Moral Development - Stage 5 : Through It All, Inc. NFP

Moral Development - Stage 5

by Demetris Lawrence on 11/22/11

Level III - Postconventional Morality

Stage 5 - Contract and Individual Rights - People begin to ask, "What makes for a good society?"  They begin to think about society in a very theoretical way, stepping back from their own society and considering the rights and values a society ought to uphold.  They then evaluate existing societies in terms of these prior considerations; a "prior-to-society" perspective.

People in Stage 5 basically believe that a good society is best conceived as a social contract where people freely enter to work toward the benefit of all.  They recognize that the different social groups with a society will have different values, but they believe all national people would agree on two points. 

  1. They would all want certain basic rights, such as liberty and life, to be protected.
  2. They would want some democratic procedures for changing unfair laws and for improving society. 

Stage 5 people talk about "morality" and "rights" that take some priority over particuar laws.  Kohlberg insisted, however, that we do not judge people to be at Stage 5 merely from their verbal labels.  We need to look at their social perspective and mode of reasoning. 

At Stage 4 people frequently talk about the "right to life," but for them this right is legitimized by the authority of their social or religious group.  If their group valued property over life, they would too. 

At Stage 5 people are making more of an independent effort to think out what any society ought to value.  They often reason that property has little meaning without life; they determine logically what a society ought to be.  People are working toward a conception of the good society.  They suggest that we need to

  1. Protect certain individual rights
  2. Settle disputes through democratic processes. 

However, democratic processes alone do not always result in outcomes that we intuitively sense are just.   

 

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