Critique of Kohlberg’s Claim of Cultural Moral Universality Essay

3481 Words 14 Pages
Critique of Kohlberg’s Claim of Cultural Moral Universality

Introduction

As the American Heritage Dictionary plainly states, morality is "a system of ideas of right and wrong conduct" (American Heritage Dictionary 2000). People have been researching the development of this sense of morality for centuries. There is great debate over how a person’s morality is formed and then how to categorize one person’s level of morality compared to others. Most researchers believe that people reach different stages of morality within their lifetimes. The tougher issue is determining what comprises the various stages of morality, which is dependent on what a person’s ideas of right or wrong are to begin with. Therefore in order to establish a set
…show more content…
Even basic "universal morals," such as stealing, keeping promises and breaking rules, can not always be agreed upon. (Gardiner, 1998, p.260) Through moral research people have determined that one can never assume that others accept the same implications or reasoning behind a moral principle. Therefore a universal moral code can not be found since no one can agree on the underlying definition of what is considered right or wrong morally. (Fleischacker, 1994, p. 19) Thus Lawrence Kohlberg’s claim that "not only is there a universal moral form, but the basic content principles of morality are also universal" is incorrect (Kohlberg, 1981, p.126).

The Work of Lawrence Kohlberg

Lawrence Kohlberg, a prominent moral researcher of the 20th century, attempted to universally categorize the moral development of all people from childhood through adulthood. Based on his findings, he divided the process of moral development into three levels, with each level encompassing two stages. The first level he labeled Preconventional when the child is most importantly concerned with himself and doing what is right so that he individually will not get into trouble. The second level is called Conventional and is much more socially centered. Kohlberg labeled the third level Postconventional where the individual now thinks above