Three Phases of Moral Reasoning essay

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            Kohlberg’s theory of moral reasoning is a theory outlined to explain people’s reasoning at various ages. Kohlberg’s theory of morality has six stages that are separated into three phases. The three phases of moral reasoning under Kohlberg’s theory include preconventional morality, conventional morality, and postconventional morality. The first phase has two stages, which include obedience and punishment, and individualism and exchange. The second phase comprises of good interpersonal relationships and maintaining the social order, and the last phase has social contract and individual rights, and universal principles.


            Firstly, there is the preconventional stage that involves obedience and punishment, and individualism and exchange. To understand this stage well, a story is told of John who is fourteen years old and does not have a driving license.  In addition, the law forbids underage people from driving as their sense of judgment and alertness is questionable. Nevertheless, John’s mother falls critically ill when there is no other adult around, and John is forced to rush her mother to hospital with her car. From this perspective, children will still consider John to have done the correct thing, but their significant concern will be on what the law permits. To analyze the second stage from the above story, some children can be considered amoral as they argue that John might have taken the car, so his friends could see him driving, while others might argue that the law only imposes regulations to get free money from the public. This second stage focuses on what meets an individual’s self-interest. This example and possible responds indicate that at the first stage, punishment sticks on a child’s mind as been morally wrong while, in the second stage, it is for fair exchange.

            Secondly, the third stage falls here and concerns about good interpersonal relationships. From the above story, children will argue that John did that because he wanted to save the life of his mother because he loved her. The children could also blame the law for enacting ha rules, which do not utterly reflect the reality. Thus, we can establish that trust, concern, love, and empathy are part of good behavior, which in turn translates to good motives. Notably, this reasoning functions in two-person relationships such as family members who try to comprehend each other’s feelings and needs, and try to help.

The reasoning at stage four focuses on the maintenance of the social order. Reflecting on John’s case, people will be against the move, as they believe it could have endangered the lives of other people. The argument that people could offer at this stage focuses on doing what is right with the law, and that could include calling an emergency line for help or seeking the assistance of an adult. Another explanation that people could offer at this stage is that what if all kids streamed on the roads with their parents’ vehicles, would that not be dangerous to other road users? The respondents at this stage base their argument on society as a whole, and the difference between them and the respondents at stage one is that they can elaborate the law further.

            The postconventional phase contains the fifth stage, which concerns about social contract and individual rights. Research establishes that people at this stage begin to look at life in a more theoretical way. In this case, they examine the values and rights, which should be promoted by the society. Since respondents at this stage advocate for rights such as liberty and life, and a democratic way of changing unfair laws, they would argue that John’s mum had the right to live. In addition, the laws against underage driving should be revised as laws only form social contracts made by human beings, to be upheld, until when they can be changed democratically.

Stage six addresses the areas that were not touched by democratic process of stage five. This stage is called universal principles, and this stage seeks for impartiality in treating the cases of both parties, which can be achieved through the principles of justice. The essential thing at this stage is the principle of justice, which guides people to respecting all. Notably, the principle of justice is universal.

            In conclusion, Kohlberg’s moral reasoning theory comprises of six phases that form six stages. The stages try to avail the moral reasoning of people at different stages of life, and the assumptions they would make in relation to morality. The three phases include preconventional phase (obedience and punishment, and individualism and exchange), conventional phase that comprises of (good interpersonal relationships and maintaining the social order), and the postconventional stage that has the social contract and individual rights stage, and universal principles. Evidently, there is a smooth transition of moral reasoning across these stages, and as a person advances in age, one becomes more aware of the law; thus, one is able to explain further a decision made basing on morality. Notably, morality forms the peak of the three phases of morality, and it bases its arguments on the principles of justice. The principles of justice are essential to the society because they enable people to make decisions that are fair to all. Stage six requires that people reach justice, and it proposes a way that justice can be obtained, which includes people’s examination of an issue at hand through each other’s eyes.

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