Lawrence Kohlberg

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Lawrence Kohlberg (October 25, 1927 - April 15, 1987) was a psychologist who was born in Bronxville, New York. He served as a professor at Harvard University. He started as a developmental psychologist in the early 1970s and became famous for his later work in moral education and moral reasoning. Kohlberg's theory of moral development emphasizes that moral reasoning develops in stages. In this it resembles Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development.

Kohlberg's moral discussion approach

Like Piaget, Kohlberg believed that development is fueled by social interaction. Moral education can be accomplished in formal education by confronting people with moral dilemmas that evoke cognitive conflicts. According to Kohlberg, discussion of these dilemmas promotes development to higher stages of moral reasoning by showing the benefits of the higher stages of reasoning. He and others formulated dilemmas for this purpose. After having been criticized for tending merely to the promotion of moral reasoning, but not of moral actions, Kohlberg developed the approach of "Just-Community-Schools".

Questions about sampling bias were raised at first because Kohlberg's initial longitudinal study contained only white males. Carol Gilligan, a former student and colleague of Kohlberg, raised several concerns in her book In A Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. Her primary contention was that Kohlberg was looking at moral reasoning from a justice perspective, whereas women developed a different perspective, which she called caring.

Kohlberg contracted a tropical disease in 1973. As time went on, he struggled with depression and bouts of insanity which ended with Kohlberg committing suicide by walking into the Atlantic in 1987.

Kohlberg's stages of moral development

Kohlberg proposed that moral reasoning, which he thought to be the basis for ethical behavior, develops through stages. From the results of his studies at Harvard's Center for Moral Education, he concluded that there are six identifiable stages of moral development.

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