MORAL DEVELOPMENTx - Yoesel

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CHAPTER SEVEN

KOHLBERG'S STAGES OF MORAL
DEVELOPMENT



BIOGRAPHICAL INTRODUCTION

An outstanding example of research in the Piagetian

tradition is the work of Lawrence Kohlberg.
Kohlberg has focused on moral development and has proposed a stage theory of moral thinking
which goes well beyond Piaget's initial formulations.

Kohlberg, who was born in 1927, grew up in Bronxville, New York,
and attended the Andover
Academy in Massachusetts, a private high school for bright and usually wealthy students. He did
not go immediately to college, but instead went to help the Israeli cause, in which he was made
the Second Engineer on an old freighter

carrying refugees from parts of Europe to Israel. After
this, in 1948, he enrolled at the University of Chicago, where he scored so high on admission
tests that he had to take only a few courses to earn his bachelor's degree. This he did in one year.
He s
tayed on at Chicago for graduate work in psychology, at first thinking he would become a
clinical psychologist. However, he soon became interested in Piaget and began interviewing
children and adolescents on moral issues. The result was his doctoral disser
tation (1958a), the
first rendition of his new stage theory.

Kohlberg is an informal, unassuming man who also is a true scholar; he has thought long and
deeply about a wide range of issues in both psychology and philosophy and has done much to
help others
appreciate the wisdom of many of the "old psychologists," such as Rousseau, John
Dewey, and James Mark Baldwin. Kohlberg has taught at the University of Chicago (1962
-
1968)
and, since 1968, has been at Harvard University.

PIAGET'S STAGES OF MORAL JUDGMENT

Piaget studied many aspects of moral judgment, but most of his findings fit into a two
-
stage
theory. Children younger than 10 or 11 years think about moral dilemmas one way; older
children consider them differently. As we have seen, younger children regard

rules as fixed and
absolute. They believe that rules are handed down by adults or by God and that one cannot
change them. The older child's view is more relativistic. He or she understands that it is
permissible to change rules if everyone agrees. Rules a
re not sacred and absolute but are devices
which humans use to get along cooperatively.

At approximately the same time
--
10 or 11 years
--
children's moral thinking undergoes other
shifts. In particular, younger children base their moral judgments more on con
sequences,
whereas older children base their judgments on intentions. When, for example, the young child
hears about one boy who broke 15 cups trying to help his mother and another boy who broke
only one cup trying to steal cookies, the young child thinks
that the first boy did worse. The child
primarily considers the amount of damage
--
the consequences
--
whereas the older child is more
likely to judge wrongness in terms of the motives underlying the act (Piaget, 1932, p. 137).

There are many more details to
Piaget's work on moral judgment, but he essentially found a
series of changes that occur between the ages of 10 and 12, just when the child begins to enter
the general stage of formal operations.

Intellectual development, however, does not stop at this poi
nt. This is just the beginning of
formal operations, which continue to develop at least until age 16. Accordingly, one might
expect thinking about moral issues to continue to develop throughout adolescence. Kohlberg
therefore interviewed both children and
adolescents about moral dilemmas, and he did find
stages that go well beyond Piaget's. He uncovered six stages, only the first three of which share
many features with Piaget's stages.

KOHLBERG'S METHOD

Kohlberg's (1958a) core sample was comprised of 72 boy
s, from both middle
-

and lower
-
class
families in Chicago. They were ages 10, 13, and 16. He later added to his sample younger
children, delinquents, and boys and girls from other American cities and from other countries
(1963, 1970).

The basic interview co
nsists of a series of dilemmas such as the following:

Heinz Steals the Drug

In Europe, 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 tow
n had
recently discovered. The drug was expensive to make, but the druggist was charging ten times
what the drug cost him to make. 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 everyon
e 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 the husband have
done that? (Kohlberg, 1963, p. 19)

Kohlberg is not really interested in whether the subject says "yes" or "
no" to this dilemma but in
the reasoning behind the answer. The interviewer wants to know why the subject thinks Heinz
should or should not have stolen the drug. The interview schedule then asks new questions which
help one understand the child's reasoning
. For example, children are asked if Heinz had a right to
steal the drug, if he was violating the druggist's rights, and what sentence the judge should give
him once he was caught. Once again, the main concern is with the reasoning behind the answers.
The
interview then goes on to give more dilemmas in order to get a good sampling of a subject's
moral thinking.

Once Kohlberg had classified the various responses into stages, he wanted to know whether his
classification was
reliable.
In particular, he. wanted

to know if others would score the protocols
in the same way. Other judges independently scored a sample of responses, and he calculated the
degree to which all raters agreed. This procedure is called
interrater reliability.
Kohlberg found
these agreements

to be high, as he has in his subsequent work, but whenever investigators use
Kohlberg's interview, they also should check for interrater reliability before scoring the entire
sample.

KOHLBERG'S SIX STAGES

Level 1. Preconventional Morality

Stage 1. Obedien
ce and Punishment Orientation.
Kohlberg's stage 1 is similar to Piaget's first
stage of moral thought. The child assumes that powerful authorities hand down a fixed set of
rules which he or she must unquestioningly obey. To the Heinz dilemma, the child typ
ically says
that Heinz was wrong to steal the drug because "It's against the law," or "It's bad to steal," as if
this were all there were to it. When asked to elaborate, the child usually responds in terms of the
consequences involved, explaining that stea
ling is bad "because you'll get punished" (Kohlberg,
1958b).

Although the vast majority of children at stage 1 oppose Heinz’s theft, it is still possible for a
child to support the action and still employ stage 1 reasoning. For example, a child might say,
"Heinz can steal it because he asked first and it's not like he stole something big; he won't get
punished" (see Rest, 1973). Even though the child agrees with Heinz’s action, the reasoning is
still stage 1; the concern is with what authorities permit and
punish.

Kohlberg calls stage 1 thinking "preconventional" because children do not yet speak as members
of society. Instead, they see morality as something external to themselves, as that which the big
people say they must do.

Stage 2.

Individualism and Exc
hange.
At this stage children recognize that there is not just one
right view that is handed down by the authorities. Different individuals have different
viewpoints. "Heinz," they might point out, "might think it's right to take the drug, the druggist
wou
ld not." Since everything is
relative,
each person is free to pursue his or her
individual
interests. One boy said that Heinz might steal the drug if he wanted his wife to live, but that he
doesn't have to if he wants to marry someone younger and better
-
lo
oking (Kohlberg, 1963, p.
24). Another boy said Heinz might steal it because

maybe they had children and he might need someone at home to look after them. But maybe he
shouldn't steal it because they might put him in prison for more years than he could sta
nd. (Colby
and Kauffman. 1983, p. 300)

What is right for Heinz, then, is what meets his own self
-
interests.

You might have noticed that children at both stages 1 and 2 talk about punishment. However,
they perceive it differently. At stage 1 punishment is t
ied up in the child's mind with wrongness;
punishment "proves" that disobedience is wrong. At stage 2, in contrast, punishment is simply a
risk that one naturally wants to avoid.

Although stage 2 respondents sometimes sound amoral, they do have some sense of right action.
This is a notion of
fair exchange
or fair deals. The philosophy is one of returning favors
--
"If you
scratch my back, I'll scratch yours." To the Heinz story, subj
ects often say that Heinz was right to
steal the drug because the druggist was unwilling to make a fair deal; he was "trying to rip Heinz
off," Or they might say that he should steal for his wife "because she might return the favor some
day" (Gibbs et al.,

1983, p. 19).

Respondents at stage 2 are still said to reason at the preconventional level because they speak as
isolated individuals rather than as members of society. They see individuals exchanging favors,
but there is still no identification with the
values of the family or community.

Level II. Conventional Morality

Stage 3. Good Interpersonal Relationships.
At this stage children
--
who are by now usually
entering their teens
--
see morality as more than simple deals. They believe that people should live
up to the expectations of the family and community and behave in "good" ways. Good behavior
means having good motives and interpersonal feelings such as love, empathy, trust, and concern
for others. Heinz, they typically argue, was right to steal the drug
because "He was a good man
for wanting to save her," and "His intentions were good, that of saving the life of someone he
loves." Even if Heinz doesn't love his wife, these subjects often say, he should steal the drug
because "I don't think any husband sho
uld sit back and watch his wife die" (Gibbs et al., 1983,
pp. 36
-
42; Kohlberg, 1958b).

If Heinz’s motives were good, the druggist's were bad. The druggist, stage 3 subjects emphasize,
was "selfish," "greedy," and "only interested in himself, not another li
fe." Sometimes the
respondents become so angry with the druggist that they say that he ought to be put in jail (Gibbs
et al., 1983, pp. 26
-
29, 40
-
42). A typical stage 3 response is that of Don, age 13:

It was really the druggist's fault, he was unfair, try
ing to overcharge and letting someone die.
Heinz loved his wife and wanted to save her. I think anyone would. I don't think they would put
him in jail. The judge would look at all sides, and see that the druggist was charging too much.
(Kohlberg, 1963, p.
25)

We see that Don defines the issue in terms of the actors' character traits and motives. He talks
about the loving husband, the unfair druggist, and the understanding judge. His answer deserves
the label "conventional "morality" because it assumes that
the attitude expressed would be shared
by the entire community

"anyone" would be right to do what Heinz did (Kohlberg, 1963, p.
25).

As mentioned earlier, there are similarities between Kohlberg's first three stages and Piaget's two
stages. In both sequenc
es there is a shift from unquestioning obedience to a relativistic outlook
and to a concern for good motives. For Kohlberg, however, these shifts occur in three stages
rather than two.

Stage 4. Maintaining the Social Order.
Stage 3 reasoning works best in
two
-
person
relationships with family members or close friends, where one can make a real effort to get to
know the other's feelings and needs and try to help. At stage 4, in contrast, the respondent
becomes more broadly concerned with
society

as a whole.
N
ow the emphasis is on obeying laws,
respecting authority, and performing one's duties so that the social order is maintained. In
response to the Heinz story, many subjects say they understand that Heinz's motives were good,
but they cannot condone the thef
t. What would happen if we all started breaking the laws
whenever we felt we had a good reason? The result would be chaos; society couldn't function. As
one subject explained,

I don't want to sound like Spiro Agnew, law and order and wave the flag, but if
everybody did as
he wanted to do, set up his own beliefs as to right and wrong, then I think you would have chaos.
The only thing I think we have in civilization nowadays is some sort of legal structure which
people are sort of bound to follow. [Society ne
eds] a centralizing framework. (Gibbs et al., 1983,
pp. 140
-
41)

Because stage 4, subjects make moral decisions from the perspective of society as a whole, they
think from a full
-
fledged member
-
of
-
society perspective (Colby and Kohlberg, 1983, p. 27).

You w
ill recall that stage 1 children also generally oppose stealing because it breaks the law.
Superficially, stage 1 and stage 4 subjects are giving the same response, so we see here why
Kohlberg insists that we must probe into the reasoning behind the overt
response. Stage 1
children say, "It's wrong to steal" and "It's against the law," but they cannot elaborate any further,
except to say that stealing can get a person jailed. Stage 4 respondents, in contrast, have a
conception of the function of laws for so
ciety as a whole
--
a conception which far exceeds the
grasp of the younger child.

Level III. Postconventional Morality

Stage 5. Social Contract and Individual Rights.
At stage 4, people want to keep society
functioning. However, a smoothly functioning socie
ty is not necessarily a good one. A
totalitarian society might be well
-
organized, but it is hardly the moral ideal. At stage 5, 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 that
a society ought to uphold. They then evaluate existing societies in terms of these prior
considerations. They are said to take a "prior
-
to
-
society" perspective (Colby and Kohlberg, 1983,
p.

22).

Stage 5 respondents basically believe that a good society is best conceived as a social contract
into which people freely enter to work toward the benefit of all They recognize that different
social groups within a society will have different values,

but they believe that all rational people
would agree on two points. First they would all want certain basic
rights,
such as liberty and life,
to be protected Second, they would want some
democratic
procedures for changing unfair law
and for improving soc
iety.

In response to the Heinz dilemma, stage 5 respondents make it clear that they do not generally
favor breaking laws; laws are social contracts that we agree to uphold until we can change them
by democratic means. Nevertheless, the wife’s right to live

is a moral right that must be
protected. Thus, stage 5 respondent sometimes defend Heinz’s theft in strong language:

It is the husband's duty to save his wife. The fact that her life is in danger transcends every other
standard you might use to judge his
action. Life is more important than property.

This young man went on to say that "from a moral standpoint" Heinz should save the life of even
a stranger, since to be consistent, the value of a life means any life. When asked if the judge
should punish Hein
z, he replied:

Usually the moral and legal standpoints coincide. Here they conflict. The judge should weight
the moral standpoint more heavily but preserve the legal law in punishing Heinz lightly.
(Kohlberg, 1976, p. 38)

Stage 5 subjects,
-

then, talk abou
t "morality" and "rights" that take some priority over particular
laws. Kohlberg insists, 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,
too,
subjects frequently talk about the "right to life," but for them this right is legitimized by the
authority of their social or religious group (e.g., by the Bible). Presumably, if their group valued
property over life, they would too. At stage 5, in c
ontrast, people are making more of an
independent effort to think out what any society ought to value. They often reason, for example,
that property has little meaning without life. They are trying to determine logically what a
society ought to be like (Ko
hlberg, 1981, pp. 21
-
22; Gibbs et al., 1983, p. 83).

Stage 6: Universal Principles.
Stage 5 respondents are working toward a conception of the
good society. They suggest that we need to (a) protect certain individual rights and (b) settle
disputes through
democratic processes. However, democratic processes alone do not always
result in outcomes that we intuitively sense are just. A majority, for example, may vote for a law
that hinders a minority. Thus, Kohlberg believes that there must be a higher stage
--
s
tage 6
--
which defines the principles by which we achieve justice.

Kohlberg's conception of justice follows that of the philosophers Kant and Rawls, as well as
great moral leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King. According to these people, the
princip
les of justice require us to treat the claims of all parties in an impartial manner, respecting
the basic dignity, of all people as individuals. The principles of justice are therefore universal;
they apply to all. Thus, for example, we would not vote for
a law that aids some people but hurts
others. The principles of justice guide us toward decisions based on an equal respect for all.

In actual practice, Kohlberg says, we can reach just decisions by looking at a situation through
one another's eyes. In the

Heinz dilemma, this would mean that all parties
--
the druggist, Heinz,
and his wife
--
take the roles of the others. To do this in an impartial manner, people can assume a
"veil of ignorance" (Rawls, 1971), acting as if they do not know which role they will
eventually
occupy. If the druggist did this, even he would recognize that life must take priority over
property; for he wouldn't want to risk finding himself in the wife's shoes with property valued
over life. Thus, they would all agree that the wife must
be saved
--
this would be the fair solution.
Such a solution, we must note, requires not only impartiality, but the principle that everyone is
given full and equal respect. If the wife were considered of less value than the others, a just
solution could not
be reached.

Until recently, Kohlberg had been scoring some of his subjects at stage 6, but he has temporarily
stopped doing so, For one thing, he and other researchers had not been finding subjects who
consistently reasoned at this stage. Also, Kohlberg ha
s concluded that his interview dilemmas are
not useful for distinguishing between stage 5 and stage 6 thinking. He believes that stage 6 has a
clearer and broader conception of universal principles (which include justice as well as
individual rights), but
feels that his interview fails to draw out this broader understanding.
Consequently, he has temporarily dropped stage 6 from his scoring manual, calling it a
"theoretical stage" and scoring all postconventional responses as stage 5 (Colby and Kohlberg,
198
3, p. 28).

Theoretically, one issue that distinguishes stage 5 from stage 6 is civil disobedience. Stage 5
would be more hesitant to endorse civil disobedience because of its commitment to the social
contract and to changing laws through democratic agreeme
nts. Only when an individual right is
clearly at stake does violating the law seem justified. At stage 6, in contrast, a commitment to
justice makes the rationale for civil disobedience stronger and broader. Martin Luther King, for
example, argued that law
s are only valid insofar as they are grounded in justice, and that a
commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws. King also recognized,
of course, the general need for laws and democratic processes (stages 4 and 5), and he wa
s
therefore willing to accept the penalities for his actions. Nevertheless, he believed that the higher
principle of justice required civil disobedience (Kohlberg, 198 1, p. 43).

Summary

At stage 1 children think of what is right as that which authority sa
ys is right. Doing the right
thing is obeying authority and avoiding punishment. At stage 2, children are no longer so
impressed by any single authority; they see that there are different sides to any issue. Since
everything is relative, one is free to pur
sue one's own interests, although it is often useful to
make deals and exchange favors with others.

At stages 3 and 4, young people think as members of the conventional society with its values,
norms, and expectations. At stage 3, they emphasize being a go
od person, which basically means
having helpful motives toward people close to one At stage 4, the concern shifts toward obeying
laws to maintain society as a whole.

At stages 5 and 6 people are less concerned with maintaining society for it own sake, and
more
concerned with the principles and values that make for a good society. At stage 5 they emphasize
basic rights and the democratic processes that give everyone a say, and at stage 6 they define the
principles by which agreement will be most just.

THEORETICAL ISSUES

How Development Occurs

Kohlberg, it is important to remember, is a close follower of Piaget. Accordingly, Kohlberg's
theoretical positions, including that on developmental change, reflect those of his mentor.

Kohlberg (e.g., 1968; 198 1,

Ch. 3) says that his stages are not the product of maturation. That is,
the stage structures and sequences do not simply unfold according to a genetic blueprint.

Neither, Kohlberg maintains, are his stages the product of socialization. That is, socializin
g
agents (e.g., parents and teachers) do not directly teach new forms of thinking. Indeed, it is
difficult to imagine them systematically teaching each new stage structure in its particular place
in the sequence.

The stages emerge, instead, from our own th
inking about moral problems. Social experiences do
promote development, but they do so by stimulating our mental processes. As we get into
discussions and debates with others, we find our views questioned and challenged and are
therefore motivated to come
up with new, more comprehensive positions. New stages reflect
these broader viewpoints (Kohlberg et al., 1975).

We might imagine, for example, a young man and woman discussing a new law. The man says
that everyone should obey it, like it or not, because la
ws are vital to social organization (stage 4).
The woman notes, however, that some well
-
organized societies, such as Nazi Germany, were not
particularly moral. The man therefore sees that some evidence contradicts his view. He
experiences some cognitive co
nflict and is motivated to think about the matter more fully,
perhaps moving a bit toward stage 5.

Kohlberg also sometimes speaks of change occurring through role
-
taking opportunities,
opportunities to consider others' viewpoints (e.g., 1976). As children
interact with others, they
learn how viewpoints differ and how to coordinate them in cooperative activities. As they
discuss their problems and work out their differences, they develop their conceptions of what is
fair and just.

Whatever the interactions a
re specifically like, they work best, Kohlberg says, when they are
open and democratic. The less children feel pressured simply to conform to authority, the freer
they are to settle their own differences and formulate their own ideas. We will discuss Kohlb
erg's
efforts to induce developmental change in the section on implications for education.

The Stage Concept

Piaget, you will recall, proposed that true mental stages meet several criteria. They (1) are
qualitatively different ways of thinking, (2) are str
uctured wholes, (3) progress in an invariant
sequence, (4) can be characterized as hierarchic integrations. and (5) are cross
-
cultural
universals. Kohlberg has taken these criteria very seriously, trying to show how his stages meet
them all. Let us conside
r these points one at a time.

1. Qualitative differences.
It seems fairly clear that Kohlberg's stages are qualitatively different
from one another. For example, stage 1 responses, which focus on obedience to authority, sound
very different from stage 2 re
sponses, which argue that each person is free to behave as he or she
wishes. The two stages do not seem to differ along any quantitative dimension, they seem
qualitatively different.

2. Structured wholes.
By "structured wholes," Kohlberg means that the sta
ges are not just
isolated responses but are
general
patterns of thought that will consistently show up across many
different kinds of issues. One gets a sense that this is true by reading through his scoring manual;
one finds the same kinds of thinking rea
ppearing on diverse items. For example, one item asks,
"Why should a promise be kept?" As on the Heinz dilemma, children at stage 1 again speak in
terms of obedience to rules, whereas those at stage 2 focus on exchanging favors that are in one's
self
-
inter
est (e.g., "You never know when you're going to need that person to do something for
you"). Similarly, as children proceed through the stages they keep giving responses that are
similar to those to the Heinz dilemma (Gibbs et al., 1983, pp. 315
-
82).

In add
ition, Kohlberg and his co
-
workers (Colby et al., 1983) have obtained quantitative
estimates of the extent to which subjects respond in terms of one particular stage. Since some
subjects might be in transition between stages, one does not expect perfect co
nsistency.
Nevertheless, Kohlberg found that subjects scored at their dominant stage across nine dilemmas
about two
-
thirds of the time. This seems to be a fair degree of consistency, suggesting the stages
may reflect general modes of thought.

3. Invariant
sequence.
Kohlberg believes that his stages unfold in an invariant sequence.
Children always go from stage 1 to stage 2 to stage 3 and so forth. They do not skip stages or
move through them in mixed
-
up orders. Not all children necessarily reach the highest

stages;
they might lack intellectual stimulation. But to the extent they do go through the stages, they
proceed in order.

Most of Kohlberg's evidence on his stage sequence comes from
cross
-
sectional

data. That is, he
interviewed different children at vari
ous ages to see if the younger ones were at lower stages than
the older ones. Stages 1 and 2 are primarily found at the youngest age, whereas the higher stages
become more prevalent as age increases. Thus, the data support the stage sequence.

Cross
-
section
al findings, however, are inconclusive. In a cross
-
sectional study, different children
are interviewed at each age, so there is no guarantee that any individual child actually moves
through the stages in order. For example, there is no guarantee that a boy

who is coded at stage 3
at age 13 actually passed through stages 1 and 2 in order when he was younger. More conclusive
evidence must come from
longitudinal
studies, in which the same children are followed over
time.

The first two major longitudinal
studies (Kohlberg and Kramer, 1969; Holstein, 1973) began
with samples of teenagers and then tested them at three
-
year intervals. These studies produced
ambiguous results. In both, most subjects either remained at the same stage or moved up one
stage, but
there were also some who might have skipped a stage. Furthermore, these studies
indicated that some subjects had regressed, and this finding also bothered Kohlberg, because he
believes that movement through his stages should always be forward.

Kohlberg's r
esponse to these troublesome findings was to revise his scoring method. He had
already become uncomfortable with his first (1958b) scoring

manual, believing that it relied too
heavily on the
content
of subjects' answers rather than their underlying
reasoni
ng.
and he had
made some improvements on it. So, when these longitudinal findings emerged, he decided to
develop a much more precise and adequate scoring system and, to some extent, to revise his
definitions of the stages.

To create the latest scoring manu
al, Kohlberg and his co
-
workers (Colby et al., 1983) worked
with seven boys from his original (1958) sample who had been retested every three or four years
for 20 years. It was during this work that Kohlberg decided to drop stage 6.

Kohlberg then examined
the hypothesis of invariant sequence for 51 other boys from his original
sample, who also had been retested at least twice (every three or four years) over the 20
-
year
period. This time, Kohlberg and his colleagues (Colby et al., 1983) found no stage
-
skipp
ing, and
only about 6 percent of the subjects showed signs of regressing. Four recent longitudinal studies
have obtained similar results although, two have found somewhat more regression (up to 15
percent) (see Colby et al., 1983). In general, then, the ne
w longitudinal studies seem to support
the invariant
-
sequence hypothesis.

Kohlberg's new, longitudinal study has also changed the earlier picture of moral development in
other ways. Stage 4 had become the dominant stage by age 16. In the new scoring system
,
however, it is more difficult to achieve the higher stages
--
the reasoning must be more clearly
demonstrated
--
and Kohlberg finds that stage 4 does not become dominant until the boys are in
their 20s and 30s. Stage 5, too, only appears in the mid
-
20s and n
ever becomes very prevalent.

4. Hierarchic integration.
When Kohlberg says that his stages are hierarchically integrated, he
means that people do not lose the insights gained at earlier stages, but integrate them into new,
broader frameworks. For example,
people at stage 4 can still understand stage 3 arguments, but
they now subordinate them to wider considerations. They understand that Heinz had good
motives for stealing, but they point out that if we all stole whenever we had a good motive, the
social str
ucture would break down. Thus stage 4 subordinates a concern for motives to a wider
concern for the society as a whole.

The concept of hierarchic integration is very important for Kohlberg because it enables him to
explain the direction of his stage sequen
ce. Since he is not a maturationist, he cannot simply say
that the sequence is wired into the genes. So he wants to show how each new stage provides a
broader framework for dealing with moral issues. Stage 4, as mentioned, transcends the
limitations of sta
ge 3 and becomes more broadly concerned with social organization. Stage 5, in
turn, sees the weakness of stage 4; a well
-
organized society is not necessarily a moral one. Stage
5 therefore considers the rights and orderly processes that make for a moral so
ciety. Each new
stage retains the insights of the prior stage, but it recasts them into a broader framework. In this
sense, each new stage is more cognitively adequate than the prior stage.

If Kohlberg is right about the hierarchic nature of his stages, we

would expect that people would
still be able to understand earlier stages but consider them inferior, In fact, when Rest (Rest et
al., 1969; Rest, 1973) presented adolescents with arguments from different stages, this is what he
found. They understood low
er
-
stage reasoning, but they disliked it. What they preferred was the
highest stage they heard, whether they fully understood it or not. This finding suggests, perhaps,
that they had some intuitive sense of the greater adequacy of the higher stages.

Werner
, we remember from Chapter 4, described hierarchic integration as a process that occurs
alongside
differentiation,
and Kohlberg believes his stages represent increasingly differentiated
structures as well. Kohlberg points out that the stage 5 value on life
, for example, has become
differentiated from other considerations. Stage 5 respondents say that we ought to value life for
its own sake, regardless of its value to authorities (stage 1), its usefulness to oneself (stage 2), the
affection it arouses in us
(stage 3), or its value within a particular social order (stage 4). Stage 5
subjects have abstracted this value from other considerations and now treat it as a purely moral
ideal. Their thinking, Kohlberg says, is becoming like that of the moral philosophe
rs in the
Kantian tradition (1981, p. 171).

5. Universal sequence.

Kohlberg, like all stage theorists, maintains that his stage sequence is
universal; it is the same in all cultures. At first glance, this proposal might be surprising. Don't
different cultu
res socialize their children differently, teaching them very different moral beliefs?

Kohlberg's response is that different cultures do teach different beliefs, but that his stages refer
not to specific beliefs but to underlying modes of reasoning (Kohlber
g and Gilligan, 197 1). For
example, one culture might discourage physical fighting, while another encourages it more. As a
result, children will have different beliefs about fighting, but they will still reason about it in the
same way at the same stage.
At stage 1, for example, one child might say that it is wrong to fight
when insulted "because you will get punished for it, "while another says that "it is all right to
fight; you won't get punished." The beliefs differ, but both children reason about them

in the
same underlying way, in terms of the physical consequences (punishment). They do so because
this is what they can cognitively grasp. Later on, the first child might argue that fighting is bad
"because if everyone fought all the time there would be
anarchy," while the second child argues
that "people must defend their honor, because if they don't everyone will be insulting everyone,
and the whole society will break down." Once again, the specific beliefs differ, reflecting
different cultural teaching
s, but the underlying reasoning is the same
--
in this case it is stage 4,
where people can consider something as abstract as the social order. Children, regardless of their
beliefs, will always move to stage 4 thinking some time after stage 1 thinking becau
se it is
cognitively so much more sophisticated.

Kohlberg, then, proposes that his stage sequence will be the same in all cultures, for each stage is
conceptually more advanced than the next. He and other researchers have given his interview to
children an
d adults in a variety of cultures, including Mexico, Taiwan, Turkey, Israel, the
Yucatan, Kenya, the Bahamas, and India. Most of the studies have been cross sectional, but a
few have been longitudinal. Thus far, the studies have supported Kohlberg's stage
sequence. To
the extent that children move through the stages, they appear to move in order (Edwards, 1980).

At the same time, people in different cultures seem to move through the sequence at different
rates and to reach different end
-
points. In the
United States most urban middle
-
class adults reach
stage 4, with a small percentage using some stage 5 reasoning. In urban areas of other countries
the picture is fairly similar. In the isolated villages and tribal communities of many countries,
however, i
t is rare to find any adult beyond stage 3 (Edwards, 1980).

Kohlberg (Nisan and Kohlberg, 1982) suggests that one can understand these findings in terms
of Piagetian theory. Cultural factors, in this theory, do not directly shape the child's moral
thought,

but they do stimulate thinking. Social experiences can challenge children's ideas,
motivating them to come up with new ones. In traditional villages, however, there may be little
to challenge a stage 3 morality; the norms of care and empathy work very wel
l in governing the
face
-
to
-
face interactions of the group. Thus, there is little to stimulate thinking beyond this stage.

When, in contrast, young people leave the village and go off to the city, they witness the
breakdown of interpersonal ties. They see t
hat group norms of care and empathy have little
impact on the impersonal interactions of city life, and they see the need for a formal legal
structure to ensure moral conduct. They begin to think in terms of stage 4 morality. Furthermore,
as Keniston (1971
) notes, if young people attend the universities, they may take classes in which
the teachers deliberately question the unexamined assumptions of their childhoods and
adolescences. Thus they are stimulated to think about moral matters in new ways.

Moral Th
ought and Moral Behavior

Kohlberg's scale has to do with moral thinking, not moral action. As everyone knows, people
who can talk at a high moral level may not behave accordingly. Consequently, we would not
expect perfect correlations between moral judgmen
t and moral action. Still, Kohlberg thinks that
there should be some relationship.

As a general hypothesis, he proposes that moral behavior is more consistent, predictable. and
responsible at the higher stages (Kohlberg et al., 1975), because the stages th
emselves
increasingly employ more stable and general standards. For example, whereas stage 3 bases
decisions on others' feelings, which can vary, stage 4 refers to set rules and laws. Thus, we can
expect that moral behavior, too, will become more consisten
t as people move up the sequence.
Generally speaking, there is some research support for this hypothesis (e.g., with respect to
cheating), but the evidence is not clear
-
cut (Blasi, 1980; Brown and Herrnstein, 1975).

Some research has focused on the relatio
nships between particular stages and specific kinds of
behavior. For example, one might expect that juvenile delinquents or criminals would typically
reason at stages 1 or 2, viewing morality as something imposed from without (stage 1) or as a
matter of se
lf
-
interest (stage 2), rather than identifying with society's conventional expectations
(stages 3 and 4). Again, some research supports this hypothesis, but there also are some
ambiguous results (Blasi, 1980).

Several studies have examined the relationship

between postconventional thinking and student
protest. In a landmark study, Haan et al. (1968) examined the moral reasoning of those who
participated in the Berkeley Free Speech Movement in 1964. Haan found that their thinking was
more strongly postconven
tional than that of a matched sample of nonparticipants, but this f
inding was not replicated for some other protests, apparently because moral principles were not
at stake (Keniston, 1971, pp. 260
-
6 1).

Blasi (1980), after reviewing 75 studies, concludes
that overall there is a relationship between
moral thought and action, but he suggests that we need to introduce other variables to clarify this
relationship. One variable may simply be the extent to which individuals themselves feel the
need to maintain c
onsistency between their moral thoughts and actions (Blasi, 1980, Kohlberg
and Candee, 1981).

Moral Thought and Other Forms of Cognition

Kohlberg has also tried to relate his moral stages to other forms of cognition. He has first
analyzed his stages in ter
ms of their underlying cognitive structures and has then looked for
parallels in purely logical and social thought. For this purpose, he has analyzed his own stages in
terms of implicit
role
-
taking capacities,
capacities to consider others' viewpoints (Koh
lberg,
1976; see also Selman, 1976, and Rest, 1983).

At first, at stage 1, children hardly seem to recognize that viewpoints differ. They assume that
there is only one right view, that of authorities. At stage 2, in contrast, they recognize that people
hav
e different interests and viewpoints. They seem to be overcoming egocentrism; they see that
perspectives are relative to the individual . They also begin to consider how individuals might
coordinate their interests in terms of mutually beneficial deals.

At

stage 3, people conceptualize role
-
taking as a deeper, more empathic process; one becomes
concerned with the other's feelings. Stage 4, in turn, has a broader, society
-
wide conception of
how people coordinate their roles through the legal system..

Stages
5 and 6, finally, take a more idealized look at how people might coordinate their interests.
Stage 5 emphasizes democratic processes, and stage 6 considers how all parties take one
another's perspectives according to the principles of justice.

The moral st
ages, then, reflect expanded insights into how perspectives differ and might be
coordinated. As such, the moral stages might be related to stages of logical and social thought
which contain similar insights. So far, the empirical evidence suggests that adv
ances in moral
thinking may rest upon prior achievements in these other realms (Kohlberg, 1976; Kuhn et al.,
1977). For example, children seem to advance to stage 2, overcoming their egocentrism in the
moral sphere, only after they have made equivalent pro
gress in their logical and social thought. If
this pattern is correct, we can expect to find many individuals who are logical and even socially
insightful but still underdeveloped in their moral judgment.

IMPLICATIONS FOR EDUCATION

Kohlberg would like to s
ee people advance to the highest possible stage of moral thought. The
best possible society would contain individuals who not only understand the need for social order
(stage 4) but can entertain visions of universal principles, such as justice and liberty

(stage 6)
(Kohlberg, 1970).

How, then, can one promote moral development? Turiel (1966) found that when children
listened to adults' moral judgments, the resulting change was slight. This is what Kohlberg might
have expected, for he believes that if child
ren are to reorganize their thinking, they must be more
active.

Accordingly, Kohlberg encouraged another student, Moshe Blatt, to lead discussion groups in
which children had a chance to grapple actively with moral issues (Blatt and Kohlberg, 1975).
Blatt
presented moral dilemmas which engaged the classes in a good deal of heated debate. He
tried to leave much of the discussion to the children themselves, stepping in only to summarize,
clarify, and sometimes present a view himself (p. 133). He encouraged ar
guments that were one
stage above those of most of the class. In essence, he tried to implement one of Kohlberg's main
ideas on how children move through the stages. They do so by encountering views which
challenge their thinking and stimulate them to form
ulate better arguments (Kohlberg et al.,
1975).

Blatt began a typical discussion by telling a story about a man named Mr. Jones who had a
seriously injured son and wanted to rush him to the hospital. Mr. Jones had no car, so he
approached a stranger, told
him about the situation, and asked to borrow his car. The stranger,
however, refused, saying he had an important appointment to keep. So Mr. Jones took the car by
force. Blatt then asked whether Mr. Jones should have done that.

In the discussion that follo
wed, one child, Student B, felt that Mr. Jones had a good cause for
taking the car and also believed that the stranger could be charged with murder if the son died.
Student C pointed out that the stranger violated no law. Student B still felt that the stra
nger's
behavior was somehow wrong, even though he now realized that it was not legally wrong. Thus,
Student B was in a kind of conflict. He had a sense of the wrongness of the stranger's behavior,
but he could not articulate this sense in terms that would
meet the objection. He was challenged
to think about the problem more deeply.

In the end, Blatt gave him the answer. The stranger's behavior, Blatt said, was not legally wrong,
but morally wrong
--
wrong according to God's laws (this was a Sunday School Clas
s). At this
point, Blatt was an authority teaching the "correct" view. In so doing, he might have robbed
Student B of the chance to formulate spontaneously his own position. He might have done better
to ask a question or to simply clarify the student's con
flict (e.g,, "So it's not legally wrong, but
you still have a sense that, it's somehow wrong. . ."). In any case, it seems clear that part of this
discussion was valuable for this student. Since he himself struggled to formulate a distinction
that could ha
ndle the objection, he could fully appreciate and assimilate a new view that he was
looking for.

The Kohlberg
-
Blatt method of inducing cognitive conflict exemplifies Piaget's equilibration
model. The child takes one view, becomes confused by discrepant inf
ormation, and then resolves
the confusion by forming a more advanced and comprehensive position. The method is also the
dialectic process of Socratic teaching. The students give a view, the teacher asks questions which
get them to see the inadequacies of t
heir views, and they are then motivated to formulate better
positions.

In Blatt's first experiment, the students (sixth graders) participated in 12 weekly discussion
groups. Blatt found that over half the students moved up one full stage after the 12 weeks
. Blatt
and others have tried to replicate these findings, sometimes using other age groups and lengthier
series of classes. As often happens with replications, the results have not been quite so
successful; upward changes have been smaller
--
usually a thir
d of a stage or less, Still, it
generally seems that Socratic classroom discussions held over several months can produce
changes that, while small, are significantly greater than those found in control groups who do not
receive these experiences (Rest, 198
3).

One of Blatt's supplementary findings was that those students who reported that they were most
"interested" in the discussions made the greatest amount of change. This finding is in keeping
with Piagetian theory. Children develop not because they are s
haped through external
reinforcements but because their curiosity is aroused. They become interested in information that
does not quite fit into their existing cognitive structures and are thereby motivated to revise their
thinking Another Kohlberg student
--
M. Berkowitz (1980)
--
is examining actual dialogues to see
if those who become most challenged and involved in the tensions of moral debate are also those
who move forward.

Although Kohlberg remains committed to the cognitive
-
conflict model of change, he
has also
become interested in other strategies. One is the "just Community" approach. Here the focus is
not the individuals but groups. For example, Kohlberg and some of his colleagues (Power and
Reimer, 1979) set up a special democratic high school group
and actively encouraged the
students to think of themselves as a community. Initially, little community feeling was present.
The group's dominant orientation was stage 2; it treated problems such as stealing as purely
individual matters. If a boy had somet
hing stolen, it was too bad for him. After a year, however,
the group norms advanced to stage 3; the students now considered stealing to be a community
issue that reflected on the degree of trust and care in the group.

It will be interesting to see if the
just community approach can promote further advances in
moral thinking. In the meantime, this approach has aroused some uneasiness among some of
Kohlberg's associates. In particular, Reimer et al. (1983) have wondered whether Kohlberg, by
explicitly encour
aging the students to think of themselves as a community, is not practicing a
form of indoctrination. Reimer says that he has talked to Kohlberg about this, and he has come
away convinced that Kohlberg is committed to democratic groups in which students ar
e
encouraged "to think critically, to discuss assumptions, and. when they feel it is necessary, to
challenge the teacher's suggestions" (p. 252). Thus, moral development remains a product of the
students' own thinking.

EVALUATION

Kohlberg, a follower of Pi
aget, has offered a new, more detailed stage sequence for moral
thinking. Whereas Piaget basically found two stages of moral thinking, the second of which
emerges in early adolescence, Kohlberg has uncovered additional stages which develop well into
adoles
cence and adulthood. He has suggested that some people even reach a postconventional
level of moral thinking where they no longer accept their own society as given but think
reflectively and autonomously about what a good society should be.

The suggestion of a postconventional morality is unusual in the social sciences. Perhaps it took a
cognitive developmentalist list to suggest such a thing. For whereas most social scientists have
been impressed by the ways in which societies mold and shape

children's thinking, cognitive
-
developmentalists are more impressed by the capacities for independent thought. If children
engage in enough independent thinking, Kohlberg suggests, they will eventually begin to
formulate conceptions of rights, values, and

principles by which they evaluate existing social
arrangements. Perhaps some will even advance to the kinds of thinking that characterize some of
the great moral leaders and philosophers who have at times advocated civil disobedience in the
name of univer
sal ethical principles.

Kohlberg's theory has provoked a good deal of criticism. Not everyone, first of all, is enthusiastic
about the concept of a postconventional morality. Hogan (1973, 1975), for example, feels that it
is dangerous for people to place t
heir own principles above society and the law. It may be that
many psychologists react to Kohlberg in a similar way, and that this reaction underlies many of
the debates over the scientific merits of his research.

Others have argued that Kohlberg's stages
are culturally biased. Simpson (1974), for example,
says that Kohlberg has developed a stage model based on the Western philosophical tradition and
has then applied this model to non
-
Western cultures without considering the extent to which they
have differ
ent moral outlooks.

This criticism may have merit. One wonders how well Kohlberg's stages apply to the great
Eastern philosophies. One also wonders if his stages do justice to moral development in many
traditional village cultures. Researchers find that vi
llagers stop at stage 3, but perhaps they
continue to develop moralities in directions that Kohlberg's stages fail to capture.

Another criticism is that Kohlberg's theory is sex
-
biased, a view that has been thoughtfully
expressed by one of Kohlberg's assoc
iates and co
-
authors, Carol Gilligan (1982). Gilligan
observes that Kohlberg's stages were derived exclusively from interviews with males, and she
charges that the stages reflect a decidedly male orientation. For males, advanced moral thought
revolves arou
nd rules, rights, and abstract principles. The ideal is formal justice, in which all
parties evaluate one another's claims in an impartial manner. This conception of morality,
Gilligan argues, fails to capture the distinctly female voice on moral matters.

For women, Gilligan says, morality centers not on rights and rules but on interpersonal
relationships and the ethics of compassion and care. The ideal is not impersonal justice but more
affiliative ways of living. Women's morality, in addition, is more con
textualized, it is tied to real,
ongoing relationships rather than abstract solutions to hypothetical dilemmas.

Because of these sex differences, Gilligan says, men and women frequently score at different
stages on Kohlberg's scale. Women typically score a
t stage 3, with its focus on interpersonal
feelings, whereas men more commonly score at stages 4 and 5, which reflect more abstract
conceptions of social organization. Thus, women score lower than men. If, however, Kohlberg's
scale were more sensitive to w
omen's distinctly interpersonal orientations, it would show that
women also continue to develop their thinking beyond stage 3.

Gilligan has made an initial effort to trace women's moral development. Since she believes that
women's conceptions of care and a
ffiliation are embedded in real
-
life situations, she has
interviewed women facing a personal crisis
--
the decision to have an abortion. Through these
interviews, Gilligan has tried to show that women move from a conventional to a
postconventional mode of th
inking. That is, they no longer consider their responsibilities in
terms of what is conventionally expected, of them but in terms of their own insights into the
ethics of care and responsibility.

Not everyone agrees with Gilligan's critique. Rest (1983), i
n particular, argues that Gilligan has
exaggerated the extent of the sex differences found on Kohlberg's scale. An evaluation of this
question, however, must await closer reviews of the literature.

In the meantime, Gilligan has raised an interesting theore
tical possibility. Like Werner, she is
suggesting that development may proceed along more than one line. One line of moral thought
focuses on logic, justice, and social organization, the other on interpersonal relationships. If this
is so, there is the fur
ther possibility that these two lines at some point become integrated within
each sex. That is, each sex might become more responsive to the dominant orientation of the
other. Perhaps, as Gilligan briefly suggests (1982, Ch. 6), this integration is a major

task of the
adult years. (For further thoughts in this vein, see Chapter 14 on Jung's theory of adult
development.)

There are other criticisms of Kohlberg's work. Many of these have to do with empirical matters,
such as the problem of invariant sequence,
the prevalence of regression, and the relationships
between thought and action. Since I have mentioned these earlier, I would like to conclude with a
more general question. Kohlberg writes in a forceful manner and he promotes stage 6 as if it
provides the
decision
-
making tools we need for the toughest ethical dilemmas. However, there
may be issues that the principles of justice frequently fail to resolve. One such issue is abortion.
Stage 6 would ask us to consider the physical life of the fetus as well as
all the parties' right to
fulfilling lives, but does stage 6 routinely lead to decisions that we feel are right? Kohlberg's
students, Reimer et al. (1983, pp. 46
-
47, 88
-
89) discuss a stage 6 approach to a hypothetical
abortion decision without reaching muc
h of a conclusion. The decision, they say, will have to
vary with the situation. Stage 6. of course, is not intended to provide a set of answers
--
it is a
mode of decision
-
making. Still, Kohlberg sometimes seems to skim over the incredible difficulty
that s
ome ethical problems present
--
a difficulty that is more directly expressed in the writing of
Kant (1788).

Nevertheless, whatever criticisms and questions we might have, there is no doubt that Kohlberg's
accomplishment is great. He has not just expanded on
Piaget's stages of moral judgment but has
done so in an inspiring way. He has studied the development of moral reasoning as it might work
its way toward the thinking of the great moral philosophers. So, although few people may ever
begin to think about mor
al issues like Socrates, Kant, or Martin Luther King, Kohlberg has
nonetheless provided us with a challenging vision of what development might be.

Moral Reasoning

First published Mon Sep 15, 2003; substantive revision Sat Aug 4, 2007

Moral reasoning is ind
ividual or collective practical reasoning about what, morally, one ought to
do.

Part I of this article situates the topic of moral reasoning: it lies in between first
-
order accounts of
what morality requires of us and philosophical accounts of the metaphy
sics of morality. Part II
then takes up a series of philosophical questions about moral reasoning, so understood.



1. The Philosophical Importance of Moral Reasoning



2. General Philosophical Questions about Moral Reasoning


o

2.1 Moral Uptake

o

2.2 Moral Principles

o

2.3 Sorting Out Which Considerations Are Most Relevant

o

2.4 Moral Reasoning and Moral Psychology

o

2.5 Modeling Conflicting Moral Considerations

o

2.6 Moral Learning and the Revision of Moral Views

o

2.7 How Can We Reason, Morally, With One Another?

o

2.8 The Relevance of Moral Authority and Moral Roles



Bibliography



Other Internet Resources



Related Entries


1. The Philosophical Importance of Moral Reasoning

This article takes up moral reasoning as a species of practical reasoni
ng


that is, as a type of
reasoning directed towards deciding what to do and, when successful, issuing in an intention (see
entry on
practical

reason
). Of course, we also reason theoretically about what morality requires
of us; but the nature of theoretical reasoning about ethics is adequately addressed in the various
articles on
ethics
. In order to do justice to the full range of philosophical views a
bout moral
reasoning, we will need to have a capacious understanding of what counts as a moral question.
For instance, since a prominent position about moral reasoning is that the relevant considerations
are not codifiable, we would beg a central question
if we here defined “
morality
” as involving
codifiable principles or rules. For present purposes, we may understand issues about what is right
or wrong, virtuous or vicious, as raising moral questions.

When we are faced with moral questions in daily life,
just as when we are faced with child
-
rearing, agricultural, and business questions, sometimes we act impulsively or instinctively and
sometimes we pause to reason about what we ought to do. Jean
-
Paul Sartre described a case of
one of his students who came
to him in occupied Paris during World War II, asking advice about
whether to stay by his mother, who otherwise would have been left alone, or rather to go join the
forces of the Free French, then massing in England (Sartre 1975). In the capacious sense jus
t
described, this is probably a moral question; and the young man paused long enough to ask
Sartre's advice. Does that mean that this young man was reasoning about his practical question?
Not necessarily. Indeed, Sartre used the case to expound his skeptic
ism about the possibility of
addressing such a practical question by reasoning. But what is reasoning?

Explicit reasoning is responsibly conducted thinking, in which the reasoner attempts to reach a
well
-
supported answer to a well
-
defined question. It is p
ossible that we also reason tacitly,
thinking in much the same way as during explicit reasoning, but without any explicit attempt to
reach well
-
supported answers. In some situations, even moral ones, we might be ill
-
advised to
attempt to answer our practic
al questions by explicit reasoning. In others, it might even be a
mistake to reason tacitly


because, say, we face a pressing emergency. Thus, even if we are not
called upon to think through our options in all situations, and even if sometimes it would be

positively better if we did not, still, if we are called upon to do so, then we should conduct our
thinking responsibly: we should reason.

The topic of moral reasoning lies in between two other commonly addressed topics in moral
philosophy. On the one si
de, there is the first
-
order question of what moral truths there are, if
any. For instance, are there any true general principles of morality, and if so, what are they? At
this level utilitarianism competes with Kantianism, for instance, and both compete w
ith anti
-
theorists of various stripes, who recognize only particular truths about morality (Clarke &
Simpson 1989). On the other side, a quite different sort of question arises from seeking to give a
metaphysical grounding for moral truths or for the claim

that there are none. Supposing there are
some moral truths, what
makes

them true? What account can be given


apart from the trivial
disquotational one


of the truth
-
conditions of moral statements? Here arise familiar questions
of
moral

skepticism

and
mo
ral relativism
; here, the idea of “a reason” is wielded by many hoping
to defend a non
-
skeptical moral metaphysics. The topic of moral reasoning lies in between these
two other familiar topics in the following simple sense: instead of asking what
is

true,
morally, or
what
makes

moral truths true, those concerned with moral reasoning ask
how it is that we
responsibly attempt to figure out

what is true, morally.

These three topics clearly interrelate. Conceivably, the relations between them would be so tight

as to rule out any independent interest in the topic of moral reasoning. For instance, if all that
could usefully be said about moral reasoning were that it is a matter of attending to the moral
facts, then all interest would devolve upon the question of
what those facts are


with some
residual focus on the idea of moral attention (McNaughton 1988). Alternatively, it might be
thought that moral reasoning is simply a matter of applying the correct moral theory via ordinary
modes of deductive and empirical
reasoning. Again, if that were true, one's sufficient goal would
be to find that theory and get the non
-
moral facts right. Neither of these reductive extremes
seems plausible, however. Take the potential reduction to getting the facts right, first.

Contem
porary advocates of the importance of correctly perceiving the morally relevant facts
tend to focus on facts that we can perceive using our ordinary sense faculties and our ordinary
capacities of recognition, such as
that this person has an infection

or
th
at this person needs my
medical help
. On such a footing, it is possible to launch powerful arguments against the claim
that moral principles necessarily undergird every moral truth (Dancy 1993) and for the claim that
we can sometimes perfectly well decide
what to do by acting on the reasons we perceive
instinctively


or as we have been trained


without engaging in any moral reasoning. Yet this
is
not

a sound footing for arguing that moral reasoning, beyond simply attending to the moral
facts, is always un
necessary. On the contrary, we often find ourselves facing novel perplexities
and moral conflicts in which our moral perception is an inadequate guide. In addressing the
moral questions surrounding whether society ought to enforce surrogate
-
motherhood cont
racts,
for instance, the scientific and technological novelties involved make our moral perceptions
unreliable and shaky guides. When a medical researcher who has noted an individual's illness
also notes the fact
that diverting resources to caring, clinica
lly, for this individual would inhibit
the progress of my research, thus harming the long
-
term health chances of such individuals
, he
or she comes face to face with conflicting moral considerations. At this juncture, it is far less
plausible or satisfying
simply to say that, employing one's ordinary sensory and recognitional
capacities, one sees what is to be done, both things considered. To posit a special faculty of
moral intuition that generates such overall judgments in the face of conflicting considera
tions is
to wheel in a
deus ex machina
. It cuts inquiry short in a way that serves the purposes of fiction
better than it serves the purposes of understanding.

For present purposes, it is worth noting, David Hume and the moral sense theorists do not count

as short
-
circuiting our understanding of moral reasoning in this way. It is true that Hume presents
himself, especially in the
Treatise of Human Nature
, as a disbeliever in any specifically practical
or moral reasoning. In doing so, however, he employs an

exceedingly narrow definition of
“reasoning” (Hume 2000, Book I, Part iii, sect. ii). For present purposes, by contrast, we are
using a broader working gloss of “reasoning,” one not controlled by an ambition to parse out the
relative contributions of (the

faculty of) reason and of the passions. And about moral reasoning
in this broader sense, as responsible thinking about what one ought to do, Hume has many
interesting things to say, starting with the thought that
moral

reasoning must involve a double
corr
ection of perspective (see
section 2.4
) adequately to account for the claims of other people
and of the farther future, a double correction that is accomplished with the aid of the

so
-
called
“calm passions.”

If we turn from the possibility that perceiving the facts aright will displace moral reasoning to the
possibility that applying the correct moral theory will displace


or exhaust


moral reasoning,
there are again reasons to be

skeptical. One reason is that moral theories do not arise in a
vacuum; instead, they develop against a broad backdrop of moral convictions. Insofar as the first
potentially reductive strand, emphasizing the importance of perceiving moral facts, has force


and it does have some


it also tends to show that moral theories need to gain support by
systematizing or accounting for a wide range of moral facts (Sidgwick 1981). As in most other
arenas in which theoretical explanation is called for, the degree of e
xplanatory success will
remain partial and open to improvement via revisions in the theory (see
section 2.6
). Unlike the
natural sciences, however, moral theory is an endeavor that
, as John Rawls once put it, is
“Socratic” in that it is a subject pertaining to actions “shaped by self
-
examination” (Rawls 1971,
48f.). Accordingly, that which is to be explained by moral theory is arguably less independent of
revisions in provisionally
accepted theories than are the data in some other domains. By the same
token


and this is the present point


a moral theory is subject to being overturned because it
generates concrete implications that do not sit well with us on due reflection. This bei
ng so, and
granting the great complexity of the moral terrain, it seems highly unlikely that we will ever
generate a moral theory on the basis of which we can serenely and confidently proceed in a
deductive way to generate answers to what we ought to do in

all concrete cases. This conclusion
is reinforced by a second consideration, namely that insofar as a moral theory is faithful to the
complexity of the moral phenomena, it will contain within it many possibilities for conflicts
among its own elements. Eve
n if it does deploy some priority rules, these are unlikely to be able
to cover all contingencies. Hence, some moral reasoning that goes beyond the deductive
application of the correct theory is bound to be needed.

In short, a sound understanding of moral

reasoning will not take the form of reducing it to one of
the other two levels of moral philosophy identified above. Neither the demand to attend to the
moral facts nor the directive to apply the correct moral theory exhausts or sufficiently describes
mor
al reasoning.

In addition to posing philosophical problems in its own right, moral reasoning is of interest on
account of its implications for moral facts and moral theories. Accordingly, attending to moral
reasoning will often be useful to those whose real interest is
in determining the right answer to
some concrete moral problem or in arguing for or against some moral theory. It can be useful in
the first way because the characteristic ways we attempt to work through a given sort of moral
quandary are just as revealing

about our considered approaches to these matters as are any
bottom
-
line judgments we may characteristically come to. Further, we may have firm, reflective
convictions about how a given class of problems is best tackled, deliberatively, even when we
remain

in doubt about what should be done. In such cases, attending to the modes of moral
reasoning that we characteristically accept can usefully expand the set of moral information from
which we start, suggesting ways to structure the competing considerations.


These modes of structuring our inferences involving competing moral considerations can
probably not be fully captured by simply listing the atomic considerations or “reasons”
themselves. As John Broome has argued, recent philosophy has attended too exclu
sively to
overrideable reasons of a kind that compete with one another on the basis of strength to the
exclusion of practical considerations that behave otherwise when deployed in argument. In
particular, he suggests, we tend to ignore what he has called “
normative requirements.” Broome
initially described normative requirements as being unlike reasons in two respects: as strict rather
than being subject to being overridden, and as structural or relational rather than being atomic or
logically detachable (B
roome 2000). He discusses requirements such as the following:

You ought, if you intend
E

and you believe
M

is a necessary means to
E
, to intend
M
.

The “ought” in a Broomean

normative requirement is wide in scope: it governs the entire
conditional. As Andrew Reisner and others pointed out to Broome, however, if one follows him
in taking the “ought” in such a normative requirement to be an all
-
things
-
considered “ought,”
then o
ne must admit that even such fundamental, wide
-
scope principles are subject to being
overridden. Their distinctive wide scope remains, however; and this is what carries the feature
that I have called structural or relational. It does not state a reason to
intend
M
: what it governs is
a
relation

among mental states. Insofar as moral reasoning invokes and involves structural
constraints of this kind, it is a topic that needs to be studied independently of any attempt to
catalogue what moral reasons there are.

In other words, there may be deep, principled reasons for
attending to what we take to be acceptable modes of moral inference. (For a more general
approach that takes inferences as basic, see Brandom 1994.)

Facts about the nature of moral inference and m
oral reasoning may have important direct
implications for moral theory. For instance, it might be taken to be a condition of adequacy of
any moral theory that it play a practically useful role in our efforts at self
-
understanding and
deliberation. If this
condition is accepted, then any moral theory that would require agents to
engage in abstruse or difficult reasoning may be inadequate for that reason. J.S. Mill and R. M.
Hare (1981) attempt to meet this difficulty by, in quite different ways, positing two

different
levels of moral thinking.

Accordingly, the close relations between moral reasoning, the moral facts, and moral theory do
not reductively eliminate moral reasoning as a topic of interest. To the contrary, because moral
reasoning has important im
plications about moral facts and moral theories, these close relations
lend additional interest to the topic of moral reasoning.

The final threshold question is whether moral reasoning is truly distinct from practical reasoning
more generally understood.
(The question of whether moral reasoning is distinct from theoretical
reasoning that simply proceeds from a proper recognition of the moral facts has already been
implicitly addressed and tentatively answered in the affirmative.) In addressing this final
q
uestion, it is difficult to overlook the way different moral theories project quite different models
of moral reasoning


again a link that might be pursued by the moral philosopher seeking
leverage in either direction. For instance, Aristotle's views migh
t be as follows: a quite general
account can be given of practical reasoning, which includes selecting means to ends and
determining the constituents of a desired activity. The difference between the reasoning of a
vicious person and that of a virtuous per
son differs not at all in its structure, but only in its
content, for the virtuous person pursues true goods, and the vicious person gets side
-
tracked by
apparent ones. To be sure, the virtuous person may be able to achieve a greater integration of his
or
her ends via practical reasoning (because of the way the various virtues cohere), but this is a
difference in the result of practical reasoning and not in its structure. At an opposite extreme,
Kant's categorical imperative has been taken to generate an ap
proach to practical reasoning (via a
“typic of practical judgment”) that is distinctive from other practical reasoning both in the range
of considerations it addresses and its structure (Nell 1975). Whereas prudential practical
reasoning, on Kant's view, a
ims to maximize one's happiness, moral reasoning addresses the
potential universalizability of the maxims


roughly, the intentions


on which one acts. Views
intermediate between Aristotle's and Kant's in this respect include Hare's utilitarian view and
A
quinas' natural
-
law view. On Hare's view, just as an ideal prudential agent applies maximizing
rationality to his or her own preferences, an ideal moral agent's reasoning applies maximizing
rationality to the set of everyone's preferences that its archange
lic capacity for sympathy has
enabled it to internalize. Thomistic, natural
-
law views share the Aristotelian view about the
general unity of practical reasoning in pursuit of the good, rightly or wrongly conceived, but add
that practical reason, in additio
n to demanding that we pursue the fundamental human goods,
also, and distinctly, demands that we not attack these goods. In this way, natural
-
law views
incorporate some distinctively moral structuring


such as the distinctions between doing and
allowing a
nd the so
-
called
doctrine of double effect's

distinction between intending as a means
and accepting as a by
-
product


within a unified account of practical reasoning. In light of this
diversi
ty of views about the relation between moral reasoning and practical or prudential
reasoning, a general account of moral reasoning that does not want to presume the correctness of
a definite moral theory will do well to remain agnostic on the question of h
ow moral reasoning
relates to non
-
moral practical reasoning.

2. General Philosophical Questions about Moral Reasoning

To be sure, most great philosophers who have addressed the nature of moral reasoning were far
from agnostic about the content of the corr
ect moral theory, and developed their reflections about
moral reasoning in support of or in derivation from their moral theory. Nonetheless,
contemporary discussions that are somewhat agnostic about the content of moral theory have
arisen around important
and controversial aspects of moral reasoning. We may group these
around the following eight questions:

1.

How do relevant considerations get taken up in moral reasoning?

2.

Is it essential to moral reasoning for the considerations it takes up to be crystallize
d into,
or ranged under, principles?

3.

How do we sort out which moral considerations are most relevant?

4.

In what ways do motivational elements shape moral reasoning?

5.

What is the best way to model the kinds of conflicts among considerations that arise in
mo
ral reasoning?

6.

Does moral reasoning include learning from experience and changing one's mind?

7.

How can we reason, morally, with one another?

8.

What is the importance of institutional authority and social roles to the structure of moral
reasoning?

The remai
nder of this article takes up these eight questions in turn.

2.1 Moral uptake

One advantage to defining “reasoning” capaciously, as here, is that it helps one recognize that
the processes whereby we come to be concretely aware of moral issues are integral

to moral
reasoning more narrowly understood. Recognizing moral issues when they arise requires a
highly trained set of capacities and a broad range of emotional attunements. Philosophers of the
moral sense school lay more stress on innate emotional propen
sities, such as sympathy with
other humans, while classically influenced virtue theorists give more importance to the training
of perception and the emotional growth that must accompany it. Either way, a crucial task for our
capacities of moral recognition

is to mark out certain features of a situation as being morally
salient. Sartre's student, for instance, focused on the competing claims of his mother and the Free
French, giving them each an importance to his situation that he did not give to eating Fren
ch
cheese or wearing a uniform. To say that certain features are marked out as morally salient is not
to imply that the features thus singled out answer to the terms of some general principle or other:
we will come to the question of particularism, below.
Rather, it is simply to say that
recognitional attention must have a selective focus.

What will be counted as a moral issue or difficulty, in the sense requiring moral agents'
recognition, will again vary by moral theory. Not all moral theories would count filial loyalty
and patriotism as moral duties. It is only at great cost, however, tha
t any moral theory could
claim to do without a recognitional layer of moral thinking. A calculative sort of utilitarianism,
perhaps, might be imagined according to which there is no need to spot a moral issue or
difficulty, as
every

choice node in life pre
sents the agent with the same, utility
-
maximizing task.
Perhaps Jeremy Bentham held a utilitarianism of this sort. For the more plausible utilitarianisms
mentioned above, however, such as Mill's and Hare's, the agent does not always calculate afresh,
but m
ust instead be alive to the possibility that because the ordinary “landmarks and direction
posts” lead one astray in the situation at hand, one must make recourse to a more direct and
critical mode of moral reasoning. Recognizing whether one is in one of t
hose situations thus
becomes the principal recognitional task for the utilitarian agent. (Whether this task can be
suitably confined, of course, has long been one of the crucial questions about whether such
indirect forms of utilitarianism, attractive on o
ther grounds, can prevent themselves from
collapsing into a more Benthamite, direct form: cf. Brandt 1979.)

Note that, as we have been describing moral uptake, we have not implied that what is perceived
is ever a moral fact. Rather, it might be that what
is perceived is some ordinary, descriptive
feature of a situation that is, for whatever reason, morally relevant. An account of moral uptake
will interestingly impinge upon the metaphysics of moral facts, however, if it holds that moral
facts can be percei
ved. Importantly intermediate, in this respect, is the category of so
-
called
“thick” descriptions


for example of someone as callous, boorish, just, or brave. These do not
invoke the supposedly “thinner” terms of overall assessment, “good,” or “right.” Ye
t they are not
innocent of normative content, either. Plainly, we do recognize callousness when we see clear
cases of it. Plainly, too


whatever the metaphysical implications of the last fact


our ability
to describe our situations in these thick normati
ve terms is crucial to our ability to reason
morally.

It is debated how closely our abilities of moral discernment are tied to our moral motivations.
For Aristotle and many of his ancient successors, the two are closely linked, in that someone not
brought

up into virtuous motivations will not see things correctly. For instance, cowards will
overestimate dangers, the rash will underestimate them, and the virtuous will perceive them
correctly (
Eudemian Ethics

1229b23
-
27). By the Stoics, too, having the right

motivations was
regarded as intimately tied to perceiving the world correctly; but whereas Aristotle saw the
emotions as allies to enlist in support of sound moral discernment, the Stoics saw them as
inimical to clear perception of the truth (cf. Nussbaum

2001).

2.2 Moral Principles

That one discerns features and qualities of some situation that are relevant to sizing it up morally
does not yet imply that one explicitly or even implicitly employs any general claims to describe
it. Perhaps all that one per
ceives are particularly embedded features and qualities, without
saliently perceiving them
as

instantiations of any types. Sartre's student may be focused on his
mother and on the particular plights of several of his fellow Frenchmen under Nazi occupation,

rather than on any purported requirements of filial duty or patriotism. Having become aware of
some moral issue in such relatively particular terms, he might proceed directly to sorting out the
conflict between them. Another possibility, however, and one
that we frequently seem to exploit,
is to formulate the issue in general terms: “An only child should stick by an otherwise isolated
parent,” for instance, or “one should help those in dire need if one can do so without significant
personal sacrifice.” Suc
h general statements would be examples of “moral principles,” in a broad
sense. (We do not here distinguish between principles and rules. Those who do include Dworkin
1978 and Gert 1998.)

We must be careful, here, to distinguish the issue of whether princ
iples commonly play an
implicit or explicit role in moral reasoning, including well
-
conducted moral reasoning, from the
issue of whether principles necessarily figure as part of the basis of moral truth. The latter issue
is best understood as a metaphysica
l question about the nature and basis of moral facts. What is
currently known as
moral particularism

is the view that moral reasons, or well
-
grounded moral
facts, can exist independentl
y of any basis in a general principle. A contrary view holds that
moral reasons are necessarily general, whether because the sources of their justification are all
general or because a moral claim is ill
-
formed if it contains particularities. But whether
p
rinciples play a useful role in moral reasoning is certainly a different question from whether
principles play a necessary role in accounting for the ultimate truth
-
conditions of moral
statements. Moral particularism, as just defined, denies their latter r
ole. Some moral particularists
seem also to believe that moral particularism
implies

that moral principles cannot soundly play a
useful role in reasoning. This claim is disputable, as it seems a contingent matter whether the
relevant particular facts arran
ge themselves in ways susceptible to general summary and whether
our cognitive apparatus can cope with them at all without employing general principles. The
principal point to note here, however, is that this controversy lies outside our topic, which is
co
nfined to the nature of moral reasoning. We leave this metaphysical question to one side.

With regard to moral reasoning, while there are some self
-
styled “anti
-
theorists” who deny that
abstract structures of linked generalities are important to moral rea
soning (Clarke, et al. 1989),
there are few who argue that moral reasoning can be well conducted without any appeal to moral
principles. Thus, neo
-
Aristotelians like Nussbaum who emphasize the importance of “finely
tuned and richly aware” particular discer
nment also regard that discernment as being guided by a
set of generally describable virtues whose general descriptions will come into play in at least
some kinds of cases (Nussbaum 1990). “Situation ethicists” of the last generation (e.g. Fletcher
1997) e
mphasized the importance of taking into account a wide range of circumstantial
differentiae, but against the background of some general principles whose application the
differentiae help sort out. Feminist ethicists influenced by Carol Gilligan's path brea
king work on
moral development emphasize the importance of the kind of care and discernment that are salient
and well
-
developed by people immersed in particular relationships (Held 1995); but this
emphasis is consistent with such general principles as “one

ought to be sensitive to the wishes of
one's friends.” Again, if we distinguish the question of whether principles are useful in
responsibly
-
conducted moral thinking from the question of whether moral reasons ultimately all
derive from general principles,

and concentrate our attention solely on the former, we will see
that some of the opposition to general moral principles melts away.

It should be noted that we have been using a weak notion of generality, here. It is contrasted only
with the kind of stric
t particularity that comes with indexicals and proper names. General
statements or claims


ones that contain no such particular references


are not necessarily
universal generalizations, making an assertion about
all

cases of the mentioned type. Thus, “o
ne
should generally help those in dire need” is a general principle, in this weak sense. Possibly, such
logically loose principles would be obfuscatory in the context of a metaphysical attempt to
reconstruct the truth
-
conditions of moral statements. Clearl
y, such logically loose principles
would be useless in any attempt to generate a deductively tight “practical syllogism.” In our day
-
to
-
day, non
-
deductive reasoning, however, such logically loose principles appear to be quite
useful. (Recall that we are un
derstanding “reasoning” quite broadly, as responsibly conducted
thinking: nothing in this understanding of reasoning suggests any uniquely privileged place for
deductive inference: cf. Harman 1986.)

In this terminology, establishing that general principle
s are essential to moral reasoning leaves
open the further question whether logically tight, or exceptionless, principles are also essential to
moral reasoning. Certainly, much of our actual moral reasoning seems to be driven by attempts
to recast or reint
erpret principles so that they can be
taken to be

exceptionless. Adherents and
inheritors of the natural
-
law tradition in ethics (e.g. Donagan 1977) are particularly supple
defenders of exceptionless moral principles, as they are able to avail themselves n
ot only of a
well
-
thought
-
through casuistry but also of a wide array of subtle


some would say overly
subtle


distinctions, such as those mentioned above between doing and allowing and between
intending as a means and accepting as a byproduct.

A related

role for a strong form of generality in moral reasoning comes from the Kantian thought
that one's moral reasoning must counter one's tendency to make exceptions for oneself.
Accordingly, Kant holds, as we have noted, that we must ask whether the maxims of

our actions
can serve as universal laws. As most contemporary readers understand this demand, it requires
that we engage in a kind of hypothetical generalization across agents, and ask about the
implications of everybody acting that way in those circumsta
nces. The grounds for developing
Kant's thought in this direction have been well explored (e.g. Nell 1975, Korsgaard 1996). The
importance and the difficulties of such a hypothetical generalization test in ethics are thoroughly
explored in (Singer 1961).

2.3 Sorting Out Which Considerations Are Most Relevant

Whether or not moral considerations need the backing of general principles, we must expect
situations of action to present us with multiple moral considerations. In addition, of course, these
situation
s will also present us with a lot of information that is not morally relevant. On any
realistic account, a central task of moral reasoning is to sort out relevant considerations from
irrelevant ones, as well as to determine which are especially relevant an
d which only slightly so.
That a certain woman is Sartre's student's
mother

seems arguably to be a morally relevant fact;
what about the fact (supposing it is one) that she has no other children to take care of her?
Addressing the task of sorting what is m
orally relevant from what is not, some philosophers have
offered general accounts of moral relevant features. Others have given accounts of how we sort
out which of the relevant features are
most

relevant, a process of thinking that generally goes by
the n
ame of “casuistry.”

Before we look at ways of sorting out which features are morally relevant or
most

morally
relevant, it may be useful to note a prior step taken by some casuists, which was to attempt to set
out a schema that would capture
all

of the fea
tures of an action or proposed action. The Roman
Catholic casuists of the middle ages did so by drawing on Aristotle's categories. Accordingly,
they asked, where, when, why, how, by what means, to whom, or by whom the action in question
is to be done or av
oided (see Jonsen and Toulmin 1988). The idea was that complete answers to
these questions would contain all of the features of the action, of which the morally relevant ones
would be a subset. Although metaphysically uninteresting, the idea of attempting
to list all of an
action's features in this way represents a distinctive


and extreme


heuristic for moral
reasoning.

Turning to the morally relevant features, one of the most developed accounts is given by Gert.
He develops a list of features relevant
to whether the violation of a moral rule should be
generally allowed. Given the designed function of Gert's list, it is natural that most of his morally
relevant features make reference to the set of moral rules he defends. Accordingly, some of
Gert's dist
inctions between dimensions of relevant features reflect controversial stances in moral
theory. For example, one of the dimensions is whether “the violation [is] done intentionally or
only knowingly” (Gert 1998, 234)


a distinction that those who reject t
he doctrine of double
effect would not find relevant.

In addition to sorting out which features are relevant, we clearly also often need to figure out
which are
most

relevant. To take an issue mentioned above: Are surrogate motherhood contracts
more akin
to agreements with babysitters (clearly acceptable) or to agreements with prostitutes
(not clearly so)? That is, which feature of surrogate motherhood is more relevant: that it involves
a contract for child
-
care services or that it involves payment for the

intimate use of the body?
Both in such relatively novel cases and in more familiar ones, reasoning by analogy plays a large
role in ordinary moral thinking. When this reasoning by analogy starts to become systematic


a
social achievement that requires so
me historical stability and reflectiveness about what are taken
to be moral norms


it begins to exploit comparison to cases that are “paradigmatic,” in the
sense of being taken as settled. Within such a stable background, a system of casuistry can
develop

that lends some order to the appeal to analogous cases. To use an analogy: the
availability of a widely accepted and systematic set of analogies and the availability of what are
taken to be moral norms may stand to one another as chicken does to egg: each

may be an
indispensable moment in the genesis of the other.

Casuistry, thus understood, is an indispensable aid to moral reasoning. At least, that it is would
follow from conjoining two features of the human moral situation briefly argued for above: the
multifariousness of moral considerations that arise in particular cases and the need and
possibility for employing moral principles in sound moral reasoning. We require moral
judgment, not simply a deductive application of principles or a particularist bot
tom
-
line intuition
about what we should do. This judgment must be responsible to moral principles yet cannot be
straightforwardly derived from them. Accordingly, our moral judgment is greatly aided if it is
able to rest on the sort of heuristic support tha
t casuistry offers. Thinking through which of two
analogous cases provides a better key to understanding the case at hand is a useful way of
organizing our moral reasoning, and one on which we must continue to depend. If we lack the
kind of broad consensus

on a set of paradigm cases on which the Renaissance Catholic or
Talmudic casuists could draw, our casuistic efforts will necessarily be more controversial and
tentative than theirs; but we are not wholly without settled cases from which to work. Indeed, a
s
Jonsen and Toulmin suggest at the outset of their thorough explanation and defense of casuistry,
the depth of disagreement about moral theories that characterizes a pluralist society may leave us
having to rest comparatively
more

weight on the cases abou
t which we can find agreement than
did the classic casuists (Jonsen and Toulmin 1988).

Despite the long history of casuistry, there is little that can usefully be said about how one ought
to reason about competing analogies. In the law, where previous cas
es have precedential
importance, more can be said. As Sunstein notes (Sunstein 1996, chap. 3), the law deals with
particular cases, which are always “potentially distinguishable” (72); yet the law also imposes “a
requirement of practical consistency” (67).

This combination of features makes reasoning by
analogy particularly influential in the law, for one must decide whether a given case is more like
one set of precedents or more like another. Since the law must proceed even within a pluralist
society such
as ours, Sunstein argues, we see that analogical reasoning can go forward on the
basis of “incompletely theorized judgments” or of what Rawls calls an “overlapping consensus”
(Rawls 1996). That is, although a robust use of analogous cases depends, as we ha
ve noted, on
some shared background agreement, this agreement need not extend to all matters or all levels of
individuals' moral thinking. Accordingly, although in a pluralist society we may lack the kind of
comprehensive normative agreement that made the
high casuistry of Renaissance Christianity
possible, the path of the law suggests that normatively forceful, case
-
based, analogical reasoning
can still go on.

Reasoning by appeal to cases is also a favorite mode of some recent moral philosophers. Since
ou
r focus here is not on the methods of moral theory, we do not need to go into any detail in
comparing different ways in which philosophers wield cases for and against alternative moral
theories. There is, however, an important and broadly applicable point
worth making about
ordinary reasoning by reference to cases that emerges most clearly from the philosophical use of
such reasoning. Philosophers often feel free to imagine cases, often quite unlikely ones, in order
to attempt to isolate relevant difference
s. An infamous example is a pair of cases offered by
James Rachels to cast doubt on the moral significance of the distinction between killing and
letting die. In both cases, there is at the outset a boy in a bathtub and a greedy older cousin
downstairs who

will inherit the family manse if and only if the boy predeceases him (Rachels
1975). In Case A, the cousin hears a thump, runs up to find the boy unconscious in the bath, and
reaches out to turn on the tap so that the water will rise up to drown the boy.
In Case B, the
cousin hears a thump, runs up to find the boy unconscious in the bath with the water running, and
decides to sit back and do nothing until the boy drowns. Since there is surely no moral difference
between these cases, Rachels argued, the gen
eral distinction between killing and letting die is
undercut. “Not so fast!” is the well
-
justified reaction (cf. Beauchamp 1979). Just because a factor
is morally relevant in a certain way in some contexts does not mean that it either is or must be
relevan
t in the same way or to the same degree in other contexts. Shelly Kagan has dubbed the
failure to take account of this fact of contextual interaction when wielding comparison cases the
“additive fallacy” (1988). Kagan concludes from this that the reasoning

of moral theorists must
depend upon some theory that helps us anticipate and account for ways in which factors will
interact in various contexts. A parallel lesson, reinforcing what we have already observed in
connection with casuistry proper, would apply

for moral reasoning in general: reasoning from
cases must at least implicitly rely upon a set of organizing judgments or beliefs, of a kind that
would, on some understandings, count as a moral “theory.” If this is correct, it provides another
kind of reas
on to think that moral considerations could be crystallized into principles that make
manifest the organizing structure involved.

2.4 Moral Reasoning and Moral Psychology

We are concerned here with moral reasoning as a species of practical reasoning


rea
soning
directed to deciding what to do and, if successful, issuing in an intention. But how can such
practical reasoning succeed? An important task for “moral psychology,” the sort of
a priori

psychology in which philosophers have long specialized, is to e
xplain how moral reasoning can
hook up with motivationally effective psychological states so as to have this kind of causal
effect. This kind of inquiry can also have substantive moral implications, for it may be
reasonable to assume that if there are deep

reasons that a given type of moral reasoning
cannot

be practical, then any principles that demand such reasoning are unsound. In this spirit, Samuel
Scheffler has explored “the importance for moral philosophy of some tolerably realistic
understanding of h
uman motivational psychology” (Scheffler 1992, 8) and Peter Railton has
developed the idea that certain moral principles might generate a kind of “alienation” (Railton
1984). In short, we may be interested in what makes practical reasoning psychologically
possible
both for its own sake and as a way of working out some of the content of moral theory.

The issue of psychological possibility is an important one for all kinds of practical reasoning (cf.
Audi 1989). In morality, it is especially pressing, as mor
ality often asks individuals to depart
from satisfying their own interests. As a result, it may appear that moral reasoning's practical
effect could not be explained by a simple appeal to the initial motivations that shape or constitute
someone's interests
, in combination with a requirement, like that mentioned above, to will the
necessary means to one's ends. Morality, it may seem, instead requires individuals to act on ends
that may not be part of their “motivational set,” in the terminology of Williams 1
981. How can
moral reasoning lead people to do that? The question is a traditional one. Plato's
Republic

answered that the appearances are deceiving, and that acting morally is, in fact, in the
enlightened self
-
interest of the agent. Kant, in stark contras
t, held that our transcendent capacity
to act on our conception of a practical law enables us to set ends and to follow morality even
when doing so sharply conflicts with our interests. Many other answers have been given. In
recent times, philosophers have

defended what has been called “internalism” about morality,
which claims that there is a necessary conceptual link between agents' moral judgment and their
motivation. Michael Smith, for instance, puts the claim as follows (Smith 1994, 61):

If an agent ju
dges that it is right for her to Φ in circumstances
C
, then either she is motivated to
Φ in
C

or she is practically irrational.

Even this defeasible version of moral internalism may be too strong; but instead of pursuing this
issue further, let us turn to
a question more internal to moral reasoning. (For more on the issue of
moral internalism, see
moral motivation
.)

The traditional question we were just glancing at picks up when moral reas
oning is done, and
hence falls outside our topic. Supposing that we have some moral conclusion, it asks how agents
can be motivated to go along with it. A different question about the intersection of moral
reasoning and moral psychology, one more immanent
to the former, concerns how motivational
elements shape the reasoning process itself.

A powerful philosophical picture of human psychology, stemming from Hume, insists that
beliefs and desires are distinct existences (Hume 2000, Book II, part iii, sect. iii; cf. Smith 1994,
7). This means that there is always a potential problem about how r
easoning, which seems to
work by concatenating beliefs, links up to the motivations that desire provides. The paradigmatic
link is that of instrumental action: the desire to Ψ links with the belief that by Φing in
circumstances
C

one will Ψ. Accordingly, p
hilosophers who have examined moral reasoning
within an essentially Humean, belief
-
desire psychology have sometimes accepted a constrained
account of moral reasoning. Hume's own account exemplifies the sort of constraint that is
involved. As Hume has it, t
he calm passions support the dual correction of perspective
constitutive of morality, alluded to above. Since these calm passions are seen as competing with
our other passions in essentially the same motivational coinage, as it were, our passions limit the

reach of moral reasoning.

An important step away from a Humean moral psychology is taken if one recognizes the
existence of what Rawls has called “principle
-
dependent desires” (Rawls 1996, 82
-
83; Rawls
2000, 46
-
47). These are desires whose objects cannot

be characterized without reference to some
rational or moral principle. An important special case of these is that of “conception
-
dependent
desires,” in which the principle
-
dependent desire in question is seen by the agent as belonging to
a broader concep
tion, and as important on that account (Rawls 1996, 83
-
84; Rawls 2000, 148
-
152). For instance, conceiving of oneself as a citizen, one may desire to bear one's fair share of
society's burdens. Although it may look like any content, including this, may subs
titute for Ψ in
the Humean conception of desire, and although Hume set out to show how moral sentiments
such as pride could be explained in terms of simple psychological mechanisms, his influential
empiricism actually tends to restrict the possible content

of desires. Introducing principle
-
dependent desires thus marks a sharp departure from a Humean psychology. As Rawls remarks,
if “we may find ourselves drawn to the conceptions and ideals that both the right and the good
express … , [h]ow is one to fix lim
its on what people might be moved by in thought and
deliberation and hence may act from?” (1996, 85). While Rawls developed this point by
contrasting Hume's moral psychology with Kant's, the same basic point is also made by neo
-
Aristotelians (e.g., McDowel
l 1998).

The introduction of principle
-
dependent desires bursts any would
-
be naturalist limit on their
content; nonetheless, some philosophers hold that this notion remains too beholden to an
essentially Humean picture to be able to capture the idea of a
moral commitment. Desires, it may
seem, remain motivational items that compete on the basis of strength. Saying that one's desire to
be just may be outweighed by one's desire for advancement may seem to fail to capture the
thought that one has a commitment



even a non
-
absolute one


to justice. Sartre designed his
example of the student torn between staying with his mother and going to fight with the Free
French so as to make it seem implausible that he ought to decide simply by determining which
he more s
trongly wanted to do.

One way to get at the idea of commitment is to emphasize our capacity to reflect about what we
want. By this route, one might distinguish, in the fashion of Harry Frankfurt, between the
strength of our desires and “the importance of
what we care about” (Frankfurt 1988). Although
this idea is evocative, it provides relatively little insight into
how

it is that we thus reflect.
Another way to model commitment is to take it that our intentions operate at a level distinct from
our desires
, structuring what we are willing to reconsider at any point in our deliberations (e.g.
Bratman 1999). While this two
-
level approach offers some advantages, it is limited by its
concession of a kind of primacy to the unreconstructed desires at the unreflec
tive level. A more
integrated approach might model the psychology of commitment in a way that reconceives the
nature of desire from the ground up. One attractive possibility is to return to the Aristotelian
conception of desire as being for the sake of som
e good or apparent good (cf. Richardson
2004b). On this conception, the end for the sake of which an action is done plays an important
regulating role. In turn, then, a commitment may be understood as a final end, one sought for its
own sake, and hence one

that the agent takes to be appropriately self
-
regulating (Richardson
2004a). Reasoning about final ends has a distinctive character (see Richardson 1994, Schmidtz
1995). Whatever the best philosophical account of the notion of a commitment


for another
al
ternative, see (Tiberius 2000)


much of our moral reasoning does seem to involve expressions
of and challenges to our commitments.

The Aristotelian psychology just mentioned importantly integrates the motivational aspect we
are currently discussing with t
he issues of perception and uptake discussed above in section 2.1.
In contrast to the Humean dyadic, belief
-
desire model, the Aristotelian conception of desire is
better understood as operating with a triad of linked mental states: a belief that I can Φ, a

perception that Φing would be good in some respect
r
, and a desire to Φ on account of
r



or
not to Φ in light of some
r
′ perceived as bad (Richardson 2004b). That the agent perceives
something as good or bad in some respect is thus integral to the Aristo
telian account of
motivation. This may help explain the Aristotelian claim, noted above, that the correctness of
one's evaluative perceptions is highly dependent on one's motivations being virtuous.

Recent experimental work, employing both survey instrume
nts and brain imaging technologies,
has allowed philosophers to approach questions about the psychological basis of moral reasoning
from novel angles. The initial brain data seems to show that individuals with damage to the pre
-
frontal lobes tend to reason

in more straightforwardly consequentialist fashion than those without
such damage (Koenigs et al. 2007). Some theorists take this finding as tending to confirm that
fully competent human moral reasoning goes beyond a simple weighing of pros and cons to
in
clude assessment of moral constraints (e.g., Hauser 2005). Others, however, have argued that
the emotional responses of the prefrontal lobes interfere with the more sober and sound,
consequentialist
-
style reasoning of the other parts of the brain (e.g. Gre
ene et al. 2004). The
survey data reveals or confirms, among other things, interesting, normatively loaded
asymmetries in our attribution of such concepts as responsibility and causality (Knobe
forthcoming). It also reveals that many of moral theory's most

subtle distinctions, such as the
distinction between an intended means and a foreseen side
-
effect, are deeply built into our
psychologies, being present cross
-
culturally and in young children, in a way that suggests to
some the possibility of an innate “m
oral grammar” (Mikhail 2007).

A final question about the connection between moral motivation and moral reasoning is whether
someone without the right motivational commitments can reason well, morally? On Hume's
official, narrow conception of reasoning, wh
ich essentially limits it to tracing empirical and
logical connections, the answer would be yes. The vicious person could trace the causal and
logical implications of acting in a certain way just as a virtuous person could. The only
difference would be pra
ctical, not rational: the two would not act in the same way. On Kant's
view in the
Groundwork

and the
Critique of Practical Reason
, the answer is again yes, for, on
the view he develops in those works, reasoning well, morally, does not depend on any prior
motivational commitment. (Kant's
Metaphysics of Morals

and
Religion

offer a more complex
psychology.) For Aristotle, by contrast, an agent whose motivations are not virtuously
constituted will systematically misperceive what is good and what is bad, and he
nce will be
unable to reason excellently. The best reasoning that a vicious person is capable of, according to
Aristotle, is a defective simulacrum of practical wisdom that he calls “cleverness” (
Nicomachean
Ethics

1144a25).

2.5 Modeling Conflicting Moral

Considerations

Moral considerations often conflict with one another. So do moral principles and moral
commitments. Assuming that filial loyalty and patriotism are moral considerations, then Sartre's
student faces a moral conflict. Recall that it is one th
ing to model the metaphysics of morality or
the truth conditions of moral statements and another to give an account of moral reasoning. In
now looking at conflicting considerations, our interest here remains with the latter and not the
former. Our principa
l interest is in ways that we need to structure or think about conflicting
considerations in order to negotiate well our reasoning involving them.

One influential building
-
block for thinking about moral conflicts is W. D. Ross's notion of a

prima facie

duty” (Ross 1988). Although Ross gave various conflicting glosses of this notion, it
entered the literature of moral theory, which now generally interprets “
prima facie
” in contrast to
“all things considered.” One has a
prima facie

duty to do some act jus
t in case there is some
reason to think that it is one's duty to do it. A fuller consideration of the act's features might rebut
this conclusion by showing that the features providing reason to ascribe the duty are overridden
by other features of the act.
Ross described each
prima facie

duty as a “parti
-
resultant” attribute,
obtained by looking at one morally relevant aspect of an act, whereas “being one's [actual] duty”
is a “toti
-
resultant” attribute, obtained by looking together at all of the relevant as
pects (28). This
suggests that in each case there is, in principle, some function that maps the partial contributions
of each
prima facie

duty to the conclusion of actual duty. What might that function be? To Ross's
credit, he writes that “for the estimati
on of the comparative stringency of these
prima facie

obligations no general rules can, so far as I can see, be laid down” (41). Accordingly, a second
strand in Ross simply emphasizes, following Aristotle, the need for practical judgment by those
who have
been brought up into virtue (42).

How might considerations of the sort constituted by
prima facie

duties enter our moral
reasoning? They might do so explicitly, or only implicitly. There is also a third, still weaker
possibility (Scheffler 1992, 32): it m
ight simply be the case that if the agent
had

recognized a
prima facie

duty, he would have acted on it unless he considered it to be overridden. This is a
fact about how he
would

have reasoned.

Despite Ross's denial that there is any general method for es
timating the comparative stringency
of
prima facie

duties, there is a further strand in his exposition that many find irresistible and that
tends to undercut this denial. In the very same paragraph in which he states that he sees no
general rules for deali
ng with conflicts, he speaks in terms of “the greatest balance of
prima facie

rightness.” This language, together with the idea of “comparative stringency,” ineluctably
suggests the idea that the mapping function might be the same in each case of conflict
and that it
might be a quantitative one. On this conception, if there is a conflict between
prima facie

duties,
the one that is strongest in the circumstances should be taken to win. Duly cautioned about the
additive fallacy (see
section 2.3
), we might recognize that the strength of a moral consideration
in one set of circumstances cannot be inferred from its strength in other circumstances. Hence,
this approach will need still to r
ely on intuitive judgments in many cases. But this intuitive
judgment will be about which
prima facie

consideration is stronger in the circumstances, not
simply about what ought to be done. On this approach, a
prima facie

duty becomes what has
been called
a “
pro tanto
” one


a duty that has a certain force, but may not prevail (see Hurley
1989).

The thought that our moral reasoning either requires or is benefited by a virtual quantitative
crutch of this kind has a long pedigree. Philosophical support for t
his thought involves an idea of
practical commensurability. We need to distinguish, here, two kinds of practical
commensurability or incommensurability, one defined in metaphysical terms and one in
deliberative terms. Each of these forms might be stated ev
aluatively or deontically. The first,
metaphysical sort of value incommensurability is defined directly in terms of what is the case.
Thus, to state an evaluative version: two values are metaphysically incommensurable just in case
neither is better than th
e other nor are they equally good (see Chang 1998). Now, the
metaphysical incommensurability of values, or its absence, is only loosely linked to how it would
be reasonable to deliberate. If all values or moral considerations are metaphysically (that is, i
n
fact) commensurable, still it might well be the case that our access to the ultimate
commensurating function is so limited that we would fare ill by proceeding in our deliberations
to try to think about which outcomes are “better” or which considerations

are “stronger.” We
might have no clue about how to measure the relevant “strength.” Conversely, even if
metaphysical value incommensurability is common, we might do well, deliberatively, to proceed
as if this were not the case, just as we proceed in therm
odynamics as if the gas laws obtained in
their idealized form. Hence, in thinking about the deliberative implications of value
commensurability or its absence, we would do well to think in terms of a definition tailored to
the deliberative context. Start w
ith a local, pairwise form. We may say that two options, A and B,
are deliberatively commensurable just in case there is some one dimension of value in terms of
which, prior to


or logically independently of


choosing between them, it is possible
adequat
ely to represent the force of the considerations bearing on the choice.

Philosophers as diverse as Immanuel Kant and John Stuart Mill have argued that unless two
options are deliberatively commensurable, in this sense, it is impossible to choose rationall
y
between them. Interestingly, Kant limited this claim to the domain of prudential considerations,
recognizing moral reasoning as invoking considerations incommensurable with those of
prudence. For Mill, this claim formed an important part of his argument
that there must be some
one, ultimate “umpire” principle


namely, on his view, the principle of utility. Henry Sidgwick
elaborated Mill's argument and helpfully made explicit its crucial assumption, which he called
the “principle of superior validity” (Si
dgwick 1981; cf. Schneewind 1977). This is the principle
that conflict between distinct moral or practical considerations can be rationally resolved only on
the basis of some third principle or consideration that is both more general and more firmly
warran
ted than the two initial competitors. From this assumption, one can readily build an
argument for the rational necessity not merely of local deliberative commensurability, but of a
global deliberative commensurability that, like Mill and Sidgwick, accepts
just one ultimate
umpire principle (cf. Richardson 1994, chap. 6).

Sidgwick's explicitness, here, is valuable also in helping one see how to resist the demand for
deliberative commensurability. Deliberative commensurability is not necessary for proceeding

rationally if conflicting considerations can be rationally dealt with in a holistic way that does not
involve the appeal to a principle of “superior validity.” That our moral reasoning can proceed
holistically is strongly affirmed by Rawls. Rawls's charac
terizations of the influential ideal of
reflective equilibrium

and his related ideas about the nature of justification imply that we can
deal with conflicting considerations in less
hierarchical ways than imagined by Mill or Sidgwick.
Instead of proceeding up a ladder of appeal to some highest court or supreme umpire, Rawls
suggests, when we face conflicting considerations “we work from both ends” (Rawls 1999, 18).
Sometimes indeed we

revise our more particular judgments in light of some general principle to
which we adhere; but we are also free to revise more general principles in light of some
relatively concrete considered judgment. On this picture, there is no necessary correlation

between degree of generality and strength of authority or warrant. That this holistic way of
proceeding (whether in building moral theory or in deliberating: cf. Hurley 1989) can be rational
is confirmed by the possibility of a form of justification that
is similarly holistic: “justification is
a matter of the mutual support of many considerations, of everything fitting together into one
coherent view” (Rawls 1999, 19, 507). (Note that this statement, which expresses a necessary
aspect of moral or practica
l justification, should not be taken as a definition or analysis thereof.)
So there is an alternative to depending, deliberatively, on finding a dimension in terms of which
considerations can be ranked as “stronger” or “better” or “more stringent”: one can

instead
“prune and adjust” with an eye to building more mutual support among the considerations that
one endorses on due reflection. Since even the desideratum of practical coherence is subject to
such re
-
specification, this holistic possibility really do
es represent an alternative to
commensuration, as the deliberator, and not some coherence standard, retains reflective
sovereignty (Richardson 1994, sec. 26).

Suppose that moral considerations are all commensurable as a matter of ultimate, metaphysical
fa
ct, but that our grasp of the actual strength of these considerations is quite poor and subject to
systematic distortions. Perhaps some people are much better placed than others to appreciate
certain considerations, and perhaps our strategic interactions w
ould cause us to reach suboptimal
outcomes if we each pursued our own unfettered judgment of how the overall set of
considerations plays out. In such circumstances, there is a strong case for departing from
maximizing reasoning without swinging all the way

to the holist alternative. This case has been
influentially articulated by Joseph Raz, who develops the notion of an “exclusionary reason” to
occupy this middle position (Raz 1990).

“An exclusionary reason,” in Raz's terminology, “is a second order reaso
n to refrain from acting
for some reason” (39). A simple example is that of Ann, who is tired after a long and stressful
day, and hence has reason not to act on her best assessment of the reasons bearing on a
particularly important investment decision that

she immediately faces (37). This notion of an
exclusionary reason allowed Raz to capture many of the complexities of our moral reasoning,
especially as it involves principled commitments, while conceding that, at the first order, all
practical reasons mig
ht be commensurable. Raz's early strategy for reconciling commensurability
with complexity of structure was to limit the claim that reasons are comparable with regard to
strength to reasons of a given order. First
-
order reasons compete on the basis of stre
ngth; but
conflicts between first
-

and second
-
order reasons “are resolved not by the strength of the
competing reasons but by a general principle of practical reasoning which determines that
exclusionary reasons always prevail” (40).

If we take for grante
d this “general principle of practical reasoning,” why should we recognize
the existence of any exclusionary reasons, which by definition prevail independently of any
contest of strength? Raz's principal answer to this question shifts from the metaphysical

domain
of the strengths that various reasons “have” to the epistemically limited viewpoint of the
deliberator. As in Ann's case, we can see in certain contexts that a deliberator is likely to get
things wrong if he or she acts on his or her perception of
the first
-
order reasons. Accordingly,
second
-
order reasons are directed at how agents ought to deliberate and make up their minds.
They indicate, with respect to a certain range of first
-
order reasons, that the agent “must not act
for

those reasons” (185).

The broader justification of an exclusionary reason, then, can
consistently be put in terms of the commensurable first
-
order reasons. Such a justification can
have the following form: “Given this agent's deliberative limitations, the balance of first
-
orde
r
reasons will likely be better conformed with if he or she refrains from acting for certain of those
reasons.”

Whether Raz's account of exclusionary reasons can be used to reconcile ultimate
commensurability with the structured complexity of our moral rea
soning will depend, in part, on
the extent to which we have an actual grasp of first
-
order reasons, conflict among which can be
settled solely on the basis of their comparative strength. Our consideration, above, of casuistry,
the additive fallacy, and del
iberative incommensurability may combine to make it seem that only
in rare pockets of our practice do we have a good grasp of first
-
order reasons, if these are
defined, à la Raz, as competing only in terms of strength. If that is right, then we will have g
ood
exclusionary reasons almost always to reason on some other basis than in terms of the relative
strength of first
-
order reasons. Under those assumptions, the middle way that Raz's idea of
exclusionary reasons seems to open up would more closely approach

the holist's. Revealingly,
his “Postscript” on exclusionary reasons mentions the way that certain kinds of commitment can
provide reasons not to act
for

certain reasons. Thus, “ascetic or self
-
denying reasons are reasons
to avoid doing, or having, things
one has reason to do or have” (183). This feature of the ascetic's
commitment, it will seem to many, is generally shared by our moral commitments. If so, then
moral reasoning will pervasively pull us away from the first order. If talk of the “first order”
starts to seem a metaphysical fiction, then the holist approach starts to sound like a more
forthright approach, as it dispenses with this fiction entirely.

The notion of a moral consideration's “strength,” whether put forward as part of a metaphysical
pi
cture of how first
-
order considerations interact in fact or as a suggestion about how to go about
resolving a moral conflict, should not be confused with the bottom
-
line determination of whether
one consideration, and specifically one duty, overrides anoth
er. For example, in Ross's oft
-
cited
case of conflicting
prima facie

duties, someone who has promised to be somewhere at a certain
time passes a boy drowning in a pond, and must choose between saving a life and keeping a
promise to meet someone for lunch.
(Ross chose the case to illustrate that an “imperfect” duty, or
a duty of commission, can override a strict, prohibitive duty.) Ross's assumption is that all well
brought
-
up people would agree, in this case, that the duty to save a life overrides the duty
to keep
a promise. We may take it, if we like, that this judgment implies that we consider the duty to
save a life, here, to be stronger than the duty to keep the promise; but in fact this claim about
relative strength adds nothing to our understanding of
the situation. We do not reach our practical
conclusion in this case
by

determining that the duty to save the boy's life is stronger. The
statement that this duty is here stronger is simply a way to embellish the conclusion that of the
two
prima facie

duti
es that here conflict, it is the one that states the all
-
things
-
considered duty.
To be “overridden” is just to be a
prima facie

duty that fails to state an all
-
things
-
considered duty
because another
prima facie

duty that conflicts with it does do so. Hence
, the judgment that one
duty overrides another can be understood just in terms of its deontic implications and without
reference to considerations of strength. To confirm this, note that we can say, “As a matter of
fidelity, we ought to keep the promise; a
s a matter of beneficence, we ought to save the life; we
cannot do both; and both categories considered we ought to save the life.”

Understanding the notion of one duty overriding another in this way puts us in a position to take
up the topic of
moral dilemmas
. Since this topic is covered in a separate article, here we may
simply note one attractive definition of a moral dilemma (see Sinnott
-
Armstrong 1988) as a
situation in which the follow
ing are true of a single agent:

1.

He ought to do
A
.

2.

He ought to do
B
.

3.

He cannot do both
A

and
B
.

4.

(1) does not override (2) and (2) does not override (1).

This way of defining moral dilemmas distinguishes them from the kind of moral conflict, such as
Ross's promises/drowning case, in which one of the duties is overridden by the other. Arguably,
Sartre's student faces a moral dilemma. Making sense of a situat
ion in which neither of two
duties overrides the other is easier if normative commensurability is denied. Whether moral
dilemmas are possible will depend crucially on whether “ought” implies “can” and whether any
pair of duties such as those comprised by (
1) and (2) implies a single, “agglomerated” duty that
the agent do both
A

and
B
. If either of these purported principles of the logic of duties is false,
then moral dilemmas are possible.

Some philosophers, responding in part to the kind of moral particul
arism mentioned in Section
2.2, have suggested that we think of moral principles or moral reasons as defaults. This way of
thinking about conflicting moral considerations resembles Ross's approach, but is more sanguine
than Ross about our ability to make i
nteresting generalizations about the contexts in which a
moral default is overridden. Mark Lance and Margaret Little (Lance and Little 2005) defend this
hope by exhibiting the ways in which defeasible generalizations, in ethics and elsewhere, depend
systematically

on context. We can work with them, they suggest, by utilizing a skill that is
similar to the skill of discerning morally salient considerations, namely the skill of discerning
relevant similarities among possible worlds. The casuistical trad
ition, described in (Jonsen &
Toulmin, 1988), stressed the importance to our reasoning about whether a problematic cases of
the skill of ordering similarity relations. In case
-
based reasoning, they stress, one must consider
whether a problematic case (e.g.
, surrogate
-
motherhood contracts) is closer to one kind of
paradigm case (contracts for services in general) than to another (reproduction within marriage).
In effect, Lance and Little are arguing that this kind of skill has a much broader importance to
ou
r moral reasoning than simply dealing with particularly problematic cases. They argue that we
must think in terms of default generalizations in order to capture the nature of moral principles
and to defend them against the particularist's challenge. When w
e do this, distinctive ways of
reasoning about conflicts among moral principles offer themselves; these are explored by Lance
and Little and also by Horty (2003, 2007). Logical contradiction between opposed default
generalizations is perhaps unlikely (cf.
Dancy, 2004, 128f.); still, the sort of practical coherence
described earlier in this section can be disrupted by contingently clashing default generalizations.

2.6 Moral Learning and the Revision of Moral Views

If we have any moral knowledge, it is surel
y very imperfect. Although some moral learning may
be the work of moral philosophers and theorists, much of what we learn with regard to morality
surely arises in the context of deliberation about new and difficult cases. There is no special
problem about
learning what conduces to morally obligatory ends: that is an ordinary matter of
empirical learning. But by what sorts of process can we learn which ends are morally obligatory,
or which norms morally required? That is, how is strictly moral learning possi
ble?

Whether strictly moral learning is necessary is a disputed matter. On Kant's view, that the moral
law is authoritative is a “fact of reason” accessible to all rational beings, and all doubts about
how to apply it pertain to subsidiary matters of casu
istry. On a utilitarian view, the only learning
required is empirical. (Reflective utilitarians, such as Sidgwick and Hare, have claimed that the
normative status of the utilitarian principle, itself, is not learned, but instead self
-
evident or
implicitly
known
a priori
.) On many other moral views, however, there will be important room
for moral learning.

How can strictly moral learning occur? Much of what was said above with regard to moral
uptake applies again in this context, with approximately the same

degree of dubiousness or
persuasiveness. If there is a role for moral perception or for emotions in agents' becoming aware
of moral considerations, these may function also to guide agents to new conclusions. For
instance, it is conceivable that our capaci
ty for outrage is a relatively reliable detector of wrong
actions, even novel ones, or that our capacity for pleasure is a reliable detector of actions worth
doing, even novel ones. (For a thorough defense of the latter possibility, which intriguingly
inte
rprets pleasure as a judgment of value, see Millgram 1997.) Perhaps these capacities for
emotional judgment enable strictly moral learning in roughly the same way that chess
-
players'
trained sensibilities enable them to recognize the threat in a previously

unencountered situation
on the chessboard (Lance and Tanesini 2004). That is to say, perhaps our moral emotions play a
crucial role in the exercise of a skill whereby we come to be able to articulate moral insights that
we have never before attained. Perh
aps competing moral considerations interact in contextually
specific and complex ways much as competing chess considerations do. If so, it would make
sense to rely on our emotionally
-
guided capacities of judgment to cope with complexities that we
cannot mo
del explicitly, but also to hope that, once having been so guided, we might in
retrospect be able to articulate something about the lesson of a well
-
navigated situation.

A different model of strictly moral learning puts the emphasis on our after
-
the
-
fact
reactions
rather than on any prior, tacit emotional or judgmental guidance: the model of “experiments in
living.” Despite what was said two paragraphs back about utilitarianism, this phrase is John
Stuart Mill's (see Anderson 1991). Here, the basic thought

is that we can try something and see if
“it works.” For this to be an alternative to empirical learning about what causally conduces to
what, it must be the case that we remain open as to what we mean by things “working.” In Mill's
terminology, for instan
ce, we need to remain open as to what are the important “parts” of
happiness. If we are, then perhaps we can learn by experience what some of them are


that is,
what are some of the constitutive means of happiness. These paired thoughts, that our practica
l
life is experimental and that we have no firmly fixed conception of what it is for something to
“work,” come to the fore in Dewey's pragmatist ethics (see esp. Dewey 1967 [1922]). This
experimentalist conception of strictly moral learning is brought to b
ear on moral reasoning in
Dewey's eloquent characterizations of “practical intelligence” as involving a creative and flexible
approach to figuring out “what works” in a way that is thoroughly open to rethinking our
ultimate aims.

Once we recognize that mo
ral learning is a possibility for us, we can recognize a broader range
of ways of coping with moral conflicts than was canvassed in the last section. There, moral
conflicts were described in a way that assumed that the set of moral considerations, among wh
ich
conflicts were arising, was to be taken as fixed. If we can learn, morally, however, then we
probably can and should revise the set of moral considerations that we recognize. Often, we do
this by re
-
interpreting some moral principle that we had started

with, whether by making it more
specific, making it more abstract, or in some other way (cf. Richardson, 2000).

2.7 How Can We Reason, Morally, With One Another?

So far, we have mainly been discussing moral reasoning as if it were a solitary endeavor. Th
is is,
at best, a convenient simplification. Jürgen Habermas, who has long decried what he views as the
Enlightenment tendency to think of reasoning as essentially “monological,” takes a less benign
view of this mode of description (e.g., Habermas, 1984).
In any case, it is clear that we often do
need to reason morally with one another.

Even if the simplified presentation of the foregoing parts of this article is pernicious, as
Habermas might think, it seems nonetheless that the issues and distinctions the
y develop pertain
to collective moral reasoning as well as to individual moral reasoning. We can ask what
we

take
to be morally salient, whether
we

appeal to moral principles, and how
we

deal with conflicting
moral considerations. The principal new issues
raised by thinking of moral reasoning as
collective concern the obstacles that arise from disagreement (this section) and the possibility
that differentiated social structures are of intrinsic importance to moral reasoning (the following
section).

There i
s also a threshold question of social structure that is applicable to all cases of collective
moral reasoning. Because there is no natural boundary to the “we,” collective moral deliberations
are often explicitly faced with issues about how the collective
should define itself. For instance,
consider Canadian citizens who ask themselves, “What, morally, do we owe the indigenous
tribes whose ancestors were here before the European settlers arrived?” It will make a crucial
difference to how this question is ad
dressed whether “we” includes members of the indigenous
tribes or rather (as secessionists among the tribespeople might prefer) does not include them. It
may simply be an uncomfortable fact that the reference of the “we” here is unavoidably unstable.
It wi
ll often be the case that any specification of who “we” are will have morally controversial
implications. This fact represents an obvious potential pitfall; but it also represents fruitful
possibilities (cf. Vogler 1998). Perhaps the boundaries of the rele
vant “we” could be defended on
substantive moral grounds. For example, an account of democratic deliberation might defend a
specification of “the public” by reference to fundamental democratic ideals (cf. Richardson
2002).

The disagreements that threaten
to make collective moral reasoning impossible are generally of
two kinds. First, there are simple clashes of claims within a shared moral framework. For
instance, suppose a manager had promised to meet with one subordinate who wants to discuss a
grievance,

but suddenly is confronted by another who is sobbing over some personal crisis and is
demanding immediate attention. While all concerned might take both promise
-
keeping and
beneficence to be
prima facie

duties, each subordinate may feel that his or her ow
n claim is more
important, and ought to override. In such cases, the effect of self
-
interest on one's moral beliefs
may explain most of the moral disagreement. Famously, Hobbes argued that clashing self
-
interests yield a generalized
prisoner's dilemma

such that each person will have reason to defect
from moral arrangements unless a “we” is constructed that has coercive authority. Hobbes's
moral psychology was perhaps too narrow in not allow
ing for the kind of principle
-
dependent
desires noted above, and hence too narrow in the range of routes to moral socialization that it
recognized. Still, his views raise an intriguing and very broad set of questions about the
relationship between moral re
asoning and political power.

In a second type of case, the moral disagreement that threatens the possibility of collective moral
reasoning consists in divergent beliefs about what is morally salient and what should be counted
as a moral principle. Dramati
c examples of this second type of case are familiar from
anthropology and from teenagers who suddenly develop moral sensibilities divergent from those
of their parents. And of course, the factors of clashing self
-
interest and divergent moral
frameworks can

operate together in a given case, as in the controversy between Jews and
Moslems in Jerusalem over who has a right to control the Temple Mount/Haram Al
-
Sharif.

Such deep divergences of world
-
view need not make moral reasoning between the parties
impossib
le. (In saying that, we must recognize that even simple clashes of self
-
interest in the
absence of any deeper disagreement
can

preclude any effort at joint moral reasoning.) Two
elements of an argument for moral reasoning being possible despite such disagr
eement


both
Rawlsian


are already before us: the holism built into the ideal of reflective equilibrium and
the notion of overlapping consensus (cf. Richardson 1994, Part V). Insofar is holism is plausible
in the deliberation or reasoning of each of the
parties, the moral beliefs of each will not function
as rigidly axiomatized systems. Rather, there will be room for each of them potentially to revise
most any aspect of his or her view, on the basis of what he or she takes to be good reasons. The
idea of
overlapping consensus suggests how, against the background of such holism, their joint
effort at working towards moral agreement can proceed on the basis of any initial agreement
whatsoever. Specifically, there is no need that the initial agreement pertain

to what either takes to
be foundational or basic.

This appeal to holism and overlapping consensus makes a schematic case that joint moral
reasoning is possible even in the face of deep moral disagreement. It reflects at least a bare
possibility. When mor
al disagreement is deep, we want to know more about how the parties can
reasonably approach agreement. Each will need to be willing to compromise: to revise his or her
view in a way that he or she would not have been willing to do, but for some modicum of
concern or respect that he or she has for the other party. And this compromise must go deep, in
that it must extend to what each counts as right or wrong, or as worth seeking or avoiding for its
own sake. Such deep compromise among deeply disagreeing citiz
ens of one democratic country
seems to some both to be possible and to be subject to norms of rationality (e.g., Richardson
2002, chap. 11). Others are more pessimistic, seeing robust possibilities for moral deliberation
only on the basis of deeply shared
“identities” or moral commitments (e.g., Sandel 1998).

2.8 The Relevance of Moral Authority and Moral Roles

Does morality require each person to reason in the same way, on the basis of the same
fundamental considerations? Before attempting to sketch any a
nswers to this question, we must
first strive to understand it.

There is a strong and traditional push to regard all moral considerations as holding universally.
To hold this, however, is not to exclude all role
-
specific obligations or special prerogative
s, for a
universal consideration may have a conditional form. For instance, it may say, “For all persons,
if person
x

is the authorized proxy of a person
y

who has become mentally incompetent ….” In
this way, role
-
specific considerations can be reconciled
with a formal universality, allowing one
to maintain the thesis that, in fact, and in a sense, all moral considerations pertain to everyone
(cf. Hooker 1998).

From the epistemically limited standpoint of moral reasoning, however, the interesting question,

from the point of view of the theory of moral reasoning, is whether agents are authorized by their
roles to give special prominence to certain considerations in their moral deliberation and to
ignore others. Bernard Williams, for one, famously argued that

it would be bizarre to think
otherwise. Writing about a case in which someone in a lifeboat must choose between saving a
stranger and saving his or her spouse, Williams argued that an impartialist morality that would
demand that the agent consider whether

giving preference to the spouse is permissible gives that
agent “one thought too many” (Williams 1981, 18). Williams' position, here, is compatible with
the claim that the impartialist considerations actually obtain in this case. What he is asserting is
t
hat, even if they do, a reasonable and rational moral agent ought not take them into account. If
Williams is correct, then morality allows or indeed requires this agent to consider a restricted
range of the considerations that actually obtain in his or her

situation. Act
-
utilitarians and
Kantians will resist this possibility, but rule
-
utilitarians and others can embrace it. The latter
group of moralists can allow, for instance, that the moral reasoning of lawyers may legitimately
give special prominence to
the legal needs of their clients and the moral reasoning of doctors
give special prominence to the health of their patients. By thinking in this informal way about
social roles, one may arrive at something approximating Raz's notion of “exclusionary reason
s”
(see above), but without necessarily accepting his implicit concession of justificatory primacy to
the whole set of first
-
order reasons.

A final possibility for moral reasoning that deserves mention combines this kind of role
-
specificity of considerati
ons with the pragmatist openness to revision of our conception of our
ends and norms mentioned in
section 2.6
. The pragmatist notion of practical intelligence
emphasizes that we mu
st remain open to revising our conception of what is good and what is
right. In part, this means that we must remain open to learning from experience, morally.
Arguably, however, morality is such a complex subject that our collective learning about it
requ
ires that we divide our epistemic labor. One way to realize such a division of deliberative
labor is to entrust different social institutions and practices with different values (cf. Walzer
1983), much as we entrust lawyers with certain aspects of justice
and doctors with certain aspects
of health. Another approach is differentially to encourage or authorize those in different roles to
rethink their understanding of various aspects of what is morally incumbent on them. As things
actually stand, for instance
, lawyers and doctors, acting through their professional associations,
are socially allowed some latitude in determining appropriate ethical guidelines for those in their
professions


and this with regard to questions broader than simply those conflict
-
of
-
interest
regulations that nowadays sometimes monopolize the name of “ethics” provisions in the popular
press. A possibility worth considering (cf. Richardson 1999) is that this partial, deliberative
autonomy for professional groups is not simply a reflect
ion of the power that has been seized by
professional guilds, but instead, or in addition, reflects a justifiable specialized division of our
collective practical intelligence as applied to moral reasoning.




Moral Education

Only a handful of educational
theorists hold the view that if only the adult world would get out
of the way, children would ripen into fully realized people. Most thinkers, educational
practitioners, and parents acknowledge that children are born helpless and need the care and
guidance

of adults into their teens and often beyond. More specifically, children need to learn
how to live harmoniously in society. Historically, the mission of schools has been to develop in
the young both the intellectual and the moral virtues. Concern for the
moral virtues, such as
honesty, responsibility, and respect for others, is the domain of moral education.

Moral education, then, refers to helping children acquire those virtues or moral habits that will
help them individually live good lives and at the sa
me time become productive, contributing
members of their communities. In this view, moral education should contribute not only to the
students as individuals, but also to the social cohesion of a community. The word
moral

comes
from a Latin root (
mos, mori
s
) and means the code or customs of a people, the social glue that
defines how individuals should live together.

A Brief History of Moral Education

Every enduring community has a moral code and it is the responsibility and the concern of its
adults to inst
ill this code in the hearts and minds of its young. Since the advent of schooling,
adults have expected the schools to contribute positively to the moral education of children.
When the first common schools were founded in the New World, moral education wa
s the prime
concern. New England Puritans believed the moral code resided in the Bible. Therefore, it was
imperative that children be taught to read, thus having access to its grounding wisdom. As early
as 1642 the colony of Massachusetts passed a law requ
iring parents to educate their children. In
1647 the famous Old Deluder Satan Act strengthened the law. Without the ability to read the
Scriptures, children would be prey to the snares of Satan.

The colonial period.

As common school spread throughout the c
olonies, the moral education of
children was taken for granted. Formal education had a distinctly moral and religion emphasis.
Harvard College was founded to prepare clergy for their work. Those men who carved out the
United States from the British crown r
isked their fortunes, their families, and their very lives
with their seditious rebellion. Most of them were classically educated in philosophy, theology,
and political science, so they had learned that history's great thinkers held democracy in low
regard
. They knew that democracy contained within itself the seeds of its own destruction and
could degenerate into mobocracy with the many preying on the few and with political leaders
pandering to the citizenry's hunger for bread and circuses. The founders' wr
itings, particularly
those of Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John and Abigail Adams, and Benjamin Franklin,
are filled with admonitions that their new country make education a high priority. While the
early leaders saw economic reasons for more and longe
r schooling, they were convinced that the
form of government they were adopting was, at heart, a moral compact among people.

Nineteenth century.

As the young republic took shape, schooling was promoted for both secular
and moral reasons. In 1832, a time wh
en some of the Founding Fathers were still alive, Abraham
Lincoln wrote, in his first political announcement (March 9,1832), "I desire to see a time when
education, and by its means, morality, sobriety, enterprise and industry, shall become much more
gener
al than at present." Horace Mann, the nineteenth
-
century champion of the common schools,
strongly advocated for moral education. He and his followers were worried by the widespread
drunkenness, crime, and poverty during the Jacksonian period in which they
lived. Of concern,
too, were the waves of immigrants flooding into cities, unprepared for urban life and particularly
unprepared to participate in democratic civic life. Mann and his supporters saw free public
schools as the ethical leaven of society. In 1
849, in his twelfth and final report to the
Massachusetts Board of Education, he wrote that if children age four to sixteen could experience
"the elevating influences of good schools, the dark host of private vices and public crimes, which
now embitter dom
estic peace and stain the civilization of the age, might, in 99 cases in every
100, be banished from the world"(p. 96).

In the nineteenth century, teachers were hired and trained with the clear expectation that they
would advance the moral mission of the s
chool and attend to character formation. Literature,
biography, and history were taught with the explicit intention of infusing children with high
moral standards and good examples to guide their lives. Students' copybook headings offered
morally uplifting

thoughts: "Quarrelsome persons are always dangerous companions" and
"Praise follows exertion." The most successful textbooks during the nineteenth and early
twentieth centuries were the famed McGuffey readers, which were filled with moral stories,
urgings
, and lessons. During this period of our evolution as a nation, moral education was deep
in the very fabric of our schools.

There was, however, something else in the fabric of moral education that caused it to become
problematic: religion. In the United St
ates, as a group of colonies and later as a new nation, the
overwhelming dominant religion was Protestantism. While not as prominent as during the
Puritan era, the King James Bible was, nevertheless, a staple of U.S. public schools. The root of
the moral c
ode was seen as residing there. However, as waves of immigrants from Ireland,
Germany, and Italy came to the country from the mid
-
nineteenth century forward, the pan
-
Protestant tone and orthodoxy of the schools came under scrutiny and a reaction set in.
Co
ncerned that their children would be weaned from their faith, Catholics developed their own
school system. Later in the twentieth century, other religious groups, such as Jews, Muslims, and
even various Protestant denominations, formed their own schools. E
ach group desired, and
continues to desire, that its moral education be rooted in its respective faith or code.

Twentieth century.

During this same late
-
nineteenth
-
century and twentieth
-
century period,
there was also a growing reaction against organized re
ligion and the belief in a spiritual
dimension of human existence. Intellectual leaders and writers were deeply influenced by the
ideas of the English naturalist Charles Darwin, the German political philosopher Karl Marx, the
Austrian neurologist and found
er of psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud, and the German philosopher
and poet Friedrich Nietzsche, and by a growing strict interpretation of the separation of church
and state doctrine. This trend increased after World War II and was further intensified by what
appeared to be the large cracks in the nation's moral consensus in the late 1960s. Since for so
many Americans the strongest roots of moral truths reside in their religious beliefs, educators
and others became wary of using the schools for moral education.

More and more this was seen
to be the province of the family and the church. Some educators became proponents of "value
-
free" schooling, ignoring the fact that it is impossible to create a school devoid of ethical issues,
lessons, and controversies.

Durin
g the last quarter of the twentieth century, as many schools attempted to ignore the moral
dimension of schooling, three things happened: Achievement scores began to decline, discipline
and behavior problems increased, and voices were raised accusing the s
chools of teaching
secular humanism. As the same time, educators were encouraged to address the moral concerns
of students using two approaches: values clarification and cognitive developmental moral
education.

The first,
values clarification,

rests on lit
tle theory other than the assumption that students need
practice choosing among moral alternatives and that teachers should be facilitators of the
clarification process rather than indoctrinators of particular moral ideas or value choices. This
approach, a
lthough widely practiced, came under strong criticism for, among other things,
promoting moral relativism among students. While currently few educators confidently advocate
values clarification, its residue of teacher neutrality and hesitance to actively a
ddress ethical
issues and the moral domain persists.

The second approach,
cognitive developmental moral education,

sprang from the work of the
Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget and was further developed by Lawrence Kohlberg. In contrast to
values clarificatio
n, cognitive moral development is heavy on theory and light on classroom
applications. In its most popular form, Kohlberg posited six sequential stages of moral
development, which potentially individuals could achieve. Each stage represents a distinctive
w
ay an individual thinks about a moral situation or problem. Teachers are encouraged to engage
students from an early age and throughout their schooling in discussion of moral issues and
dilemmas. In the later years of his life, Kohlberg was urging educator
s to transform their schools
into "just communities," environments within which students' moral stage development would
accelerate.

The Return of Character Education

In the early 1980s, amid the widespread concern over students' poor academic achievements
and
behavior, educators rediscovered the word
character.

Moral education had a religious tinge,
which made many uneasy. Character with its emphasis on forming good habits and eliminating
poor habits struck a popular and traditional chord. The word
characte
r

has a Greek root, coming
from the verb "to engrave." Thus character speaks to the active process of making marks or signs
(i.e., good habits) on one's person. The early formation of good habits is widely acknowledged to
be in the best interests of both t
he individual and society.

In addition, character formation is recognized as something that parents begin early, but the work
is hardly completed when a child goes to school. Implicit in the concept of character is the
recognition that adults begin the eng
raving process of habituation to consideration of others, self
-
control, and responsibility, then teachers and others contribute to the work, but eventually the
young person takes over the engraving or formation of his own character. Clearly, though, with
t
heir learning demands and taxing events, children's school years are a prime opportunity for
positive and negative (i.e., virtues and vices) character formation.

The impetus and energy behind the return of character education to American schools did not
co
me from within the educational community. It has been fueled, first, by parental desire for
orderly schools where standards of behavior and good habits are stressed, and, second, by state
and national politicians who responded to these anxious concerns of
parents. During his
presidency, William Clinton hosted five conferences on character education. President George
W. Bush expanded on the programs of the previous administration and made character education
a major focus of his educational reform agenda. On
e of the politically appealing aspects of
character education, as opposed to moral education with its religious overtones, is that character
education speaks more to the formation of a good citizen. A widely repeated definition (i.e.,
character education i
s helping a child to know the good, to desire the good, and to do the good)
straddles this issue. For some people the internal focus of character education comfortably can be
both religious and civic and for others the focus can be strictly civic, dealing
exclusively on the
formation of the good citizen.

Current Approaches to Moral Education

The overwhelming percentage of efforts within public education to address the moral domain
currently march under the flag of character education. Further, since these c
onscious efforts at
addressing issues of character formation are relatively recent, they are often called
character
education programs.

The term
program

suggests, however, discrete initiatives that replace an
activity or that are added to the school's curr
iculum (e.g., a new reading program or mathematics
program). And, although there are character education programs available, commercially and
otherwise, most advocates urge the public schools to take an infusion approach to educating for
character.

The inf
usion approach.

In general, an
infusion approach

to character education aims to restore
the formation of students' characters to a central place in schooling. Rather than simply adding
on character formation to the other responsibilities of schools, such a
s numeracy, literacy, career
education, health education, and other goals, a focus on good character permeates the entire
school experience. In essence, character education joins intellectual development as the
overarching goals of the school. Further, cha
racter education is seen, not in competition with or
ancillary to knowledge
-

and skill
-
acquisition goals, but as an important contributor to these
goals. To create a healthy learning environment, students need to develop the virtues of
responsibility and r
espect for others. They must eliminate habits of laziness and sloppiness and
acquire habits of self
-
control and diligence. The infusion approach is based on the view that the
good habits that contribute to the formation of character in turn contribute dire
ctly to the
academic goals of schooling.

A mainstay of the infusion approach is the recovery, recasting, or creating of a school's mission
statement, one that reflects the priority placed on the development of good character. Such a
statement legitimizes t
he attention of adults and students alike to this educational goal. It tells
administrators that teachers and staff should be hired with good character as a criterion; it tells
teachers that not only should character be stressed to students but also their
own characters are
on display; it tells coaches that athletics should be seen through the lens of sportsmanship rather
than winning and losing; and it tells students that their efforts and difficulties, their successes and
disappointments are all part of a

larger process, the formation of their characters.

Critical to the infusion approach is using the curriculum as a source of character education. This
is particularly true of the language arts, social studies, and history curricula. The primary focus
of th
ese subjects is the study of human beings, real and fictitious. Our great narrative tales carry
moral lessons. They convey to the young vivid images of the kinds of people our culture admires
and wants them to emulate. These subjects also show them how liv
es can be wasted, or worse,
how people can betray themselves and their communities. Learning about the heroism of former
slave Sojourner Truth, who became an evangelist and reformer, and the treachery of Benedict
Arnold, the American army officer who betra
yed his country to the British, is more than picking
up historical information. Encountering these lives fires the student's moral imagination and
deepens his understanding of what constitutes a life of character. Other subjects, such as
mathematics and sc
ience, can teach students the necessity of intellectual honesty. The curricula
of our schools not only contain the core knowledge of our culture but also our moral heritage.

In addition to the formal or overt curriculum, schools and classrooms also have a
hidden or
covert curriculum. A school's rituals, traditions, rules, and procedures have an impact on
students' sense of what is right and wrong and what is desired and undesired behavior. So, too,
does the school's student culture. What goes on in the lunc
hroom, the bathrooms, the locker
rooms, and on the bus conveys powerful messages to students. This ethos or moral climate of a
school is difficult to observe and neatly categorize. Nevertheless, it is the focus of serious
attention by educators committed t
o an infusion approach.

An important element of the infusion approach is the language with which a school community
addresses issues of character and the moral domain. Teachers and administrators committed to an
infusion approach use the language of virtue
s and speak of good and poor behavior and of right
and wrong. Words such as responsibility, respect, honesty, and perseverance are part of the
working vocabulary of adults and students alike.

Other approaches.

One of the most popular approaches to characte
r education is service
learning. Sometimes called community service, this approach is a conscious effort to give
students opportunities, guidance, and practice at being moral actors. Based on the Greek
philosopher Aristotle's concept of character formation

(e.g., a man becomes virtuous by
performing virtuous deeds; brave by doing brave deeds), many schools and school districts have
comprehensive programs of service learning. Starting in kindergarten, children are given small
chores such as feeding the class
room's gerbil or straightening the desks and chairs. They later
move on to tutoring younger students and eventually work up to more demanding service
activities in the final years of high school. Typically, these high
-
school level service
-
learning
activiti
es are off
-
campus at a home for the blind, a hospital, or a day
-
care center. Besides
placement, the school provides training, guidance, and problem
-
solving support to students as
they encounter problems and difficulties.

In recent years, schools across the country have adopted the virtue (or value) of the month
approach, where the entire school community gives particular attention to a quality such as
cooperation or kindness. Consideration of the virtue for that particular

month is reflected in the
curriculum, in special assemblies, in hallway and classroom displays, and in school
-
home
newsletters. Related to this are schoolwide programs, such as no put
-
downs projects, where
attention is focused on the destructive and hurtf
ul effects of sarcasm and insulting language and
students are taught to replace put
-
downs with civil forms of communication.

There are several skill
-
development and classroom strategies that are often related to character
formation. Among the more widespre
ad are teaching mediation and conflict
-
resolution skills,
where students are given direct teaching in how to deal with disagreements and potential fights
among fellow students. Many advocates of cooperative learning assert that instructing students
using t
his instructional process has the added benefit of teaching students habits of helping others
and forming friendships among students with whom they otherwise would not mix.

Issues and Controversies

The moral education of children is a matter of deep concer
n to everyone from parents to civic
and religious leaders. It is no accident, then, that this subject has been a matter of apprehension
and controversy throughout the history of American schools. Issues of morality touch an
individual's most fundamental be
liefs. Since Americans are by international standards both quite
religiously observant and quite religiously diverse, it is not surprising that moral and character
education controversies often have a religious source. Particularly after a period when mora
l
education was not on the agenda of most public schools, its return is unsettling to some citizens.
Many who are hostile to religion see this renewed interest in moral education as bringing
religious perspectives back into the school "through the back doo
r." On the other hand, many
religious people are suspicious of its return because they perceive it to be an attempt to
undermine their family's religious
-
based training with a state
-
sponsored secular humanism. As of
the beginning of the twenty
-
first centur
y, however, the renewed attention to this area has been
relatively free of controversy.

Contributing to the positive climate is the use of the term
character

rather than
moral.

While
moral

carries religious overtones for many, the word
character

speaks to good habits and the
civic virtues, which hold a community together and allow us to live together in harmony.

A second issue relates to the level of schools and the age of students. The revival of character
education in our schools has been evide
nt to a much greater degree in elementary schools. Here
schools can concentrate on the moral basics for which there is wide public consensus. The same
is true, but to a somewhat lesser degree, for middle and junior high schools. And although there
are many

positive examples of secondary schools that have implemented broad and effective
character education programs, secondary school faculties are hesitant to embrace character
education. Part of it is the departmental structures and the time demands of the cu
rriculum; part
of it is the age and sophistication of their students; and part of it is that few secondary school
teachers believe they have a clear mandate to deal with issues of morality and character.

A third issue relates to the education of teachers.
Whereas once teachers in training took
philosophy and history of education

courses that introduced them to the American school's
traditional involvement with moral and character education

now few states require these
courses. At the beginning of the twenty
-
first century, the American schools are seeing the large
-
scale retirement of career teachers and their replacement with large numbers of new teachers.
These young teachers tend to be products of elementary and secondary schools where teachers
gave little
or no direct attention to moral and character education. In addition, a 1999 study by
the Character Education Partnership of half of the nation's teacher education institutions showed
that although over 90 percent of the leaders of these programs thought c
haracter education ought
to be a priority in the preparation of teachers, only 13 percent were satisfied with their
institution's efforts.

Evaluation of Moral and Character Education

There are a few character education programs with encouraging evaluation
results. The
Character Development Project (CDP) has more than 18 years of involvement in several K

6
schools, and in those schools where teachers received staff development and on
-
site support over
52 percent of the student outcome variables showed signif
icant differences. The Boy Scouts of
America developed the Learning For Life Curriculum in the early 1990s for elementary schools.
This commercially available, stand
-
alone curriculum teaches core moral values, such as honesty
and responsibility. In a large
-
scale controlled experiment involving fifty
-
nine schools, students
exposed to the Learning For Life materials showed significant gains on their understanding of
the curriculum's core values, but they were also judged by their teachers to have gained great
er
self
-
discipline and ability to stay on a task.

Still, evaluation and assessment in character and moral education is best described as a work in
progress. The field is held back by the lack of an accepted battery of reliable instruments, a lack
of wide a
greement on individual or schoolwide outcomes, and by the short
-
term nature of most
of the existent studies. Complicating these limitations is a larger one: the lack of theoretical
agreement of what character is. Human character is one of those overarching

entities that is the
subject of disciples from philosophy to theology, from psychology to sociology. Further, even
within these disciplines there are competing and conflicting theories and understandings of the
nature of human character. But although the
evaluation challenges are daunting, they are dwarfed
by the magnitude of the adult community's desire to see that our children possess a moral
compass and the good habits basic to sound character.


Read more:
Moral Education
-

A Brief History of Moral Education, The Return of Character
Education, Current Approaches to Moral Education

http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/2246/Moral
-
Education.html#ixzz1MbrADAIQ