Development towards postconventional justice reasoning

The gradual emergence of the maintaining nonns schema in adolescence means the discovery of a society that involves hierarchical role structures and chains of command with corresponding duties and responsibilities. In order to grow into a competent citizen, one needs to be able to distinguish public role expectations from personal motivations; know how to act as a responsible spouse, parent, professional, or politician. The maintaining nonns schema equips the individual with the capacity to evaluate functioning of organisations and related role behaviours and to recognise moral deficiencies therein, such as discrimination, misuse of power, pursuit of self-interest, or cronyism. As a drawback, because viewing extant laws and nonns as a source for morality, the maintaining nonns schema can be biased against minorities and the powerless. For instance, abolishing slavery and granting women political rights were once seen as threatening social harmony.

While the maintaining nonns schema aids people to behave as decent members in society, the postconventional schema has been regarded as critical for progressive citizenship. It involves four elements: 1) the primacy of moral criteria in formulating and understanding laws and norms, 2) the appeal to the moral ideal of how the society should be ordered, 3) shared moral ideals open to critique with the larger community, and 4) full reciprocity of laws and norms guaranteeing rights across all groups within the society. The postconventional reasoner understands that laws and norms are human constructions, and when biased they need to be changed. In addition to dominant justice-based political philosophies, such as neo-liberalism or welfare state ideology, the individual can pursue any moral philosophy which does not violate anybody’s rights. Rest et al. (1999) emphasise that not all current ideologies meet the criterion of full reciprocity and may therefore be biased against some social groups or minorities.

As the neo-Kohlbergian approach sees the shift to postconventional schema as an essential factor in social progress, upbringing and education should support this transition. Education with enhanced cognitive stimulation and role-taking opportunities supports growth in moral reasoning up to the maintaining norms schema, but the attainment of the postconventional schema seems to require qualified higher education or heightened social responsibilities in adult life (Kohlberg, 1984; Rest et al., 1999). Educational institutions should provide supportive learning environments for students to engage in thought provoking debates about moral issues, and ethics should be an explicit content in curricula (Mayhew & King, 2008). With regard to pedagogical interventions, discussions of dilemmas accompanied with reflection (Bebeau, 2002), as well as volunteer and service activities (Lies, Bock, Brandenber-ger, & Trozzolo, 2012) have been found to be effective in accelerating moral reasoning. In professional education, ethical decision-making should be linked to rehearsing, besides moral reasoning, other components of ethical action as well, including sensitivity to ethical issues in ambiguous situations, prioritising moral values over egoistic values, and implementation skills (Bebeau, 2002).

As mentioned above, the postconventional schema is not supposed to be associated with any specific ideology. Nevertheless, a set of values, called universalism values in Shalom Schwartz’s (2016) widely used taxonomy, predict advances in moral judgment (Helkama & Sortheix, 2015; Myyry, Juujarvi, & Pesso, 2013). These values include equality, social justice, world peace, broadmindedness, and wisdom and they aim to promote welfare of all people and nature (Schwartz, 2016) (see Chapter 2). Cultivating these values in institutions and communities would therefore enhance a propensity for advanced moral reasoning. It has furthermore been found that postconventional reasoning varies as a function of the power distance in the culture (Helkama & Sortheix, 2015). In high power distance cultures, people lower in hierarchy think it is natural and desirable that power is distributed unequally (Hofstede, 2001). In egalitarian social systems, value conflicts are legitimate and part of public life, and therefore citizens’ autonomous moral problem solving is encouraged, whereas in non-egalitarian systems authorities may dictate not only how to behave but also how to think. In pluralistic democratic societies, there are also religious or political communities built on unequal power and endorsed with partisan or orthodox ideologies, inhibiting moral progress beyond the maintaining norms schema (Rest et al., 1999). Therefore, fostering advanced moral reasoning at the society level is a complex question.

Care and justice as different modes of moral reasoning

While the discussion around the ethic of care has several roots in philosophy, its conceptualisation as a mode of moral thought can be traced to Gilligan’s (1982) studies on women’s moral conflicts in everyday life. Those conflicts concerned care and responsibilities in relationships, and minimally focused on issues of individuals’ rights and duties dominant in Kohlberg’s theory. As a consequence, Gilligan claimed that because Kohlberg’s theory of moral development was originally derived from a sample comprising of only boys and men, it would be biased against girls and women. As a conclusion, there would be two different moralities, the ethic of justice, more typical of men, and the ethic of care, more typical of women.

Gilligan (1982) specified that the ethics of care and justice represent different modes of moral reasoning that perceive, interpret, and solve moral problems in different ways. The ethic of justice sees a moral conflict as conflicting claims arising from rights and duties between individuals, whereas the ethic of care sees them arising from disturbances and ruptures in relationships. In solving moral conflicts, the ethic of justice seeks to maintain obligation, equity, and fairness through the application of moral principles, rules, and established standards, whereas the ethic of care seeks to sustain and restore good relationships through responding to the needs of others (Gilligan, 1982; Juujarvi, 2006). The ethic of care thus represents particularistic moral reasoning and the ethic of justice univer-salistic moral reasoning. Justice reasoning aims to find a generalisable solution that can be applied to similar cases, whereas care reasoning builds on the description of a concrete situation as fully as possible, individuals retaining their particular identities bound by time and place (Blum, 1988; Vreeke, 1991). The two ways of moral judgment have distinctive qualities and therefore cannot be replaced with each other, for instance in helping situations:

You find yourself in difficulties and someone helps you. Subsequently this person informs you that he would have helped anyone who was in a similar situation. Even though you don’t know the person in question, an effect of estrangement would still be produced from such a motivation of action.

(Vreeke, 1991, p. 39)

Gilligan viewed care and justice as internal dispositions, women framing moral issues in terms of care and men in terms of justice across different contexts. Lyons (1983), a student of hers, developed a coding scheme for the content analysis of moral dilemmas. It yielded participants’ preferences for care and justice considerations, called moral orientations. The substantial body of research since then has supported the idea of distinctive moral frameworks, but their usage has been found to be determined by the content of the moral conflict, rather than gender (Jaffee & Hyde, 2000). Both women and men tend to use care considerations when orienting to prosocial issues, such as helping or responding to others’ needs, and justice considerations when orienting to issues of upholding or breaking nonns, rules, or law. Complex moral dilemmas involving conflicting claims between different parties tend to invoke both care and justice reasoning among both genders (Juujarvi, 2005; Wark & Krebs, 1996). According to recent neuropsychological research, care and justice issues activate differing processes in the brain. Care reasoning is characterised by balancing empathic response and information processing related to self-knowledge, whereas justice reasoning is driven by activating self-perspective, rule-based learning, and emotional regulation (Caceda, James, Ely, Snarey, & Kilts, 2011).

While Gilligan’s idea of the existence of two distinct modes of moral thought is empirically established, her most famous claim that Kohlberg’s theory favours men has been refuted. Extensive meta-analyses have shown that when education and job status are controlled, women perform equally well or even better than men in just-ice-based moral judgment (Thoma, 1986; Walker, 1991). Kohlberg (1984) nevertheless admitted that his approach did not fully reflect the morality of “special relationships and obligations” and consequently reformulated his theory to describe “a rational reconstruction of the ontogenesis of justice reasoning,” leaving it to Gilligan to prove whether there is a care track as well in moral development.

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