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Lawrence Kohlberg (October 25, 1927 - January 19, 1987) was born in Bronxville, New York. He served as a professor at the University of Chicago as well as Harvard University. He is famous for his work in moral education, reasoning, and development. A close follower of Jean Piaget's theory of cognitive development, Kohlberg's work reflected and extended his predecessor's ideas, at the same time creating a new field within psychology: "moral development". Scholars such as Carol Gilligan, Elliot Turiel and James Rest have responded to Kohlberg's work with their own significant contributions.

In an empirical study by Haggbloom et al. using six criteria, such as citations and recognition, Kohlberg was found to be the 30th most eminent psychologist of the 20th Century.[1]

BackgroundEdit

Lawrence Kohlberg grew up in a wealthy family and attended Phillips Academy, a private and renowned high school. During World War II, after finishing his high school education, he enlisted and became an engineer on a carrier ship. On that ship he and his shipmates decided to aid Jews attempting to escape from Europe to Palestine. They accomplished this by smuggling them in banana crates that were secretly beds, fooling government inspectors that formed the British blockade to the region.

Educational recordEdit

After his service in the war he applied to the University of Chicago in 1948. He tested extremely high on his entrance, and received his bachelor's degree in psychology in just one year. Kohlberg stayed in the University of Chicago for his graduate work, becoming fascinated with childrens' moral reasoning and the earlier works of Jean Piaget and others. He wrote his doctoral dissertation there in 1958, outlining what is now known as Kohlberg's stages of moral development.

TeachingEdit

Kohlberg then taught in 1962 at the University of Chicago in the Committee on Human Development, further extending his time with academia. In 1968, being 40 years old and married with two children, he became a professor of education and social psychology at Harvard University. This is also the year he befriended Carol Gilligan, a colleague and critic of his moral development stage theory.

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During a visit to Israel in 1969, Kohlberg journeyed to a kibbutz and was shocked to discover how much more the youths' moral development had progressed compared to those who were not part of kibbutzim. Jarred by what he saw, he decided to rethink his current research and start by beginning a new school called the Cluster School within Cambridge Rindge and LatinHigh School. The Cluster School ran as a 'just community' where students had a basic and trustworthy relationship with one another, using democracy to make all the school's decisions. Armed with this model he started similar 'just communities' in other schools and even one in a prison.

Stages of Moral DevelopmentEdit

Main article: Kohlberg's stages of moral development

In his 1958 dissertation, Kohlberg wrote what are now known as Kohlberg's stages of moral development.[2] These stages are planes of moral adequacy conceived to explain the development of moral reasoning. Created while studying psychology at the University of Chicago, the theory was inspired by the work of Jean Piaget and a fascination with children's reactions to moral dilemmas.[3]

His theory holds that moral reasoning,which is the basis for ethical behavior, has six identifiable developmental constructive stages - each more adequate at responding to moral dilemmas than the last.[4] In studying these, Kohlberg followed the development of moral judgment far beyond the ages originally studied earlier by Piaget,[5] who also claimed that logic and morality develop through constructive stages.[4] Expanding considerably upon this groundwork, it was determined that the process of moral development was principally concerned with justice and that its development continued throughout the lifespan,[2] even spawning dialogue of philosophical implications of such research.[6][7]

Kohlberg studied moral reasoning by presenting subjects with moral dilemmas. He would then categorize and classify the reasoning used in the responses, into one of six distinct stages, grouped into three levels: pre-conventional, conventional and post-conventional.[8][9][10] Each level contains two stages. These stages heavily influenced others and has been utilized by others like James Rest in making the Defining Issues Test in 1979.[11]


Kohlberg contracted a tropical disease in 1971 while doing cross-cultural work in Belize. As a result, he struggled with depression and physical pain for the following 16 years. On January 19, 1987, he got a day's leave from the Massachusetts hospital where he was being treated, drove to the coast, and committed suicide by drowning himself in the Atlantic Ocean. He was 59 years old.


See alsoEdit


NotesEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. Haggbloom, S.J. et al. (2002). The 100 Most Eminent Psychologists of the 20th Century. Review of General Psychology. Vol. 6, No. 2, 139–15. Haggbloom et al. combined three quantitative variables: citations in professional journals, citations in textbooks, and nominations in a survey given to members of the Association for Psychological Science, with three qualitative variables (converted to quantitative scores): National Academy of Science (NAS) membership, American Psychological Association (APA) President and/or recipient of the APA Distinguished Scientific Contributions Award, and surname used as an eponym. Then the list was rank ordered .
  2. 2.0 2.1 Kohlberg, Lawrence (1958). The Development of Modes of Thinking and Choices in Years 10 to 16. Ph. D. Dissertation, University of Chicago.
  3. Crain, William C. (1985). Theories of Development, 2Rev, Prentice-Hall.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Kohlberg, Lawrence (1973). The Claim to Moral Adequacy of a Highest Stage of Moral Judgment. Journal of Philosophy 70: 630–646.
  5. Piaget, Jean (1932). The Moral Judgment of the Child, London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner and Co..
  6. Kohlberg, Lawrence (1981). Essays on Moral Development, Vol. I: The Philosophy of Moral Development, San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row.
  7. Kohlberg, Lawrence; Charles Levine, Alexandra Hewer (1983). Moral stages : a current formulation and a response to critics, Basel, NY: Karger.
  8. Kohlberg, Lawrence (1971). From Is to Ought: How to Commit the Naturalistic Fallacy and Get Away with It in the Study of Moral Development, New York: Academic Press.
  9. Kohlberg, Lawrence; T. Lickona, ed. (1976). "Moral stages and moralization: The cognitive-developmental approach" Moral Development and Behavior: Theory, Research and Social Issues, Holt, NY: Rinehart and Winston.
  10. Colby, Anne; Kohlberg, L. (1987). The Measurement of Moral Judgment Vol. 2: Standard Issue Scoring Manual, Cambridge University Press.
  11. Rest, James (1979). Development in Judging Moral Issues, University of Minnesota Press.

PublicationsEdit

BooksEdit

  • Kohlberg, L. (1969) Stages in the Development of Moral Thought and Action, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.

Book ChaptersEdit

PapersEdit

External linksEdit

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