Kohlberg's moral reasoning

Maybe it’s because this is a niche type of website, but I’m a little upset seeing catholic adults (presumably most of you are older than 21 year old me) so quickly to dismiss other alternate views in these forums. I don’t mean alternate views about God or our faith, I’m talking about decentering and internalizing!


I’ve been learning about Kohlberg’s levels of moral reasoning in a college lecture; this is a simplified version I uploaded; there’s actually 2 stages within each of these. My point is though… I always felt Catholics were in the earlier stage of the post-conventional stage (thought I didn’t know the word for it until recently). Even when I told my parents that I thought I was bisexual, I thought “Thank God I’m catholic” because I hear so many horror stories about southern christian families disowning their children for this same reason (-i live in the south).
THIS IS NOT A DEBATE ABOUT RELIGION! I’m only wondering, do you think a good bit of catholics have moved past the conventional stage? Do you think we even should move past it? I’m really not trying to fight with people twice my age over things we may never see eye to eye on, I just want to hear your thoughts!

We are supposed to be post-conventional: not motivated by fear of punishment, and not doing what the crowd is doing.

But most people just go along with whatever Hollywood tells them to do, so…

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some, ya. i don’t like that some friends i make in college won’t believe in things because of celebrities opinions… ! but both this forum and a bible group i attended recently, that turned out to be older adults, really don’t seem to think post-conventionally. i know lots of catholics must! like i said, maybe it’s because this is a niche forum i stumbled upon looking for advice from catholics that i don’t know in real life, but i don’t know where to get advice from now after reading some hateful, anti-peace things on here :frowning:

You only joined one day ago

ya okay… but i came here for a specific problem and got great advice! then the next thing i did was search something else important to me. a simple keyword search led to me a lot of forums with not nice words from people who i thought were the accepting ones. i know theres like non-catholic christians on here, sorry if this offends any of you, but i really thought catholics were the ones who best portrayed a religion with not only rich tradition and history, but an understanding of different times. i guess you don’t see what i’m seeing, that’s fine!

Okay that makes more sense.

CAF is open to anybody of any belief system. It’s also open to human beings who are sinful and fallen :slightly_smiling_face:
We are none of us Jesus, and some folks here have a more blunt way of communicating, some are superb communicators and still others are ahem still working on it!
Really, the Bible and Catechism are your best bet for finding out what the Church teaches. We do a lot of discussion around here and sometimes it gets heated.
But in either case, you sound like you’re open to learning more about the faith and that’s wonderful
:pray:t2:And :dove:On your journey!

… I don’t know why you sound a little bit like you’re assuming I don’t know my faith? I’m from a catholic-italian town in new york… catholicism is everyday life there. i grew up there until my late teens…soooo, i don’t question my faith, i do question whether the catholic identity is as pure as i always thought of it. people ARE people, after all. i AM here for advice from other catholics who don’t know me in real life and i’m here to see what other catholics think when their speaking freely- i guess it’s the psychology major in me. maybe you didn’t mean it that way, i don’t know, sorry for misunderstanding if you didn’t- but i’m on the defensive a lot about being catholic lately because of newer people in my life.

According to your source, the church itself is actually in all three stages at one time. Some of its tenets fit pre-conventional, some, conventional, and others post conventional. If the church itself would find itself in all three at any one time, how could Catholics not do so themselves. Granted some people never get past stage 1, many never past stage 2, and another good many reach stage 3. But, personally, give me an issue or doctrine, or practice, and I could be in any of the three.

well ya i guess but moral reasoning is individual- i know what you’re saying though! but

you can only truly progress forward in his moral reasoning theory. there is no skipping and progressing is rare, but you’re right about a lot of people never moving past the pre-conventional stage! i don’t know, i guess i wish older catholics would show more tolerance like catholics my age do

“niche” is a nice way to put it. this website has a fringe element that is not proportional to that of the general Catholic population. Additionally, if you’re from a historically Catholic area of the country then that disproportionality would seem even more amplified.

That being said, there are some lucid members here, but it takes some time to figure out who they are.

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With respect, I have to disagree with your above statement. My position on abortion would be pre, there is no equivocation, no “seeing all sides” When it comes to actions having a moral import, I can logically reason in any of the three categories. Some things I simply follow in lock step with the teaching of the church, in another I might agree insofar as I cannot have a definitive answer to my logic. Sexual sin may be an example of this instance. And on others, I consider my point as something I arrive at that is not in lock stem with the persons in pre, and conventional logic. I think this is a little like those people who put others into personality categories based on observed behavior. It creates false understandings based on observable behavior only.
And I might add, I am a couple generations older than you are. You are seeing things from an academic standpoint. My viewpoint is based on a good 50 years of experience. My great argument with so much of college level education is that it tries all to often to quantify the un-quantifiable.


True, and even St. Teresa of Calcutta was pre- on abortion(she spoke out against it quite often), yet this “moral development” page puts her in the post-conventional category.

My thinking on this is that the level of post-conventional thinking in a Catholic family depends on certain factors. One factor may be how far back a family’s Catholic roots go. Another factor, which can be related to the first, is geographic location.

Another factor is how well Catholicism is understood by a family. IMO, it tends to be understood better in areas where it has deeper roots, geographically and familially.

I’m sorry :confused: That sounds stressful.

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But to be fair, this is only a theory. And it’s a pretty good one, but it doesn’t cover every aspect of lived human experience.

I’ve found that psychology has some gaps when explaining spiritual experiences…

I generally prefer to see us as all on the same side–insofar as we all search for truth.

One of the topics I teach in my Child Development class includes some of the theories of moral development, one of them Kohlberg’s theory. First, you should understand that Kohlberg’s theory is a STAGE theory (levels is another word he used), so that makes it a little suspicious to modern developmental psychologists. Most of the latter do NOT believe wholeheartedly in the concept of stage since it is a bit too rigid, being in the Piagetian tradition. In stage theories, development BETWEEN stages does not overlap too much and there is an invariant sequence of stages dependent on CHRONOLOGICAL AGE (I tell my students that the word “age” is part of the word “stage,” and since I teach in a Catholic University, I call it ST.AGE), and not functional age which is based on children’s home environment and experiences. Further, in a stage theory, there is little attention afforded to cultural, gender, or personality differences. Second, Kohlberg believes that not many people get past the conventional stage of moral development, which relies on social approval for following the social norms of behavior. Conforming to the norms of society is somewhat similar to preconventional morality in that there also exists a need for social approval and a certain fear of rejection or embarrassment for being out of step with the behavior of others. The postconventional level of morality (which not many of us achieve according to Kohlberg) means that we do try to think for ourselves based on our own moral principles and ideals learned by means of our personal life experiences. We are not so much worried about following the pack and gaining or losing social approval or recognition. However, that still does not mean we always BEHAVE or act in the same way that our moral principles tell us to behave. In other words, KNOWING what is morally right does not always translate into DOING what is morally right. Kohlberg’s theory does not directly address this issue.

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I know. Mother Theresa… Ghandi… these are people who belong in stage 6. I didn’t really think anyone knew about it, so I wasn’t being too clear, but I do think people can more commonly be in stage 5- am i wrong? Idk you’re the professor, i really liked this theory and think about it a lot but I could’ve misunderstood that part when I was taught it

A scientific theory is the best we have FOR THE TIME BEING. It can be revised or rejected if new evidence which the theory cannot adequately explain comes to light, but so far it is the best available. So in science, we cannot say it’s ONLY a theory; we can say it’s only a hypothesis or (informed) opinion. Also, no theory that I know of covers ‘EVERY aspect of lived experience’ and no theory is perfect.

lmao ya… moving to a very diverse city is cool, but challenging if you’re an extrovert like me who’s always making new friends. i never had these kinds of problems though! because before this, everyone else was pretty much like me. i like the diversity i just didnt see these kinds of spiritual problems coming just by me simply befriending a super diverse group of friends :confused: thank you though

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