What motivates our decisions? Pleasure/pain; authority; social contracts; or some kind of internal judgement mechanism? Kohlberg identified the development of moral maturity as having six stages within three levels.

The pre-conventional level involves punishment and pleasure-seeking orientation enforced by authority and observed mostly in early childhood.

At the conventional level is where most of society resides with a good girl/boy and authority orientation stages, behaviour is guided by a desire to please others, obey the law and gain approval of higher authorities.

The post-conventional level involves social-contract orientation and morality of individual principles, whereby decisions are controlled internally going beyond self-interest and law to be based on rational thought, justice, dignity, and equality.[1]

From my research i found that the behaviour of religious fundamentalists commonly resides at the pre-conventional and conventional level – they are often deeply motivated by the desire to avoid the punishment of hell and be rewarded with glories in heaven – as well a default nature to obey and believe what those with authority say.

Often an externalization of morals creates a battle in one’s mind: of good versus evil and obedience versus temptation – which often abstracts and distorts the actual dilemmas and issue being faced.

I wonder if this is what causes moral abominations, like the reverends who rape young boys in the Catholic church? What effect does this have on society that does  not murder “because the Bible tells them not to” rather than because it’s a horrible thing to do to another human being? I think externalisation of morals would cause much fear and confusion for many individuals who do not really know why they value and do the things they do.

In order to move toward a state of peace with justice, I think humanity must rise beyond self-interest and move toward post-conventional levels of morality based on rational thought and dignity.

How exactly we can collectively evolve toward this morality, I’m not quite sure…

Picture credit:

Simon Howden on free Digital Photos – Simon’s portfolio is available here –

I’m so taking my camera out this weekend 😛

[1] Ibid., pp. 146-7. Lawrence Kohlberg was a Harvard University professor authored landmark work on moral development.