Integrating Care And Justice: Moral Development

This essay has a total of 5417 words and 22 pages.

Integrating Care and Justice: Moral Development


Part One:
The criticisms of Kohlberg's moral development stages seem to center around three major points, his research methods, the "regression" of stage four, and finally his goals.

The first criticism that I would like to address is that of his research methods. Kohlberg is often criticized for not only his subject selection, but also the methods by which he tries to extricate data from those subjects. His initial study consisted of school boys from a private institution in Chicago. The problem with this is fairly obvious, that this does not represent a significant portion of the population to allow for generalized conclusions. In other words, how can we test some boys from Chicago and ascertain that this is how all people develop worldwide?

I believe that the answer to this criticism comes from the theory that it relates to. Kohlberg's moral development schema is highly dependent upon the idea that there are fundamental truths that cannot be dismissed. These ideas are "in the ether", wound into the very fabric that constructs human nature. Granted, his descriptions of the various stages also seem very dependent upon the surroundings and social institutions that an individual would be subjected to. Yet these institutions would be have to be built upon people, all of whom would share these ideological truths. It seems fairly obvious that all people have undeniable needs, survival and some group membership. Kohlberg's stages are merely methods by which one could fulfill these needs. For instance, Spartan societies were adamant about maintaining the purity and strength of the civilization. Citizens saw no wrong in exposing a sick or lame baby to the elements so that it might die. Surely an act of cruelty today, but in that society, a necessary evil The prosperity and wealth of the whole was of greater importance than that of the individual.

In addition to these justifications, additional research substantiated Kohlberg's claims. Different subjects were tested, from all ages and regions, and the same conclusions were drawn from the data. Assuming that these conclusions are correct, and the data leads to the same interpretation, is there any other possibility? This argument seems most impressive, especially considering the differences between people that are evident in everyday life. Similarities on such an abstract level must be supportive of Kohlberg's claims.

Another criticism of Kohlberg assumes that his subjects are biased, but proposes that his methods are even worse. To get the perspective of another person, he confronts them with seemingly impossible, unrealistic, and confrontational dilemmas. I, myself, had trouble with the Heinz dilemma because of my inability to believe that it was something that could take place in the real world. Even more so, the situation was something that was very foreign, and very hard to relate to. Anyone who has contemplated something very life changing, like a death in the family, then experienced it, understands how different it is to actually be faced with the dilemma. When theorizing, it is hard to maintain the intimate connection needed to truly react to a moral dilemma.

My defense of this situation comes from a lack of a suitable alternative. True moral dilemmas are not only rare, but extremely hard to document. When faced with a situation that demands not only one's complete attention, but emotional vigor, it is really hard to find time to document or discuss feelings (let alone the motivation to do so!). For example, looking at the Heinz dilemma, it would be very hard to explain why one was chasing a man around while he tried to find a cure for his dying wife. An even less enticing alternative would be trying to sit him down and discuss how he was feeling.

So, the only proper and effective way to get a response is to propose a hypothetical situation, and document replies. It may not elicit the pure data that one desires, but according to the Heisenberg principle, it is impossible to measure anything without influencing it. Some research methods indicate that it is more important to follow one's thoughts through the reasoning process, rather than just asking for possible solutions. However, I have to believe, and justify from personal experience, that people have incredibly low attention spans. Asking someone to explain how they think through a decision is almost as likely to yield useful data as asking them to volunteer their PIN numbers. It seems as though people are able not only to be influenced, but to influence themselves into making different decisions. This can lead to the "endless circle" conversation.

The criticism that I find most interesting is the supposed "regression" that occurs when going from stage three to four. Personally, I must agree with the idea that it is, in fact, a priority change. I also believe that this comes from my undeniable faith in the "goodness" of humanity. I would like to believe that in their heart and soul, everyone is good natured. So, to see that one must develop stage four is disappointing.

Yet, I will agree that it is necessary. It is a comprehensive step, and an improvement from the stage three point of view. No matter how enticing and supposedly noble stage three appears, it is lacking components necessary to promote the functionality of the person who holds it. A loss of innocence is not necessarily a detriment, especially when considering personal experience. Skin tends to thicken as one gets older. Therefore, is it necessarily a regression that someone would tend to trust others less, and be more interested maintaining social institutions?

I believe that this in no way represents a regression, but rather a broadened scope and interpretation of surroundings. At level three, you are totally interested in fulfilling the obligations that are expected of you. The world seems a very small place, one person and your surroundings, people, places, and things. If the requirements that are expected from day to day, from people who are very close to you can be fulfilled, that is the absolute goal. As one grows older, you are exposed to more of the institutions and methods that are integral to the relationship and interaction of all people. The rules have changed. There are more requirements, more expected of you. Unfortunately, every person does not have limitless resources with which to meet all of these goals. So, priorities must change. New social institutions now appear to be the driving force in happiness and security. So, they now encompass all the priorities that drove a person at stage three. To fulfill the previous stage's goals with this new scope, one must dedicate resources to it.

Finally, I would like to discuss Kohlberg's point of view when considering what I call his "goals". Some have criticized that Kohlberg is trying to objectify morality to a Natural Law, or justice perspective. Although he does seem to abstract characteristics to a societal level, I do not believe that his is an honest attempt to undermine the gathered data integrity. In other words, although it seems he is drawing the same conclusions over and over, he is not distorting it to do so.

Kohlberg is often criticized for a libertarian ideological bias in his conclusions of gathered data. In addition, it has been observed that his conclusions are carefully explained, argued and defended, but they can be twisted and contorted to fit any range of different opinions. They mandate an agreement to social contract, that being used as a philosophical base from which moral guidelines are built. But social systems differ from region to region, and within regions by people.

I believe that the criticisms themselves do not harm Kohlberg's views, but rather enforce them. As I have discussed before, there are undeniable personal needs that every individual works to fulfill, regardless of stated motives. Everyone needs to survive, and to be emotionally fulfilled by belonging. The systems by which people administer their interaction are simply tools by which they meet those needs. However, I have also said that I have a flawless devotion to the goodness of mankind. Thereby, I believe that people are trying to better their situation relative to one another and the situation of society as a whole. Kohlberg may view these moral ideals as too socially interactive, but isn't that what the true goal of any of this is? People truly feel good when they have met their desires, and one of those is to exist with other people in a cohesive social system. As unbelievable as it may sound, Kohlberg's findings do not represent distorted data, but rather the incredible coincidence that all people, on some level, are inherently similar.

It would be unfair to try to enforce the ideas that come with Kohlbergian justice without also defending Carol Gilligan's theme of caring. Therefore, I would like to address three criticisms: the paradox of self-care, the idea that care is a regressive movement, and finally, the seemingly huge jump from stage one to two.

I personally find the self-care characteristic of caring to be the most interesting to discuss. During class sessions, everyone seemed most interested with this perspective. It seems as though it is the ethical issue that plagues society. Where does the balance lie between seeking to fulfill one's own interests, and meeting the requirements placed upon one by others? I believe that we all recognize a need to initialize and solidify a healthy caring for oneself before it is possible to be outwardly caring for others.

However, the way that this method is proposed makes it appear as though it might be a cop-out.

My perspective comes from the fact that there is no really appropriate way to show self-care without seeming self-centered. No matter how little one dedicates to oneself, no matter what the circumstances, someone will see it as too much. Yet, there is no effective way to show compassion, respect, or contentment with the outside world without first developing all of these attributes within oneself. When constructing this self-persona, the goal is not to become conceited, but rather to develop a foundation upon which more complex interactions can be constructed. Of course, any well intentioned act can be construed into something that it is not. I truly believe that this is the case when critiquing self-care.

I would also like to argue that self-care as a whole is not what it seems to be, nor is it what it's name implies. Rather, it is a competence at a certain level personal and societal development. At earlier times in one's life, the easiest way to contribute to surroundings is to not harm them. For instance, it would not be expected of a toddler to assist in the preparation of dinner. The best that he could hope to do is not destroy anything! At this level of development adequacy is defined by not harming something, not necessarily working towards it's betterment. So, caring for oneself is not self-centered at all, it is the best method available. By caring for oneself, you are bettering your personal situation. In turn, this improves the quality of not only your life, but those around you. You are more presentable, easier to associate with, and more productive.

With my previous point in mind, I would like to move onto the idea that the levels of caring are actually a regression from previous stages. This assumption comes from comparisons of Kohlbergian stage three attributes, with that of Gilligan's care stages. Stage three (Kohlberg) seems to represent the "Prince Valiant" of personalities. One should work towards becoming a better person, fulfill societal requirements, forgive transgressions, and exhibit constant unadulterated pacifism. It truly seems to be a noble individual, the likes of which exist only in fairy tales and fantasy novels. Stage one of caring then comes along, representing a more introspective, self-interested individual. This new person is very afraid of hurt from others, and does everything within his/her power to avoid it. In fact, this includes not reaching out to others in any way, so that there is no chance of being scarred.

It seems as though this is an almost childish, selfish response to harsh reality. But reality is the point! Reality does not allow for Prince Valiant to be effective. Instead, he is abused, stepped on, and taken for granted. These are not exactly prime rewards for someone who is dedicated to being a good person and helping others. However, this raises a conflicting point, when we now consider that society's mistreatment of people leads them to lose their faith. So all people must be inherently abusive, right? I should hope not, but rather, that it is a case of poor timing. Granted, there will be cases where people are, in fact, not "role models". They will be non-supportive, destructive, and frustrating. From personal experience (and thereby bias), I find that most people are not evil, but just not at the same stage. Everyone can remember back to grammar and middle school, where children are not only non-supportive, but cruel and incredibly hurtful. As they grow older, these characteristics disappear. In the meantime, however, they are busy dismantling the na´ve nobility of stage three. If, somehow, all people could be raised to the same levels at the same time, there is a chance we would never see the desensitizing that we do. So, it is not a regression, but a move forward, a better ability to deal with the real world.

Finally, one of the biggest critiques of the caring system is the difference between the first and second stages. While stage one has been criticized for being a regression, stage two has been attacked for being a quantum leap from stage one. The morals and guiding themes of stage two are so diametrically different from that of stage one, that it seems almost an impossible move. Also, there is an argument that stage two admits that stage one was a regression, stage two merely brings us back up to par.

Stage two, admittedly, is a huge step in personal thinking. Instead of the self-centered, protective nature of stage one, stage two is predicated on self-sacrifice, maternal instincts, and maintaining peace. To me, this is not a step back up to a stage that was lost during a stage one regression, but an incredibly comprehensive step forward. The key is that this stage does not even attack the same issues in a similar way. Rather, it depends upon using oneself as a tool to show interest and caring for others. In terms of conflicting views, this could be the most impressive point towards unifying them. Some view this entire stage as a complete change of heart, throwing out all ideals and starting anew. Instead of looking at it with the previous stage's perspective, the way to attack this is to recognize that this way of thinking is an entirely new strategy.

(The next section is assuming that one would naturally move from a Kohlbergian stage three to Gilligan's stage one). Stage three was nice, but too nice. It allowed too many opportunities for those who did not share stage three to abuse someone who does. It was obviously inadequate. So, instead of rashly charging into a different mindset, one takes time to "rebuild the foundation" (Gilligan stage one). With a new base to build upon, one can put together another plan of attack. Those undeniable human goals are still there, it is just a matter of coming up with a good system to accomplish them.

At stage two, with the scars of inefficient methods still showing, one can try to develop a new system that is comparable to all previous attempts, but slightly better. If hurt significantly by stage three's inability to deal with conflict, caring stage two may not come about until much later. Stage one is a healing process that leads to a new outlook, and a greater ability to deal with the problems that plagued stage three. It seems silly to assume that people develop by

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