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Reasoning about how one is to relate to others is moral reasoning, because any specific way of relating constitutes a practical answer to the basic question of moral theory: "How are we to take others' claims into account - what claims, in what way, and to what extent?"(1) This is not to say that all reasoning is of equal moral significance or requires equal deliberation. Clearly some judgments, e.g., stepping out of someone's path on a sidewalk, require little thought or effort, and actors may not often consider such ways of relating in moral terms. Nevertheless, morality is concerned at root with how people treat one another, so however banal the issue, the point remains that a decision is made.

To establish a certain way of relating as a culture is therefore a moral act, because one must justify the culture's implicit claim about how people should treat one another. A claim that people are to relate to one another in such-and-such a manner must be redeemed by normative argument and so, as Chapter 1's discussion of the challenge of normative grounding concludes, the normative issues raised by a theory of development must thus be considered.(2) As Monti (1982:241-242) puts it, "Public policies are essentially moral projects involving the total ethos of a culture and society. ...  [E]thics is the coordinating center of this public moral dialogue." It is in this sense that Habermas' validity claim of rightness is a normative claim as well as a practical one. Habermas (1979a:3) notes that communication can occur given only the (minimal) claim of mutual comprehension, but that in addition, any communication also makes the (maximal) implicit claim that the framework of communication treats the interlocutors morally.

An extensive body of longitudinal, cross-cultural, and cross-sectional research has shown that the moral reasoning of individuals has Piagetian cognitive structure.(3) The following claims, all supported by that research, are relevant to the present argument:

1. Moral reasoning varies in its structure (the logical interrelationships of the concepts). There are six possible structures, called "stages."(4)

2. The stages can be hierarchically ordered such that each stage represents an integration and differentiation of the previous stage (Kohlberg, 1981, 1984a; Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer, 1984a).(5)

3. Stages are acquired in hierarchical order, with no skipping of stages and no retrogression to lower stages (Colby et al. 1983).

4. Progression through the stages depends initially on the successive recognition of each stage's relativity to different moral concerns and perspectives and ultimately on an appropriate reorganization of that stage to embrace and coordinate those perspectives. Thus progression is not inevitable, but it is possible - for any person, at any stage, whenever she perceives such relativity (Kohlberg, 1981, 1984a).

5. The above statements apply uniformly to all societies (Kohlberg, 1981; Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer, 1984a; Nisan and Kohlberg, 1984; Snarey, Reimer, and Kohlberg, 1984; Weinreich, 1977; Edwards, 1975; Turiel, Edwards, and Kohlberg, 1978).(6)

The research can support these strong claims because it studies the structure of moral reasoning, not the content. Let us examine this distinction more clearly. One stage of moral reasoning (called "Stage 3" in Kohlberg's work) involves a "Golden Rule" maintenance of interpersonal relations through mutual role-taking. Consider the following two hypothetical Stage 3 answers to the question of whether a judge should give jail terms to conscientious objectors: (a) "The judge should put them in jail because that's what's expected of judges," (b) "The judge should put herself in the conscientious objector's place and have a heart." In both answers the reasoning is structured in terms of the maintenance of good interpersonal relations and mutual role-taking. The conclusions drawn are opposite and the concerns brought to bear are different, of course, but these content differences stem from a very minor difference in thinking. The first answer tells the judge to role-take with other members of society, while the second answer tells her to role-take with the accused. The role-taking perspective is ambiguous in its application, and the diversity of content thus stems from the ambiguity of the simple Stage 3 structure. The distinction between content and structure is especially crucial in cross-cultural work, where content differences are extreme.(7)


The Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget first discovered and outlined structural stages of cognitive development. Using a special clinical method, Piaget observed subjects (children) dealing with tasks requiring cognitive operations. By altering the tasks slightly and, for older children, by questioning them to learn their understanding of what they were doing, Piaget was able to discover the specific structures in which cognitive operations were organized and how these developed over time.

This method presents the researcher with two difficulties, however. First, it requires the researcher to assume nothing about her subjects' cognitive abilities, to ask them "dumb" questions, and to take their answers seriously. The lack of a fixed questionnaire makes the method's success entirely dependent on the skill and theoretical grasp of the researcher. Second, Piaget's method depends on controlled observation (e.g., interviews). These are not feasible in much social-scientific and especially historical research.

Kohlberg eliminated the first of these problems by using a standard set of moral dilemma stories (e.g., should a poor husband steal a drug necessary to save his wife's life) and follow-up probes (e.g., "What if the husband didn't love his wife?") to elicit his subjects' moral reasoning. The researcher can interview subjects individually, or administer the stories as a group written test. Responses are scored according to a detailed manual.(8)

This scoring system can also be applied to materials other than Kohlberg's standard moral judgment interview. Moral reasoning appears in many forms - inaugural addresses, letters, etc. - and can be scored wherever it appears. (Scoring reliability will vary, of course, depending on how explicitly and extensively the moral reasoning is set forth.) This permits social scientists and historians to conduct cognitive-structural analysis without interviewing their subjects.

The above methods measure the moral reasoning of individuals in isolation - that is, how they reason without reference to others' comprehension of their reasoning. The researcher's role is that of the perfect listener: having perfect understanding and making no judgments. A good interview thus elicits reasoning from the individual system, not the cultural system.

Cultural system reasoning is easy to find, however, since people employ it to communicate with and persuade each other within the context of their culture. Survey research's preoccupation with studying the individual's "true" opinion, carried over into Piaget's and Kohlberg's testing methods, has obscured the near-omnipresence of cultural reasoning.

Cultural materials containing such reasoning are already the subject of much research by social scientists not dependent on surveys. Such materials include presidential inaugural addresses (Yeager, 1974) and press conferences (McMillian and Ragan, 1983), Supreme Court decisions (Chesler, 1983), strike demands (Shorter and Tilly, 1974), theological arguments (Radding, 1979), children's stories (McClelland, 1976), congressional speeches (Rosenwasser, 1969), television shows (Lichter and Lichter, 1983), introductory college textbooks (Bertilson, Springer, and Fierke, 1982), public prayers (Medhurst, 1977), advertisements (Williamson, 1978), editorials (Sinclair, 1982), and newspaper stories (Van Dijk, 1983). Each of these categories of materials contains cultural moral reasoning insofar as it attempts to persuade or to explain a desired course of action. Only the application of cognitive-structural analysis to these materials would be at all unusual.(9)

Researchers need not rely exclusively on secondary source materials, however. They may also elicit cultural moral reasoning directly by interviewing respondents in a public setting. Respondents could be asked to write persuasive appeals to other members of their culture. Or, respondents could be asked to study issues, meet in small groups, and decide as a group on the best argument for a course of action. Respondents could be interviewed about the reasoning behind their choices in Prisoner's Dilemma games. Respondents could be interviewed about their moral reasoning in front of their peers. In general, cultural reasoning is easier to study than private reasoning because the researcher can cast aside the classical experimental strictures to isolate the respondent. After all, if a respondent alters her responses in others' company, this indicates something about the group's conduct of politics in other settings.

The major difficulty in cultural research will be determining the intended audience, i.e., the cultural context within which such materials or responses are produced. In his inaugural speeches, who was President Reagan addressing? His campaign staff? Campaign contributors? People who had voted for him? Those who didn't vote for him? Republicans? The nation as a whole? All human beings? Since the way of relating chosen will vary with the situation, the researcher must identify which culture is operative. In interviewing people directly, the researcher can easily find out how they see their imagined (or actual) audience. This task will be more difficult with historical records and, more generally, all expressions where the researcher can't question the participants. These problems are only methodological, however: culture as defined here is in principle measurable. Where researchers can question people directly, such measurement should also be quite straightforward in practice.


Biological structures adapt to their environment, Piaget says, through the two general processes of assimilation and accommodation.(10) In the broadest biological sense, assimilation is the organism's absorbing the world to provide sustenance for itself. For example, our own digestive systems are able to ingest and digest a great variety or things, all of which wind up as a few basic nutrients in our blood; our bodies assimilate the variety of the world to their own narrow requirements. In the broadest biological sense, accommodation refers to the structural elaboration necessary to permit the assimilation of the world's variety. While simple organisms merely pass seawater along a tube through their body, extracting whatever ready-made nutrients are present, our own bodies, though still basically tubes, deal with hard-to-extract nutrients by means of many specialized organs: teeth and tongue for masticating and extracting food; salivary glands, stomach, gall bladder, and pancreas for various chemical treatments; and of course legs and arms for chasing down and grabbing nutrients still on the hoof. Assimilation is the organism's reduction of the world's variety to the common denominator of food; accommodation is the organism's alteration of its own processing to better use the world's variety.

Cognitive development is one particular form of general biological adaptation in which assimilation and accommodation take special forms. Cognitive assimilation occurs as one construes reality; that is, re-presents it to oneself in terms of cognitive schemas. These schemas become successively more differentiated within themselves and integrated among themselves as reality proves resistant to the schemas' attempts to subdue it, and they must accommodate to it.

Structures of moral reasoning assimilate moral reality both by being applied to new situations (e.g., how do the obligations of friendship apply to marriage, or to business partnerships, or to ... ?) and by being applied to new moral perspectives (e.g., how do the obligations of friendship look from the point of view of one's friend, or from that of an acquaintance, or from ... ?) Structures of moral reasoning accommodate the complexities of moral reality by integrating the actor's moral perspective with those of other moral actors and by differentiating moral from nonmoral factors. This integration and differentiation is of previous reasoning structures, such that each reasoning structure simultaneously integrates and coordinates the perspectives of the previous stages and in turn serves as one of a set of elements coordinated and integrated by the subsequent stage. The resulting sequence of stages we term moral development.

Rather than pursue these abstract statements now, we will return later to a general discussion of their implications. I illustrate them now by presenting Kohlberg's six stages in the text below, from earliest (Stage 1) to latest (Stage 6).(11)

The stages' definitions are supplemented by three parallel discussions. The first describes how each given stage overcomes the moral ambiguities in the previous stage.(12)

This discussion will become important in later discussions of the theory's normative grounding.

The second discussion gives several examples of how the given stage appears in actual relationships. Kohlberg rightly takes pains to base his theory on structure rather than content, since cross-cultural validity demands such abstractness, but this chapter concerns how the cognitive stages appear in actual social relationships. Because structure does not determine content, many relationships are possible at each stage; the supplementary discussion gives a limited variety of specific relationships associated with each level. The examples given are not exhaustive of the ways of relating possible at each stage and, indeed, neglect non-Western cultures. For example, the Japanese relationships of giri and on, described by Benedict (1946), are not discussed here. I emphasize these limitations in order to preserve the theoretical strength of this approach, even at the expense of highlighting the present chapter's limits. Specialists in other cultures can use this approach to broaden social scientists' understanding of the cultural variety possible at each stage.(13) Despite this caveat, the reader will see that the ways of relating mentioned, especially those at the lower stages, do appear in cultures worldwide. Table 2 below summarizes the relationships (and/or forms of interpersonal influence) associated with each of Kohlberg's stages.

Table 2. Speculative Classification of Cultural Stages

Kohlberg's Descriptive Title Interpersonal Relations / Forms of Influence
1 Punishment and obedience ("might makes right") Domination; physical compulsion; threats; seizure by force; extortion
2 Individual instrumental purpose and exchange ("what's in it for me?") Barter and trading; deterrence by revenge; bribery; corvee labor; prebend; curses; feudal fealty and vassalage
3 Mutual interpersonal expectations, relationships, and conformity (the concrete Golden Rule) Friendship; compadrazgo; romantic or courtly love
4 Social system and conscience maintenance ("law and order") Mutual support of overarching moral system
5 Prior rights and social contract or utility Mutual respect; rational debate, fair competition, and scientific testing
6 Universal ethical principles (the second-order Golden Rule) Satyagraha; agape; undistorted speech; communicative action; mutual care


The third and last discussion describes the problems to which the given stage is subject.(14) This discussion motivates the later description of how the next stage overcomes these problems. The discussion also shows part of the psychological theory of what motivates development beyond the given stage.

"Level A. Preconventional Level

Stage 1. The Stage of Punishment and Obedience


Right is literal obedience to rules and authority, avoiding punishment, and not doing physical harm.

1. What is right is to avoid breaking rules, to obey for obedience' sake, and to avoid doing physical damage to people and property.

2. The reasons for doing right are avoidance of punishment and the superior power of authorities.

Social Perspective

This stage takes an egocentric point of view. A person at this stage doesn't consider the interests of others or recognize they differ from actor's, and doesn't relate two points of view. Actions are judged in terms of physical consequences rather than in terms of psychological interests of others. Authority's perspective is confused with one's own" (Kohlberg, 1981:409).(15)

It is well to begin this journey through the stages by putting ourselves at the same simple reasoning level as the Stage 1 reasoner. Stage 1 may be thought of as the "might makes right" stage: might makes right not with the resentful, cynical connotation that higher-stage reasoners bring to the phrase, but with the child's simple belief that right simply is what authorities - parents, policemen, older children - tell one to do. So when we think about Stage 1, we mustn't think too hard. If we just keep our thinking "real simple", the stage will be clear.

At Stage 1, interpersonal relations may be based on simple domination, physical compulsion, and/or threats. Sandlot bullies and their victims relate at this level.(16)

The problem with Stage 1 reasoning is that it cannot handle how equals are to relate. If neither is the authority or "big person," how do they know who is right? Furthermore, there are severe limitations on a moral authority that rests on the unthinking willingness of another to accept rewards and punishments as the immanent signs of the inherent goodness and badness of acts. Once the Stage 1 reasoner is able to differentiate the reward or punishment following an act from the goodness or badness of the act, she discovers that in many circumstances she can gain rewards or avoid punishments by such techniques as lying, running away, or doing things where authority can't see. In addition, such differentiation also makes apparent the many possibilities for revenge, even by a "weaker" person (e.g., puncturing tires; breaking windows). Authorities accordingly have severe limitations on what they can command, whether Stage 1 recognizes these limitations or not.

These problems are resolved at:

"Stage 2. The Stage of Individual Instrumental Purpose and Exchange


Right is serving one's own or other's needs and making fair deals in terms of concrete exchange.

1. What is right is following rules when it is to someone's immediate interest. Right is acting to meet one's own interests and needs and letting others do the same. Right is also what is fair; that is, what is an equal exchange, a deal, an agreement.

2. The reason for doing right is to serve one's own needs or interests in a world where one must recognize that other people have their interests, too.

Social Perspective

This stage takes a concrete individualistic perspective. A person at this stage separates own interests and points of view from those of authorities and others. He or she is aware everybody has individual interests to pursue and these conflict, so that right is relative (in the concrete individualistic sense). The person integrates or relates conflicting individual interests to one another through instrumental exchange of services, through instrumental need for the other and the other's goodwill, or through fairness giving each person the same amount" (Kohlberg, 1981:409-410).

At Stage 2 it becomes clear how equals are to relate; in effect, their equal autonomy makes everyone equal, and people have to buy each other's cooperation. If cooperation isn't bought but commanded, then revenge can be taken. "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth" is this element of Stage 2 reasoning. The "problems" of Stage 1 are now recognized in Stage 2 as simple facts. Big people do indeed have problems getting little people to do things, and little people do know all the ways to get out of being dominated or to make the dominator pay a price. This is the stage where children learn to deal with bullies by standing up to them or organizing to beat them up collectively.

In Stage 2 there are a greater variety of interpersonal relationship names, but of course all are structurally equivalent. Stage 2's demand for positive reciprocity of values leads to relationships of barter and trading. The marketplace, in which goods are willingly traded by mutual consent of the parties rather than seized by the stronger party, becomes possible at Stage 2. Positive reciprocity underlies bribery, which is a moral act at Stage 2, of course; the term itself connotes the judgment of a perspective above Stage 2. Positive reciprocity also allows corvee labor (vassal service to a lord in exchange for the lord's protection) and prebend (a lord's maintenance in his household of a vassal in exchange for that vassal's generally administrative service).(17) Stage 2's demand for negative reciprocity leads to systems of deterrence by revenge, including, where physical punishment is not feasible, curses.-->-->-->

Despite these notable advances over Stage 1 relationships, there are still problems with Stage 2. One problem is that people have to have things to trade: if I don't have something immediately at hand to offer you, it's unclear how we can do business. Similarly (similar in structure, but opposite in content), if I don't have a means of revenge upon you, it's unclear how I can ensure we relate to each other as equals. Further, my moral decisions vary with the abilities of my partners: I am in a strong bargaining position vis-a`-vis some and a weak position vis-a`-vis others. (See Poggi's (1978:esp.55-56) description of such a phenomenon in feudal relations.) Thus Stage 2's moral claims will vary according to quite accidental variations in tactical strength. Finally, there is a problem of an infinite cycle of revenge - a feud in which neither side believes it has squared accounts with the other. Stage 2 offers no means of ending such feuds.-->-->-->

These problems are resolved at:

"Level B. Conventional Level

Stage 3. The Stage of Mutual Interpersonal Expectations, Relationships, and Conformity


The right is playing a good (nice) role, being concerned about the other people and their feelings, keeping loyalty and trust with partners, and being motivated to follow rules and expectations.

1. What is right is living up to what is expected by people close to one or what people generally expect of people in one's role as son, sister, friend, and so on. 'Being good' is important and means having good motives, showing concern about others. It also means keeping mutual relationships, maintaining trust, loyalty, respect, and gratitude.

2. Reasons for doing right are needing to be good in one's own eyes and those of others, caring for others, and because if one puts oneself in the other person's place one would want good behavior from the self (Golden Rule).

Social Perspective

This stage takes the perspective of the individual in relationship to other individuals. A person at this stage is aware of shared feelings, agreements, and expectations, which take primacy over individual interests. The person relates points of view through the 'concrete Golden Rule,' putting oneself in the other person's shoes. He or she does not consider generalized 'system' perspective" (Kohlberg, 1981:410).

Stage 3 is the first stage at which an ideal relationship can be maintained exclusive of the behavior of the other person. It is the Golden Rule stage, where one orients to the relationship that is desired rather than the immediate behavior. In this way it resolves the problems of Stage 2. At Stage 3 it is no longer necessary to have immediate things to trade, because things given to the other are in the context of a continuing relationship in which some overall balance is expected to be struck. The overall advantages of the relationship itself outweigh temporary imbalances(18) and can compensate for many long-term imbalances. The problem of feuds is also eliminated, because both parties are oriented to the maintenance of an ideal relationship and hence can "turn the other cheek" to interrupt the cycle of revenge. For the same reason, the lack of a means of revenge (so important in Stage 2 for ensuring that one is not taken advantage of) is unimportant at Stage 3, because it is not revenge but the maintenance of a positive relationship that is desired.

Stage 3 interpersonal relations are mutually maintained, ideal relations. Friendship is of course the classic Stage 3 relationship; related relationships include that of the patron (or compadre) and apparently that of late-feudal fealty. Note, in support of this last claim, Bloch's (1961:228) reference to the "cancellation ceremony" that in the late feudal period was felt necessary to end a bond between lord and vassal. Such a ceremony would indicate a Stage 3 rather than Stage 2 relationship - only ideal bonds need a mutual dissolution; Stage 2's concrete bonds dissolve at either party's unilateral will. The chivalric code itself was a Stage 3 moral system, and the transition out of Stage 2 in the development of the chivalric code is mentioned in Bloch (1961:318): "But the sword thus consecrated, though it might still as a matter of course be drawn at need against his personal enemies or those of his lord, had been given to the knight first of all that he might place it in the service of good causes.... Thus a modification of vital importance was introduced into the old ideal of war for war's sake, or for the sake of gain." It is suggestive that this alteration in the chivalric code arose at the same time as the medieval concept of courtly love. In more recent times Stage 3 obligations are found in the institution of godparents. Among New Mexico Hispanics, for example, the padrino and padrina (godfather and godmother) would take their hijado/hijala (god-son/god-daughter) into their home if the latter's natural parents died. The godparents and natural parents are compadres to one another. This relationship is less important to non-Hispanic Roman Catholics, for whom the godparent obligations concern primarily the godchild's spiritual welfare.(19)

Stage 3 has one major problem: it cannot coordinate multiple relationships.(20) Stage 3 relationships are fundamentally between two people, and the problem of coordinating any such relationship with other relationships is just that: a problem. To put the problem in concrete terms, recall Kohlberg's best-known moral dilemma story, in which Heinz's wife is dying of cancer and Heinz cannot pay for the drug that would save her. Should Heinz steal the drug? In this situation there are at least two dyadic relationships Heinz must consider: with his wife and with the druggist. Maintaining an ideal relationship with his wife means stealing the drug for her; maintaining one with the druggist means not stealing it. The central problem with Stage 3 is that it provides no coordinated means of resolving such conflicts. Stage 3 people come to a decision, of course, but the decisions are ad hoc and provide no generalizable means of resolving different conflicts.

Stages 1, 2, and 3 all share this characteristic of dealing solely with dyadic relationships. The stage transition beyond Stage 3 is therefore a major one, because it marks the transition between reasoning involving ways of two people relating and reasoning involving ways of people relating to one another in the context of their ways of relating to many people. Edwards (1975:511) also sees this as a major transition, speculating that "a boundary exists between stages 3 and 4. This boundary occurs, I would propose, because stage 3 is appropriate to the problems of social control and conflict resolution, whereas stage 4 contains assumptions more suitable for the model of a complex society." Gilligan (1977:489) notes that "[this] is the transition that has repeatedly been found to be problematic for women," and she advances the hypothesis that the higher-level stages (4-6 as opposed to 1-3) are handled "in a different voice" by women than by men, again implying the sharp break between the lower and upper stages. (See also Gilligan, 1982.)

The transition from Stage 3 to 4 is also significant because of the many parallels ("vertical decalages" is Piaget's term) between the first three stages (1, 2, and 3) and the last three stages (4, 5, and 6). In certain ways, Stage 4 is like Stage 1, Stage 5 is like Stage 2, and Stage 6 is like Stage 3. This can be seen in Kohlberg's scoring manual (Colby and Kohlberg, forthcoming), where the major scoring confusions are between Stages 1, 2, and 3 and Stages 4, 5, and 6, respectively. Thus Colby et al. (1983:39) notes that the "[issue boundaries] of Stage 5 are again similar to the boundary pattern characterizing Stage 2 though the pattern is less pronounced at Stage 5 than at Stage 2." These parallels between the lower and upper stages will be noted in the discussion of the later stages.

To return to the descriptions, the problem noted above with Stage 3 is resolved by:

"Stage 4. The Stage of Social System and Conscience Maintenance


The right is doing one's duty in society, upholding the social order, and maintaining the welfare of society or the group.

1. What is right is fulfilling the actual duties to which one has agreed. Laws are to be upheld except in extreme cases where they conflict with other fixed social duties and rights. Right is also contributing to society, the group, or institution.

2. The reasons for doing right are to keep the institution going as a whole, self-respect or conscience as meeting one's defined obligations, or the consequences: 'What if everyone did it?'

Social perspective

This stage differentiates societal point of view from interpersonal agreement or motives. A person at this stage takes the viewpoint of the system, which defines roles and rules. He or she considers individual relations in terms of place in the system" (Kohlberg, 1981:410-411).

Stage 4 resolves the problem of conflicting dyadic relationships by reference to an overarching sociomoral order to which the individual relationships are subordinated. The sociomoral order could take many forms (e.g., the Catholic Church; the law; the party line; social custom), but it always takes a superordinate position vis-a`-vis individual relationships. People at Stage 4 note, quite rightly as far as it goes, "We all have to obey the law or else there would be chaos." They recognize that Stage 3 reasoning does not regulate society as a whole and thus permits conflicts that are unresolvable at that stage.(21) It is important to recognize these definite strengths of Stage 4. As a stage it isn't as pretty or nice as Stage 3, but it is a real advance that solves a real problem.

The dramatic conflict in Sophocles' Antigone is between Stages 3 and 4, and the play's central moral lesson for the Greeks was the resolution of individual conflicts through an adherence to "God's law" (Watling, 1947). The play involves relationships among four principal characters: Creon, King of Thebes; the slain rebel Polynices, whose body Creon has forbidden to be honorably buried; Antigone, Polynices' sister, who is determined to bury Polynices; and Haemon, Creon's son and Antigone's fiancé. Their conflicting relationships with Polynices lead Creon and Antigone into conflict, and their conflict induces conflicting loyalties for Haemon. He pleads with his father to respect the higher law governing these relationships,(22) and Creon's refusal brings death to Antigone, to Haemon, and to Creon's wife Eurydice. Creon's despair brings him knowledge too late, and the Chorus is left to draw the moral that "Of happiness the crown/ And chiefest part/ Is wisdom, and to hold/ The gods in awe./ This is the law ..." (Sophocles, 1947:162). In Stage 4 even kings are seen to be subject to the overarching law, a point Haemon argues directly. Stage 4 reasoning may be the most important invention of Athenian culture .

Stage 4 resembles Stage 1 because in both stages "the right" is defined by something or someone above oneself - by big people at Stage 1 and by a reified sociomoral order at Stage 4.

Stage 4 interpersonal relations are conducted within the framework of an overarching moral order. Rather than orienting directly to one another, Stage 4 actors share a mutual orientation to the same overarching moral system. Such moral systems bear the sanction of tradition, religion, or traditional authority - possibly all three. The possible relationships can therefore vary as widely as the range of possible overarching moral systems. People can relate as "patriotic, 100 percent Americans," as academic colleagues, as fellow Weberian bureaucrats, as co-religionists, etc. Any code can be used that subordinates separate relationships to its own maintenance.

Not accidentally, the problems inherent in Stage 4 resemble the problems inherent in Stage 1. At Stage 1, there were many avenues by which a "small" person could resist doing the right thing (i.e., what the big person wanted), and there was no way for equal people to relate to one another. At Stage 4, there are many ways people can resist the sociomoral order: to ensure that people obey the law requires a large investment of energy (e.g., in police agents or other forms of social control) and results in a very unpleasant, inflexible atmosphere. Furthermore, Stage 4 has no way of dealing with people from other sociomoral orders, including nonconformists within its own ranks. Good examples of this difficulty of dealing with other sociomoral orders can be drawn from the entire history of contacts between civilizations.

These problems, particularly the last, are the origin of an intermediate or transitional stage, formerly called "Stage 4½," and most recently termed:

"Level B/C. Transitional Level

This level is postconventional but not yet principled.

Content of Transition

At Stage 4½, choice is personal and subjective. It is based on emotions, conscience is seen as arbitrary and relative, as are ideas such as 'duty' and 'morally right.'

Transitional Social Perspective

At this stage, the perspective is that of an individual standing outside of his own society and considering himself as an individual making decisions without a generalized commitment or contract with society. One can pick and choose obligations, which are defined by particular societies, but one has no principles for such choice" (Kohlberg, 1981:411).

Stage 4½ has no systematic way to provide a society in which people want to participate and to whose rules they are willing to agree. This problem is solved at:

"Level C. Postconventional and Principled Level

Moral decisions are generated from rights, values, or principles that are (or could be) agreeable to all individuals composing or creating a society designed to have fair and beneficial practices.

Stage 5. The Stage of Prior Rights and Social Contract or Utility


The right is upholding the basic rights, values, and legal contracts of a society, even when they conflict with the concrete rules and laws of the group.

1. What is right is being aware of the fact that people hold a variety of values and opinions, that most values and rules are relative to one's group. These 'relative' rules should usually be upheld, however, in the interest of impartiality and because they are the social contract. Some nonrelative values and rights such as life and liberty, however, must be upheld in any society and regardless of majority opinion.

2. Reasons for doing right are, in general, feeling obligated to obey the law because one has made a social contract to make and abide by laws for the good of all and to protect their own rights and the rights of others. Family, friendship, trust, and work obligations are also commitments or contracts freely entered into and entail respect for the rights of others. One is concerned that laws and duties be based on rational calculation of overall utility: 'the greatest good for the greatest number.'

Social Perspective

This stage takes a prior-to-society perspective - that of a rational individual aware of values and rights prior to social attachments and contracts. The person integrates perspectives by formal mechanisms of agreement, contract, objective impartiality, and due process. He or she considers the moral point of view and the legal point of view, recognizes they conflict, and finds it difficult to integrate them" (Kohlberg, 1981:411-412).

Stage 5 resolves the Stage 4 and 4½ problems, first by recognizing that people do indeed have different viewpoints, and second by setting up formal systems by which people have an opportunity to make their wishes known. This stage is the first to adequately justify minority rights, such as those provided in the Bill of Rights. Guarantees of freedom of speech, press, and association are explicit recognitions of people's autonomy prior to their voluntary association with the Stage 5 society. Guarantees of freedom from unwarranted search and seizure are explicit recognitions of limits in the ways that Stage 5 society can intrude upon a person's autonomy.

Stage 5 resembles Stage 2 in its recognition of individual autonomy and its corresponding requirement that people's voluntary cooperation must be elicited. As Kohlberg (1981a:182) notes, social contract philosophers often deduce Stage 5 principles from the assumption of a Stage 2 reasoner having to deal with the problems of creating a society in which people will be willing to participate.

Stage 5 interpersonal relations are those of mutual respect for the participants' beliefs and desires, subject only to the mutually recognized criterion of rationality (meaning nonself-contradiction and empirical validity) and the mutually recognized goal of achieving stable, cooperative agreements. Stage 5 influence is based on compromise after rational debate - that is, once both parties are convinced of the rationality (the self-consistency and empirical groundedness) of their positions, they can compromise or decide on the basis of formally fair decision rules. (Civil liberties provide the opportunity for the initial inquiry into rationality.) This is the stage at which Almond and Verba's (1963) "participants" appear to relate.-->-->

Stage 5 does have its own problems, however. Stage 5 is a machine-like stage, in that people agree to formally fair "rules of the game" and take no responsibility for the consequences for anyone except themselves. Just as in Stage 2 there were people who had nothing to offer, so in Stage 5 there are people whose resources in making the rules are very small. Just as in Stage 2 there can arise endless cycles of revenge, so in Stage 5 people can be completely crushed in society's gears. There is no positive obligation of one person for another: the language of "rights" and "justice" exists apart from the language of "care" and "responsibility."(23) In Stage 5, people do not systematically take collective responsibility for the consequences of their collective actions, that is, they can dissociate themselves from the specific effects of the formally fair system.

These problems are resolved at:

"Stage 6. The Stage of Universal Ethical Principles


This stage assumes guidance by universal ethical principles that all humanity should follow.

1. Regarding what is right, Stage 6 is guided by universal ethical principles. Particular laws or social agreements are usually valid because they rest on such principles. When laws violate these principles, one acts in accordance with the principle. Principles are universal principles of justice: the equality of human rights and respect for the dignity of human beings as individuals. These are not merely values that are recognized, but are also principles used to generate particular decisions.

2. The reason for doing right is that, as a rational person, one has seen the validity of principles and has become committed to them.

Social Perspective

This stage takes the perspective of a moral point of view from which social arrangements derive or on which they are grounded. The perspective is that of any rational individual recognizing the nature of morality or the basic moral premise of respect for other persons as ends, not means" (Kohlberg, 1981:412).

Stage 6 resembles Stage 3 in that both recognize the potential existence of an ideal way of relating, both recognize that it is important for the participants independently to choose to relate in this way, and both recognize that it is important in these ways of relating to examine the situation from more than one point of view. The difference between the two stages is that while Stage 3 concentrates only on maintaining the individual dyadic relationship, Stage 6 recognizes that a solution must be obtained at the level of all dyads simultaneously - i.e., at the level of society as a whole. Kohlberg (1981b:203-204), for example, terms the Stage 6 role-taking structure "a 'second-order' use of the Golden Rule."

In contrast to Stage 5, at Stage 6 people do take collective responsibility for the consequences of their collective action. Because the principles of justice are universalizable, each person in Stage 6 can face all other people and truly say "I have done for you all it is possible for me to do under the conditions that I be able to say the same thing to all other people and that they be able to say the same to me."

Stage 6 interpersonal relations are those of mutual social care. Christians name such a relationship agape; Gandhi's technique of satyagraha envisioned the same relationship with the opponent; Habermas's conception of undistorted communication envisions such a relationship; Rawls's debate in the Original Position ditto. Stage 6 influence comes from the transformation of beliefs subsequent to mutually understood experience. While at Stage 5 agreements are reached as compromises without the parties altering their beliefs, at Stage 6 agreements are reached after a process deliberately designed to alter beliefs. Thus Gandhi wanted his opponents to change their minds, not simply capitulate; Rawls's concept of "reflective equilibrium" implies the possibility of cognitive change prior to equilibrium.


The sequence of moral reasoning stages makes claims in two different areas simultaneously.

(1) To psychologists, the sequence makes claims both about the empirical nature of moral reasoning development and about the psychological origins of that development. The first claim is the baldly empirical one that everyone's moral reasoning moves through the specified sequence of stages in the specified manner (no retrogression, no skipping stages, and so on). The evidence for this has been cited above. At a more theoretical level, the claim is the Piagetian position that development stems from the organism's successive attempts to create more equilibrated cognitive schemas through differentiation and integration of earlier schemas. Examination of the stage sequence clearly reveals such successive equilibration: Stage 4 integrates individual Stage 3 relationships and differentiates the latter into those corresponding or not corresponding to the former's overarching moral system. Stage 5, in turn, integrates conflicting Stage 4 perspectives through, for example, the conceptual device of the social contract, and differentiates Stage 4 claims into those upheld or not upheld in such a system. Similar arguments apply to the other transitions.

(2) To philosophers, the sequence lays claim to being a "rational reconstruction" of the ethical superiority of each stage over its predecessors. (Habermas, 1983; Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer, 1984b) Since Kant, deontological moral philosophers have generally recognized that moral judgments must satisfy the criteria of universality and prescriptivity, even lacking agreement on what particular moral philosophy satisfies those criteria. As a sequence of moral positions, the six stages increasingly satisfy these criteria. Let us look as Stages 3, 4, and 5 as examples: Stage 4 defines general duties apart from the particular nature of relationships, thus broadening from Stage 3 the scope of moral obligations and making it more prescriptive than Stage 3 in its independence of relational particularities. Stage 5 defines duties in terms of a general recognition of others as moral agents, thus broadening once more the scope of obligation and making it more prescriptive than Stage 4 in its independence from the necessity of sharing absolute moral dicta. Again, similar arguments apply to the other transitions. The six stages accordingly form a hierarchy of moral adequacy: reasoning at higher levels is normatively better reasoning than at lower levels.(24)

Note particularly that the formal criteria concern only reasoning; they are not criteria either of the correctness of the decision made or of the moral worth of the person making it. Better reasoning presumably will lead to better decisions overall or in the long run, but the criteria do not guarantee that any specific decision will be correct. In fact, the structural ambiguity of earlier stages guarantees that nonmoral features of the situation can swing the decision arbitrarily among several alternatives, one of which will be the "correct" one. Even in common speech we dismiss such occurrences with the comment, "She made the right decision but for the wrong reasons." (Kohlberg and Candee, 1984, argue that higher-stage reasoning is correlated with a convergence in actual choice.)

We also cannot judge the moral worth of the people making the decisions. Although we can take action to ensure just treatment for all, to restrain people from unjust action, and to encourage better reasoning, it is pointless to blame people for employing the particular moral reasoning structure they possess. All people attempt to be moral in the sense that they understand the term. The just claims of people reasoning at higher stages are the same - must be the same, by the universality criterion - as the just claims of people reasoning at lower stages. That the latter may be unable fully to articulate these claims and may not respect their application to others does not negate their right to have them respected. Correlatively, the equal respect we must give to everyone's moral claims does not imply equal respect for all claims. The criteria do not demand that we respect a Hitler's nonuniversalizable claim to exterminate Jews.

Kohlberg's theory of moral reasoning stages is an individual-level theory and, like the individual-level theories listed in Chapter 2, it suggests what Kohlberg (1981a:128) himself has called "a mild doctrine of social evolutionism." But even if we accept Kohlberg's claim that his work is normatively grounded as a theory of individual moral development, we must still investigate the normative grounding of our related theory of political development. Recall that political development was defined in Chapter 2 as specific characteristics of the political culture; recall that political culture consists of all publicly common ways of relating; and recall that ways of relating are undergirded by moral reasoning. Accordingly, political cultures themselves have the cognitive structures of moral reasoning and can be similarly arranged in a hierarchy of moral adequacy. The stages of moral reasoning show the structure of hypothetical moralizing; the corresponding stages of political culture show the structure of that moral reasoning underlying the publicly common way of relating. Because moral reasoning underlies both cultural and individual moral perspectives, the same Kantian criteria and the same logic of normative justification apply to both. Indeed, it would be perverse - in Kantian terms, a violation of the prescriptivity criterion - to argue that reasoning that was better than other reasoning in theory was not better when made the basis for cultural practice.(25)


Despite the normative similarity of Kohlberg's six stages as individual and cultural stages, the dynamics of moral development are not the dynamics of cultural change: a culture is by no means subject to the same forces as an individual. The dynamics of cultural change are discussed in Chapter 5, and both to prepare for that discussion and to round out the presentation of Kohlberg's theory, we examine here some research findings about how moral development occurs and about other characteristics of the stages.

As noted earlier, people move through the sequence of stages without retrogressing and without skipping any stages. Stage changes occur, if at all, only upward between adjacent stages. Development is not inevitable, and people may "top out" at any stage. On the other hand, people may also continue to progress or may recommence motion after a hiatus.

Moral development occurs slowly. Kohlberg's longitudinal results from U.S. children indicate that the three transitions from Stage 1 to Stage 4 require a total of about eighteen years - from Stage 1 around age eight to Stage 4 around age twenty-six. (See Colby et al. 1983.) Each transition, in other words, takes about six years to accomplish, despite the ready availability of cultural support for each one in the form of children's books, films, school curricula, and the general example of the culture itself.

There appear to be specific "mileposts" in the acquisition of each new stage. A person at a given stage begins the transition at the "ignorance" milepost: in total ignorance of any higher stage, so that higher stage reasoning is either heard as nonsense, misinterpreted as reasoning within the person's own stage, or dismissed as reasoning at some lower, previously superseded stage. (We will refer to reasoning at the person's current stage as "+0 reasoning," at subsequent stages as +1, +2, etc., reasoning, and at previous stages as -1, -2, etc., reasoning.) Thus a Stage 2 child repeats the Golden Rule as "Do unto others as they do unto you," failing entirely to grasp the complexities of the Stage 3 ideal relationship represented in the correct "... as you would have them ..." phrasing (Kohlberg, 1981a:149).

The first evidence that a stage transition is taking place is "awareness," the reasoner's recognition of the possibility that a +1 reasoner is not speaking nonsense; that her own lack of comprehension may be due to ignorance rather than to the other's attempt to be mysterious. The existence of this milepost has apparently not been studied directly, but Kohlberg's (1981:46) remarks on moral leadership seem to contemplate such an initial step. Awareness of another's +1 reasoning does not persuade a reasoner, but it does create a "wait and see" attitude. Lower-stage (and nonsensical) reasoning can be dismissed; reasoning which one does not quite grasp is more unnerving.

The milepost of awareness is followed by that of "preference," when the reasoner comes to prefer +1 reasoning to her own. This phenomenon has been studied by Rest (1973) and forms the basis for his Defining Issues Test (1972). Preference would appear to be closely related to "recognition" - the ability to pick out from several alternatives the argument most like a criterion argument. (See Gavaghan, Arnold, and Gibbs, 1983, and the references cited therein. Rest, 1976, mentions but does not discuss the recognition ability.)

Preference is important for direct persuasion of others, but it is limited in its effect because these others may not be able to repeat the arguments to persuade third parties. That ability, here termed "reproduction," comes next in the transition: when the reasoner is able to rephrase correctly the higher stage's reasoning in her own terms. Such rephrasing is dependent, however, on a model being provided. (See Selman, 1971, for research on reproduction.)

The "reproducer's" necessity for a model vanishes at the milepost of "production." At this point the individual is able autonomously to produce a +1 analysis of a moral problem. Kohlberg's Moral Judgment Interview tests for this milepost. Following Kohlberg, I define production as signaling the consolidation of a new stage; the phrase "+1 reasoning" thus turns to "+0 reasoning" at this milepost.

There is, however, one further milepost - the "teaching" ability, when the individual is able to produce the new stage's reasoning self-consciously and in slow motion. In teaching, justification for the logical processes must go beyond statements like "That's the way it has to be done" or "It feels right," which would be perfectly acceptable at the "production" milepost. This milepost has apparently been neither studied nor discussed, so its role in the transition to a new stage is unknown.

This discussion of stage transitions is speculative to some extent and clearly needs empirical study. The particular order in which the abilities appear has not been studied (but see Rest, 1976:201-202), and although the order given above seems logically inevitable, empirical research is clearly needed. Two of the mileposts, awareness and teaching, have not been studied at all, and I describe them simply to stimulate research. Empirical research is also needed to determine whether a stage transition can halt at one of the mileposts (and if so, which ones) and whether, having reached a certain milepost (and if so, which one), the transition will inevitably complete itself.

We now turn from stage transitions to look at related developmental sequences. As shown in the works of Piaget and his many followers, the genetic-epistemological model of cognitive development applies to many domains of cognition. Piaget, alone or with coworkers, studied the child's conceptions not only of morality but also of physical causality, number, physical quantity, time, and their many subconcepts and related concepts. In recent years Piagetian scholars have studied a variety of aspects of what is called "social cognition": role-taking, personal identity, empathy, "Ideals of the Good Life," and so on.(26)

Despite the content differences among these many areas of cognition, they share a common sequence of abstract structures. In each cognitive domain he studied, Piaget pointed to the same sequence of developmental stages: sensory-motor operations, pre-operational thought, concrete-operational thought, and formal-operational thought. Since each abstract cognitive structure applies to many specific content domains, the structures create as many parallel developmental sequences as there are domains.

The many parallel sequences do not develop synchronously, however: there is a systematic order in which people apply a given stage to the different content areas. Piaget calls this phenomenon "horizontal decalage," and it is seen in the acquisition of different forms of conservation (Flavell, 1963), in the acquisition prior to moral development of necessary logical skills (DeVries and Kohlberg, 1977; Kuhn et al. 1977) and role-taking skills (Selman, 1971; Selman and Damon, 1975), and in the uneven rates of moral development in different areas. (See Gilligan et al. 1971, on sexual dilemmas. See Lieberman, 1972, for a comparison of all areas tested by Kohlberg.) It appears to arise from differential "resistances" of the content domains to the given structure - the relative difficulty of applying a certain stage's cognitive schema to a specific area of reality. The source of the difficulty may be social in nature; for example, the society may teach Stage X reasoning first in one specific area and only later, or not at all, in others. The source may also be purely physical; for example, children generally recognize that stretching a rubber band leaves its weight unchanged earlier than they recognize that rolling out a clay ball leaves its weight unchanged. The rubber band snaps back "by itself," so to speak, whereas the clay ball must be forced into its various shapes. Though the cognitive relationship of reversibility is the same in both cases, it is more readily seen in one content area than in the other.(27)

Kohlberg and his associates have shown that moral reasoning occurs late in the horizontal decalage order. It is preceded by role-taking (Selman, 1971) and by concepts of space and matter (Colby, 1976; Walker, 1980). Indeed, judging from the fact that no content area has been found to occur later than moral reasoning, the latter would seem to be the most difficult of all areas.

Despite the known existence of horizontal decalage, cognitive development does not proceed independently in different areas. In moral reasoning, for example, Kohlberg claims that the variation in the different areas tapped by his instrument is less than one stage (Colby et al. 1983). One would expect that more varied cognitive material would show more varied stages, of course. Nevertheless, cognitive development research finds that acquisition of a given stage propagates across the individual's cognitive space, transforming that space's structure as it goes. Thus at the individual level we find horizontal decalage between cognitive areas, but not complete independence of development.

In addition to what Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer (1984a:30) call the "hard structural" Piagetian theories of development, there are other theories that appear linked to the Piagetian sequence. Such theories are what Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer (1984a:30) call "soft structural" theories - those of Loevinger (1966); Perry (1970); Fowler (1981); and Maslow (1954). (Maslow's theory is not treated in the above-cited discussion of soft structural theories.) Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer (1984a) note that such theories share many Piagetian assumptions about development and loosely fit the Piagetian criteria for (hard) structural stage theories. (See also the discussion in Habermas, 1979b.) Despite the philosophical and theoretical differences between hard and soft structural theories, their developmental sequences would seem to parallel one another. I mention the possible parallelism because research in these other theories may prove relevant to the present theory, which is based on Kohlberg's work. Soft structural theories cannot provide a basis for a theory of development, however, because they are not normatively grounded.(28)

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1. This is the basic question for deontological moralities, at least, which are concerned with duty and obligation. It is not as basic (but may have some relevance nonetheless) for teleological moralities, which justify action based on the pursuit of ultimate moral ends. 

2. Habermas (1979a, 1979b) and McCarthy (1979) discuss the necessary connection between ways of relating and ethical questions. Kohlberg (1981a) carefully refutes cultural relativists' and moral relativists' attempts to disconnect ways of relating from ethical questions. 

3. Flavell (1968); Selman (1971); Piaget (1977); Habermas (1979, esp. 1979b and 1979c); Higgins, Ruble, and Hartup (1983); and Overton (1983) discuss various aspects of the general connection among moral reasoning, role-taking, and social behavior. Berti, Bombi, and Lis (1982) and Berti, Bombi, and De Bene (1986) describe the Piagetian developmental acquisition of economic conceptions about means of production, owners, and profit. Habermas (1975, 1979) has been particularly concerned with the connection among social behavior, moral reasoning and the state's ability to legitimize its rule. See Piaget (1932); Kohlberg (1984a); and Colby et al. (1983) for general discussions of the moral development research tradition. See Kohlberg (1981) and Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer (1984a) for a discussion of the claims presented here. Attacks on these claims can be found in Fishkin (1982), Gilligan (1982), Gibbs (1977), and other authors cited in Kohlberg, Levine & Hewer (1984b). The latter work contains Kohlberg's replies to those attacks.

The applicability of Piagetian cognitive-developmental sequences to diverse fields of social cognition provides another justification for this work's refusal to restrict its analysis to a narrowly construed "political" development.

In view of the arguments surrounding Kohlberg's work, I will clarify its role in this paper. First, the present analytic framework requires only that some sequence of stages satisfy the five claims given in the text below. Critics like Gilligan (1982) and Gibbs (1977) attack only Kohlberg's particular sequence, conceding that some such sequence must exist. That is all this work requires. (Some critics, like Geertz, 1984, deny the possibility of any such sequence.) Second, I must say in all fairness that I have examined Kohlberg's concepts, methods, and results carefully, and while I interpret the sequence slightly differently from Kohlberg, as shown in this chapter, I have no quarrel with the stage definitions themselves. 

4. Specific definitions of the stages are lengthy and are not required for the purposes of this book. The interested reader should consult Kohlberg (1984) or Colby and Kohlberg (forthcoming). The six stages are termed Stage 1, Stage 2 ... Stage 6. Cognitive stages below Stage 1 differentiate morality so little from other concepts that they are not of much theoretical or (given their rarity in the adult population) practical interest, and Stage 6 does not occur with sufficient frequency to allow an empirical test of Kohlberg's philosophical argument for its developmental location or even its existence. There is a transitional period, possibly a stage, of extreme philosophical relativism between Stages 4 and 5 - Stage 4 ½. Colby and Kohlberg (forthcoming) present Kohlberg's method of stage scoring, and Colby et al. (1983) present data on scoring reliability. 

5. The stages of moral reasoning are most emphatically not evaluations of people's moral worth. A person employing Stage 1 reasoning is no less and no more worthy of having her claims to moral treatment respected than a person employing the fabled Stage 6 reasoning. Just as philosophers critique one another's positions as being ambiguous and having unfortunate implications, without thereby condemning one another as evil people, so does Kohlberg's sequence of stages systematize and abstract the critiques in terms of reasoning structures, without thereby condemning the various reasoners (Kohlberg, 1981: esp. Parts 1 and 2). 

6. Different societies have different mixtures of stages. Research suggests that moral reasoners in pre-literate societies rarely or never develop beyond Stage 3. Recall note 5's caution: while we may evaluate moral reasoning as more or less adequate, we cannot judge the reasoners themselves as good or bad people, and thus even less can we extend evaluation to entire collections of reasoners. 

7. Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer (1984a) discuss the structure-content distinction. Cross-cultural studies of reasoning obviously will have many methodological difficulties, but such difficulties alone do not constitute theoretical impossibilities. Geertz (1984) denies the possibility of any cross-culturally valid analytic scheme but offers no support for his claim. Indeed, it is difficult to see how one could ever prove the impossibility of such a framework. Kohlberg (1981a) argues this in detail. 

8. Colby and Kohlberg (forthcoming). Other tests of moral reasoning make use of the facts that people at a given stage (a) prefer and (b) can recapitulate arguments at that level. Preference forms the basis for Rest's (1972) test of moral judgment. Turiel (1966) and Selman (1971) explore the ability of people to recapitulate moral reasoning at different stages. 

9. Even here it is anticipated by McClelland's (1976) and Aronoff's (1967, 1970) theme analyses. Radding's (1978, 1979, and 1985) arguments are directly cognitive-structural. 

10. The following discussion owes much to Flavell (1963). 

11. Pages 409-412 from THE PHILOSOPHY OF MORAL DEVELOPMENT: Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice by Lawrence Kohlberg. Copyright 1981 by Lawrence Kohlberg. Reprinted by permission of Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. See also Kohlberg (1984b). 

12. This discussion is not given for Stage 1, because its prior stage is not described. 

13. For example, in order to encourage the current attempts at cultural innovation, Phyllis Rose (1983) deliberately explores a variety of Victorian solutions to the problems of marriage. 

14. This discussion is not given for Stage 6, which would not be the final stage if moral problems remained. Kohlberg (1981b) argues Stage 6's validity. 

15. Note that this description is from the subordinate's point of view. Obviously "big people" can relate to others at Stage 1 as well. 

16. Stage 1 reasoning is rare in adult populations, so this view of its nature is probably more hostile than it would be "naturally." Adult Stage 1 reasoners find it difficult to interact easily in a society whose interpersonal forms are largely beyond their comprehension. The unthinking obedience to authorities, or the correlative demand for the unthinking obedience of others characterize society's Eichmanns and criminals. It also seems obvious that only severe forms of early abuse and neglect, emotional or physical, could halt moral development in a society drenched in more developed reasoning. The picture of Stage 1 interpersonal relations we gain from Stage 1 adults is therefore distorted by these reasoners' early difficulties and later conflicts with a bafflingly complex world. 

17. Bloch (1961:Chapter 4 and pp. 337ff) discusses corvee labor and prebend. 

18. That is, imbalances relative to what could occur in a Stage 2 direct exchange. 

19. There are many specific forms of godparenting even within the cultures mentioned. The point is that at least some of these forms embody Stage 3 obligations. I am indebted to Jose Garcia for information on compadrazgo's variations in Latin America. (See Montes, 1979.) 

20. "One major problem" refers to the internal contradictions of Stage 3, not to Stage 3 attempts to deal with Stages 1 and 2, where "turning the other cheek" would not be a reciprocal relationship. 

21. Kohlberg (1984b:630) notes that Stage 3 reasoners express universalizability when they say "All people should obey the law because without laws immoral people would cause chaos," which sounds like the Stage 4 argument just given. But the contradiction is only apparent: "chaos" is employed in two different senses. In the Stage 4 sense, chaos refers to the essential conflict between Stage 3 obligations: Heinz can be "nice" to his wife or "nice" to the druggist, but he can't be "nice" to both. In the Stage 3 sense, chaos refers to a breakdown of mutuality entirely, so that Heinz will start "looking out for number one." 

22. This law is recognized by general Theban opinion, according to Haemon. 

23. Gilligan (1982) points out this dichotomy. She argues it appears in Kohlberg's work, but I believe Stage 6 implicitly connects the two languages in its refusal to distinguish moral claims of self and other. Rawls' Original Position, for example, originates in a basic attitude of care and responsibility for others. (Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer, 1984b:338-370, respond to Gilligan's arguments.) 

24. For further discussion of these normative claims, see Kohlberg, 1981a, 1981b, and Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer, 1984a. The nature of the duality of the psychological and philosophical claims is discussed in the exchange between Habermas (1983) and Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer (1984b). Briefly, empirical study of the stages tests the adequacy of the philosophical conceptions in a negative way: empirical falsification of the sequence demonstrates problems with the philosophical framework, but empirical support of the sequence cannot go on to support its philosophical claim of moral adequacy. (This interaction is clearly seen in Kohlberg's response to early findings of apparent regression, such as those reported in Kohlberg and Kramer, 1969.) On the other hand, a philosophical position is required to justify a test instrument in the first place. The analyst can easily create an instrument but cannot assert that it measures morality without some philosophical position of what morality is. Kohlberg's arguments against Hartshorne and May's early work on morality focus largely on the inadequate conception of the moral domain implied by their assessment methods. 

25. Gilligan and Murphy (1979) argue that real moral dilemmas may call forth different moral reasoning than hypothetical dilemmas. Assuming this is true, this does not negate the criterion of prescriptivity (indeed, is an appeal to it), but instead implies that Kohlberg's methods may be flawed. (Gilligan, 1982, also suggests this.) As mentioned in note 3, however, the present analytic framework's validity does not rest on any particular sequence of stages - the ones given above can be taken as merely illustrative - but only on the existence of some sequence of stages, the existence of which Gilligan does not dispute. (See also the discussion in Kohlberg, Levine, and Hewer, 1984b.) 

26. Overton (ed) (1983) contains several articles and numerous references in the area of social cognition. See also Higgins, Ruble, and Hartup (1983). "Ideals of the Good Life" are studied by Armon (1984). 

27. The decalage may well differ from culture to culture, however, particularly in the domains of social cognition. The existence of decalages is inherent in the Piagetian perspective, but (in contradistinction to the ordering of the structural stages themselves) the ordering of the decalages is not. 

28. Examples of development research or analytic frameworks founded on such "soft structural" stages include Davies (1977, 1986); Aronoff (1967); Eckstein (1982); and Park (1984).

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