Sunday, December 5, 2010

The process of morality in men

Whether one agree with Vijay Nagaswami or not for the below paragraph, I entirely agree with the conclusion.

  • Lawrence Kohlberg, who described the process of moral evolution as going through six stages during the process of human growth and development. In the first stage, fear of punishment and the need for obedience guide moral development. Next, the child enters the second stage which is driven by a hedonistic orientation, where anything that satisfies self-interest is considered right. These first two stages are referred to as the Level of Pre-conventional Moral Development. As the child enters adolescence and begins to relate to peers and adults, the stage of interpersonal concordance (behaving in a manner that pleases others and increases acceptance by them) takes over. With further understanding and growth, one gets into the stage of law and order orientation, where one respects and obeys rules and regulations for the larger good, to ensure the smooth progress of society and social life. These two stages are called the Level of Conventional Moral Development, after which one enters the Level of Post-conventional Moral Development, which is predominantly an adult activity. In the latter level, the individual's approach is more principled and based on rational understanding and choices, and progresses to the fifth stage where the orientation is predominantly legalistic. Morality, in this stage, is understood by appreciating that rules and regulations are like social contracts that can be negotiated using democratic processes like compromise and consensus. Finally, one enters the sixth stage, driven more by abstract reasoning, where universal principles of justice define one's internal moral code.

  • More important than whether Kohlberg was right or wrong is the understanding that higher levels of moral development take place within our minds and cannot be blamed on globalisation, Internet, television or government. Unfortunately today, by virtue of the pace of social change, our approach to our morals is dictated by fear and prejudice, and not introspection and thought. Psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who studied the impact of culture on morals and morality, identified five fundamental moral values that can be considered universal across cultures: care for others, fairness, loyalty, authority and purity. However, in contemporary life, we tend to be obsessed most about purity — predominantly purity of our sexuality and of Indian culture. Maybe the moral of the story is that we need to shift our focus a bit, and reflect on other parameters as well, all the time remembering that we can blame no one for our ‘ moral turpitude' but ourselves.

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