  6. Fair point, yeah.
  7. seems somewhat interesting, but from what i can see, seems to be fairly normal human behaviour with a special name attached to it. might be a bit more to it at further study...

    From what i understand from the original post, im somewhat inclined to agree with jazzthechef - seemed to be done more for the hell of it then for any real purpose. having said that, for a five second brain fade, he probably paid more than enough in consequences - having to arrange a lift home, court day etc.

    all in all, if i thought i could get out of something relatively minor (he didnt shoot someone), on a technicality, id be pushing it for all its worth.
  8. +1
    To be fair I'd have to take into consideration WHERE exactly Bell did exceed the limit. I know, I know .. it's a 60 Zone! who cares right?
    There is a difference IMHO, between a 60 zone in the suburbs, and one along a semi deserted stretch of road like those found outside mainstream suburbia.

    re: Bravus .. that's ridiculous! Your daughter was weeks off 18 FFS. Tell the do-gooders to blow it out their asses.
    Many families with or without european backgrounds offer alcohol to kids.
    An example would be a small red wine with dinner .. or at christmas lunch etc..
  9. Definitely not all 60 zones are created equal.

    Some people seem to think they came down from the mountain on tables of stone carried by Moses and inscribed with God's own finger. Truth is, some scruffy bureaucrat in the council made what in many cases seems to be a pretty arbitrary choice.
  10. Allow me to figure on the flip-side!

    We exercise judgement with regard to a choice, usually between what's 'right and wrong' in the mentioned instances.

    There are a few people around here who hold 4 as a much higher moral code than self interest.
    4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation
    (Law and order morality)

    What was the governments moral motivation for creating the law you are saying must be upheld on principle?
    Are not higher fines in the face of improving road-tolls born out of
    2. Self-interest orientation
    (What's in it for me?)

    on the part of the state?

    I certainly believe so.
    Look at any murder trial... a critical factor in judging the guilt or punishment of the offender is motive.