Individual Cognitive Moral Development

Kohlberg suggests that we make ethical judgements and decisions differently based on the level of moral development we have achieved. Some people stop at level 1, Preconventional- focusing only on self interest and not getting caught; others move up to level 2, Conventional- doing what others expect of us; and still others progress to the highest level 3- Post Conventional-Doing the right thing based on ethical principles rather than based on what others expect.

(See pp 89-90 of the text).

Read the following passage about Molly:

“Molly has been a local newspaper reporter for over 12 years. She learned that Joe Thompson, a candidate for government office, had been arrested for shoplifting 20 years earlier. She also learned that early in his life, Thompson went through a confused period where he did things he later regretted. The shoplifting was treated as a minor offense and removed from his record. Since then, Thompson has had a distinguished career helping people and leading important community projects. Many people consider him to be the best candidate who will likely go on to important leadership positions. Molly wonders whether she should write a story about Joe’s earlier troubles that could ruin his chance to win”.

Which of Molly’s thoughts (below) represent the pre-conventional, conventional, or post conventional (principled) stages of moral cognitive development ? Discuss your reasoning with others.

Molly’s thoughts….

i Are there any laws against writing the story?

ii Would getting the ‘scoop’ help or hurt my career

iii If I don’t publish the story, wouldn’t another reporter write the story anyway?

iv What action would best serve society in the long term?

v How would my boss react if I wrote, or didn’t write, the story?

vi Aren’t reporters expected to report all the news regardless of the circumstances?

vii Would Thompson pay me not to write the story?

viii Would the election process be more just with or without reporting the story?

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