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Moral Dilemmas
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Posted 5/14/08

cardmage wrote:

I'll ask Kohlberg's question of morality here:

A woman was near death from a special kind of cancer. There was one drug that the doctors thought might save her. It was a form of radium that a druggist in the same town had recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times what the drug cost him to produce. He paid $200 for the radium and charged $2,000 for a small dose of the drug. The sick woman's husband, Heinz, went to everyone he knew to borrow the money, but he could only get together about $ 1,000, which is half of what it cost. He told the druggist that his wife was dying and asked him to sell it cheaper or let him pay later. But the druggist said, "No, I discovered the drug and I'm going to make money from it." So Heinz got desperate and broke into the man's store to steal the drug for his wife.

Should Heinz have broken into the laboratory to steal the drug for his wife? Why or why not?


I can only really speak for what I would have done, which would involve a utilitarian rather than deontological process: weighing the consequences, not merely obeying whatever social rules are in place. I'd probably do what he did.

I encourage thinking of the law in terms of its spirit rather than its letter, which, although to some degree subjective, yields more benefits than simply following the rules all of the time. I resent the fact that Kohlberg thinks of his sixth stage, in which only universalizable principles are put into action and people are seen as ends rather than means (both Kantian concepts), as the highest; this affirms only one system of morality that is neither necessarily the best in all cases nor natural. In theory, I fall into stage 5 and have no desire to "go beyond" (as if it were some objective system in which stage 6 actually has a higher value); in practice, I probably fall into stage 2. Another problem with his system is that the six stages are not necessarily independent of each other...

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Posted 5/14/08

Regulus133 wrote:

I can only really speak for what I would have done, which would involve a utilitarian rather than deontological process: weighing the consequences, not merely obeying whatever social rules are in place. I'd probably do what he did.

I encourage thinking of the law in terms of its spirit rather than its letter, which, although to some degree subjective, yields more benefits than simply following the rules all of the time. I resent the fact that Kohlberg thinks of his sixth stage, in which only universalizable principles are put into action and people are seen as ends rather than means (both Kantian concepts), as the highest; this affirms only one system of morality that is neither necessarily the best in all cases nor natural. In theory, I fall into stage 5 and have no desire to "go beyond" (as if it were some objective system in which stage 6 actually has a higher value); in practice, I probably fall into stage 2. Another problem with his system is that the six stages are not necessarily independent of each other...



Honestly, I think you're too familiar with it to give an accurate answer. In studies we call people who already know what they are being asked "expert participants" and represent a kind of confounding, so we'll leave these participants out of our sample. But according to your answer, as you have said yourself, you would be put into the post-conventional level of moral reasoning. Personally, I don't feel there is a need to differentiate between stages within these levels in terms of "quality" of moral reasoning, for want of a better word, because I believe that the more useful distinctions are not the specific stages but the 3 levels. I do believe that if one person reasons at the post-conventional level, one would be more or less capable of reasoning in both stages 5 and 6 but may tend habitually to one or the other or may choose one or the other.

I need you to clarify what you mean by "in practice" though. If you were talking about the way you would typically behave, as in act, that is actually not relevant, I feel, because this is a theory of reasoning and in a way it is separate from actual behaviors or actions. And yes, I agree that the post-conventional level resembles the pre-conventional level to a certain extent.
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Posted 5/14/08

cardmage wrote:

Personally, I don't feel there is a need to differentiate between stages within these levels in terms of "quality" of moral reasoning, for want of a better word, because I believe that the more useful distinctions are not the specific stages but the 3 levels. I do believe that if one person reasons at the post-conventional level, one would be more or less capable of reasoning in both stages 5 and 6 but may tend habitually to one or the other or may choose one or the other.


I'm not sure the three levels are even very useful. Were I able to alter the system, I'd likely just offer the six approaches as equal but different and neither necessarily connected nor disconnected from each other in any way. I may, for example, take a utilitarian approach--level 5--to issues in which I do not participate, yet focus almost exclusively on what is best for me alone--level 2--when it comes to issues in which I am involved. But humans generally don't even fit into that ordered a system either, since they have the capacity for hypocrisy; a victim of rape, for example, might think that justice should be served to everyone except rapists, who should be tortured and then executed. So my main criticism of this system is its failure to account for the complexity of human thought, though I think it could be saved by a destruction of the strict hierarchy.


I need you to clarify what you mean by "in practice" though. If you were talking about the way you would typically behave, as in act, that is actually not relevant, I feel, because this is a theory of reasoning and in a way it is separate from actual behaviors or actions. And yes, I agree that the post-conventional level resembles the pre-conventional level to a certain extent.


I think it is relevant. Reasoning takes place whether one is actually participating in the issue or not, so differences in thought and behavior suggest that an individual's moral system can change as circumstances--involvement or lack thereof--change.

Let me be clear that I truly think that any of the six can bleed into the rest, not just the pre-conventional into the post-conventional.



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Posted 5/14/08

Regulus133 wrote:

I think it is relevant. Reasoning takes place whether one is actually participating in the issue or not, so differences in thought and behavior suggest that an individual's moral system can change as circumstances--involvement or lack thereof--change.



I do agree that the level of reasoning depends on circumstance. A person faced with a life-threatening situation probably would not reason in the way he normally does. Saying that it is circumstantial doesn't make it less valid a division. If that is your argument then its like saying that personality is useless to discuss because the personality one displays in different situations is different. By this I mean personality traits with a continuum such as intraversion-extraversion. And like personality, I believe that people who reason at a certain stage do so habitually and lean towards such reasoning styles more. This would not mean that all his reasoning is done in a certain stage.

As to value of the different levels, I do think that each level offers the person reasoning at that level something completely different. Generally speaking, the higher levels offer a higher utility than the lower ones, though this may perhaps change due to circumstance. One thing notable about his theory is that a person reasoning at the higher levels have gone through reasoning at the lower ones and would be capable of using lower levels of reasoning whereas the opposite is not true. This further increases the utility of reaching higher levels of reasoning.
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Posted 5/14/08 , edited 5/14/08

cardmage wrote:

If that is your argument then its like saying that personality is useless to discuss because the personality one displays in different situations is different. By this I mean personality traits with a continuum such as intraversion-extraversion.


Not useless, just... neither strictly determinable objectively nor absolute, just like many other systems. I'm really just being wary of claims that are too broad or too narrow.


As to value of the different levels, I do think that each level offers the person reasoning at that level something completely different. Generally speaking, the higher levels offer a higher utility than the lower ones, though this may perhaps change due to circumstance.


I don't know about that. Utility is always in a particular context, and what is useful in one area is not necessarily useful in another. One might argue that acting purely for the sake of oneself is of greatest utility in terms of self-preservation and happiness.


One thing notable about his theory is that a person reasoning at the higher levels have gone through reasoning at the lower ones and would be capable of using lower levels of reasoning whereas the opposite is not true. This further increases the utility of reaching higher levels of reasoning.


It's notable about his theory, yes, but I don't think that really correponds to reality. Most humans can think in terms of any of the six methods if they become aware of them, which is as simple as reading a few sentences. They just choose (or not; they might just go with however they were raised to think) to follow a particular one over another. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding something, but it seems silly to claim that equally intelligent humans are actually divided up into groups that are only capable of moral reasoning to a particular extent. This line of thought actually leads me to take the opposite perspective of what you said earlier: it is not abstract reasoning that is of importance, but the reasoning that leads to action. If we are all capable of any of the six forms of moral reasoning, what matters--or at least what varies from person to person and is worth studying--is which one we choose.

The method Kohlberg used to determine this system only really seems to support the division of moral reasoning into six parts, not the idea that people at a certain stage are incapable of other forms of moral reasoning.


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Posted 5/15/08 , edited 5/15/08

Regulus133 wrote:

Read above.



Ok. Firstly, I must say what you are saying is reasonable. I do think it is a valid argument, that the 6 stages and 3 levels are equal in a way very much like a personality trait. However, though the original study did not go much into the differences in utility of the 3 levels, I have this view of it:

I think that different levels of moral reasoning leads to different forms of moral constraints on a person's behavior. I must say that I have modified the three levels slightly in my own interpretation of it and it would require research to back up what I am saying about them. I think that the first level, preconventional moral reasoning, actually functions very much in a hedonistic way. What I mean by this is that the first stage is ruled by rewards and punishments and so on. People reasoning morally in this stage reason almost entirely in a reactionary way. It means that one's actions, in a sense, is ruled by reacting to other's. The constraints on a person's behavior in this situation would be extremely great.

Level 2, conventional moral reasoning, is more of a social view approach. People here would reason based on wider social norms and what society would expect. These social norms, while serving as a guide, also serve as their constraint; these people are constrained by the wider social view of things.

In level 3, post-conventional moral reasoning, one uses a personal "effectance" approach to moral reasoning. The definition for effectance here would be something like a cross between a utilitarian outlook and a personal ethics stance. I do think this definition is problematic as it seems too wide and "catch-all" but I haven't worked out a neater one as yet. In this sense, the constraints on these person's behavior would then be personal.

The utility of having a more personalized moral reasoning could probably be thought of as a person being able to perceive more alternatives in a given situation. The utility of a lower stage of moral reasoning would probably be convenience and speed of reasoning. This would suggest that they are better at different things in different stages. The problem would now be if a person could easily reason in all 3 levels as you suggest and may just tend to prefer a certain level.

I have only anecdotal evidence to provide, and I am aware that it does not amount to much. I have this friend who, like me, is a pscyhology major and is thus familiar with Kohlberg's stages. She is an extremely high-achieving individual, being president of my school's club and being in the dean's list at the same time. However, there was this argument I had with her in which she insisted on following rules. I tried explaining matters to her in terms of social contracts and she just went back to quoting rules to me. She was bewildered I could not understand something so straightforward as following authority. I was even more so by the fact she couldn't see beyond that, something which I always thought was obvious. In retrospect, I believe that she was stuck in level 2 of moral development and unable to, even with the most patience I could muster at the point, reason morally at level 3. In that sense, the argument I provided just would not register. And the most notable thing about this is that I did understand her argument. I just thought mine was better and even pointed out her flaws to her. On the other hand, she could not say what was wrong with mine. She just kept saying I was spoilt. I also believe that it would be difficult to find a child of about 5 to reason morally beyond level 1. Not all would be unable to, but most.

I won't say I am right. I know I'm not sure if I'm right. This is just my view of things. What remains would be the empirical question.
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Posted 5/16/08

cardmage wrote:

I think that different levels of moral reasoning leads to different forms of moral constraints on a person's behavior.


Each level taken individually, I agree. But I question whether the second two levels are ever truly independent in practice. A level 2 individual may have moved up from 1 by a desire to create a general system that would avoid punishment and satisfy personal goals (possibly simplifying the complexity of life, too) while affirming his socialization. A level 3 individual may have moved up from 2 through some sort of awareness of what morality and its purpose are, but we can also say he is merely putting level 1 into practice through a modified level 2. The recognition that our systems aren't as absolute as we wish often comes about through some sort of personal experience, whether direct or indirect, of being the exception to the rule--of being the "Other." A movement to level 3, then, can easily be a matter of self-interest. I realize that much of this is speculative as well, but it is important to bring up as an alternative to a theory that is itself unproven.

I should also note that this may be exactly what Kohlberg was thinking, as I'm not sure whether the value judgments he placed on the levels were based on their utility or an actual growth of morality from 1 to 3, whether the results were all that mattered or the cultivation of certain "virtues" were important as well. Perhaps he did not even make such a distinction, though that certainly leaves him open to more attacks.


And the most notable thing about this is that I did understand her argument. I just thought mine was better and even pointed out her flaws to her. On the other hand, she could not say what was wrong with mine. She just kept saying I was spoilt. I also believe that it would be difficult to find a child of about 5 to reason morally beyond level 1. Not all would be unable to, but most.


I wasn't there, of course, so correct me if I'm wrong if you know, but: does it not seem more likely that she understood your argument but refused to acknowledge its greater utility? I think one could make an argument for level 2 being superior to level 3 on the basis of objectivity versus subjectivity, but I won't get into that--my point is merely that failing to understanding and failing to agree are two different things. I don't think my theory is particularly optimistic, but maybe I need to be yet more jaded if she really was unable to understand.

As for the child's inability to reason beyond level 1, it's probably a matter of both mental and social development. We can't expect everyone, regardless of age, to reason in certain ways if they lack the mental capacity to do so. The social aspect, though, creates a problem to which I already alluded: is morality merely taught, does it develop out of the sake of self-preservation, or does it truly develop for its own sake? Perhaps the 5-year-old does not reason beyond level 1 because it is only socialization that will lead it to 2 and 3...

It doesn't seem to me that most people go through serious reflection over what is "right" and what is "wrong" and whether the concepts are valid or not (not that serious reflection necessarily leads to superior results; contemplation can become indecision and then inaction), so it seems more likely the case that it is primarily circumstances outside of the individual's control--socialization, in particular--that move him from one stage to the next. This is not to say that we have no personal volition in these matters, but clearly there is a need for at least a spark for the fire to begin.


What remains would be the empirical question.


If only rational discussion could lead us to absolute truths...
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Posted 5/19/08
1. I'd make my mom sit on the other person's lap. There is no car on this earth that couldn't fit them both. DER. And if for some magical reason you couldn't fit one of them on the other's lap, I'd just fly them both out of there, seeing as that's not possible, so it's obviously some fantasy land.

2. My brother. I love him. I hate kids.
Posted 8/8/10

phyro989 wrote:

feel free to post anything about moral dilemmas
_________________________________________-

Now these are unearthy questions. These questions show exactly what type of person u are. Ask your death questions following my examples. (And go ahead and answer the example ones too)


1: You are in an alleyway and a tornado is coming right at you. Your mother and person u love most in the world are with u. there is a car that can only hold two people face the oppiset dircetion of the tornado. One person must be left behind to die. who is it?

2. Your brother is stuck in side a burning building and only u can save him, but on the other side there are 5 children who haven't reach jouner high yet. You can only save one or the other. Who do u save?



Ahhhh the joys of values clarification... Of course in number one everyone must say they would save the others and stay behind to die themselves... but then again you can always squeeze an extra person in a two seater if you must. ;-) In number two my brother would want me to save the children, he's a marine... it's what he does.
Posted 8/8/10

phyro989 wrote:

feel free to post anything about moral dilemmas
_________________________________________-

Now these are unearthy questions. These questions show exactly what type of person u are. Ask your death questions following my examples. (And go ahead and answer the example ones too)


1: You are in an alleyway and a tornado is coming right at you. Your mother and person u love most in the world are with u. there is a car that can only hold two people face the oppiset dircetion of the tornado. One person must be left behind to die. who is it?

2. Your brother is stuck in side a burning building and only u can save him, but on the other side there are 5 children who haven't reach jouner high yet. You can only save one or the other. Who do u save?
1)My mother, I was never quite emotionally attached to her and she knows it.

2)The kids, I've a soft spot for children and I don't have a brother.

My turn:

You find yourself locked in a soundproofed room with no widow, a complete isolation from the outside world that's beyond the room itself for one hour. In this room however is a completely perfect copy of yourself, with all of your abilities, talents, memories, experiences, and even down to personality traits such as expectations and preferences. In other words, within this room stands yourself facing yourself, while none knows the wiser.

However at the end of the hour, both the room and the copy of yourself will disappear without a trace. Which means only you'll know what happened during that hour and only you can testify the experience.

So here's the question, what will you do with yourself in that hour?
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Posted 8/8/10 , edited 8/8/10

DomFortress wrote:


phyro989 wrote:

feel free to post anything about moral dilemmas
_________________________________________-

Now these are unearthy questions. These questions show exactly what type of person u are. Ask your death questions following my examples. (And go ahead and answer the example ones too)


1: You are in an alleyway and a tornado is coming right at you. Your mother and person u love most in the world are with u. there is a car that can only hold two people face the oppiset dircetion of the tornado. One person must be left behind to die. who is it?

2. Your brother is stuck in side a burning building and only u can save him, but on the other side there are 5 children who haven't reach jouner high yet. You can only save one or the other. Who do u save?
1)My mother, I was never quite emotionally attached to her and she knows it.

2)The kids, I've a soft spot for children and I don't have a brother.

My turn:

You find yourself locked in a soundproofed room with no widow, a complete isolation from the outside world that's beyond the room itself for one hour. In this room however is a completely perfect copy of yourself, with all of your abilities, talents, memories, experiences, and even down to personality traits such as expectations and preferences. In other words, within this room stands yourself facing yourself, while none knows the wiser.

However at the end of the hour, both the room and the copy of yourself will disappear without a trace. Which means only you'll know what happened during that hour and only you can testify the experience.

So here's the question, what will you do with yourself in that hour?


No idea. At first I'd probably go wtf and then I'd make sure it was me by asking it things only I would know. And then I'd break out of the room to see what lies outside. Cause I'm not staying in a enclosed room for an hour.

As for the first two questions. 1. Shove one into a seat. And the other in the trunk. Or both onto one seat I don't care.
2. Go in before the flames spread that far...... Or save the kids while telling my brother to jump out the window. Break a bone or burn to death. Not that hard.
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Posted 8/8/10
My mother dies, I never liked her much anyway.
If I had a brother, I'd save him. The children hold no value to me seeing as I don't know them.
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Posted 8/8/10 , edited 8/8/10
I was going to quote the parrot phrases that comprised part of my training as an EMT and Fireman (both volunteer) But people probably wouldn't get the joke.

I don't think the OP is around to clarify the many questions I would ask but I'd use the principals of Emergency Scene Managment and Triage to dictate my actions. These are rational tools for maximising the help you can give with the resources you've got without wasting them on noble but futile efforts.

As for Dom's proposal. I don't know, Probably: A mixture of self-admiration and self-castigation as I am narcissitic with a low self esteem.

(edit: post script)

One thing for sure I'd pile all three people into that car. HELL I'd pile three people onto a vespa. Check out the internet meme 'asian masters of transport if you think that's unlikely' -- Three people live one car dies. I'll make that deal any time.

Posted 8/9/10

papagolfwhiskey wrote:

I was going to quote the parrot phrases that comprised part of my training as an EMT and Fireman (both volunteer) But people probably wouldn't get the joke.

I don't think the OP is around to clarify the many questions I would ask but I'd use the principals of Emergency Scene Managment and Triage to dictate my actions. These are rational tools for maximising the help you can give with the resources you've got without wasting them on noble but futile efforts.

As for Dom's proposal. I don't know, Probably: A mixture of self-admiration and self-castigation as I am narcissitic with a low self esteem.

(edit: post script)

One thing for sure I'd pile all three people into that car. HELL I'd pile three people onto a vespa. Check out the internet meme 'asian masters of transport if you think that's unlikely' -- Three people live one car dies. I'll make that deal any time.

Dude! That reminds me of this one time I saw a family of five(count them!), all going uphill on a Vespa back in Taiwan. The father had his son stepping on the front wheel with his ass almost touching the road, just so that he can steer the 50cc. family wagon. And you tell me that people had to pay money just to see this at a circus?
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Posted 8/9/10

DomFortress wrote:


papagolfwhiskey wrote:

I was going to quote the parrot phrases that comprised part of my training as an EMT and Fireman (both volunteer) But people probably wouldn't get the joke.

I don't think the OP is around to clarify the many questions I would ask but I'd use the principals of Emergency Scene Managment and Triage to dictate my actions. These are rational tools for maximising the help you can give with the resources you've got without wasting them on noble but futile efforts.

As for Dom's proposal. I don't know, Probably: A mixture of self-admiration and self-castigation as I am narcissitic with a low self esteem.

(edit: post script)

One thing for sure I'd pile all three people into that car. HELL I'd pile three people onto a vespa. Check out the internet meme 'asian masters of transport if you think that's unlikely' -- Three people live one car dies. I'll make that deal any time.

Dude! That reminds me of this one time I saw a family of five(count them!), all going uphill on a Vespa back in Taiwan. The father had his son stepping on the front wheel with his ass almost touching the road, just so that he can steer the 50cc. family wagon. And you tell me that people had to pay money just to see this at a circus?


Yeah that's not that uncommon in Taiwan. Usually see it about twice a day.....
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