Levels of Moral Development *

he following quotes are examples of five levels of personal development that are typical of the ways personal and professional decisions are made.

You will note that as you move through the five levels the degree or level of moral development increases.  The fifth level is considered the most highly developed. 

1. Self-Interest

  • "I primarily look out for myself and my own interests."
  • "If people get misled, it's their own fault, they should be smart enough to avoid it." 
  • "The popular media are designed to make money. Their positive or negative impact on people is beside the point and not something I need to worry about."

2. If It's Legal It's Ethical

  • "First and foremost, people must serve the interests of the corporations they work for.  They pay their salaries, so, assuming no laws are being broken, employees should not waste time trying to decide if what they are asked to do is right or wrong."
  • "I have no moral responsibility for the consequences of totally legal behaviors, even if I feel that those consequences are bad for society."
  • "I have a right to try to convince people of any viewpoint I wish to legally promote.  If others take exception, then it's up to them to try to promote a different view."

3. Ethical Behavior Serves

Mutual Self-Interests

  • "Ethical behaviors are desirable because they are good for business."
  • "Not only does ethical behavior serve everyone's best interests, it's desirable because it discourages government intervention."

4. Social Responsibility

  • "Corporations and individuals have a moral responsibility to enhance and promote the well-being of society."

  • "Just because it's legal doesn't mean that it's best for society. We must focus on our responsibilities rather than our rights."
  • "We are all in this world together, and what hurts some individuals ultimately hurts us all."

  • "We often have to make personal sacrifices to benefit others."

5. Promotion of the General Welfare

  • "We should actively promote a type of society that we, ourselves, would prefer to live in. Among other things, this entails enhancing and dignifying the decency and positive potential in others."
  • "We feel a responsibility to respect and protect life in all its forms, including the world's ecosystems."
  • "We should judiciously and sensibly promote what we feel is right, even when we encounter personal or corporate resistance."

Considering all of this, as we move through our lives we can ask ourselves this simple question:

Does what we produce help solve, or in some way contribute to the problems in our society?

* Some concepts in this article are based on the ideas of Sherry Baker, Brigham Young University.

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