Carol Gilligan On Moral Development Essay

1957 words - 8 pages

Carol Gilligan on Moral Development
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Carol Gilligan (1982) sparked a heated academic debate with her popular book In a different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women's Development. In this book Gilligan departs from the traditional sequential stage modals advocated by luminary psychologists such as Piaget (1925) and Kohlberg (1969) and develops her own moral orientation model. Gilligan criticises these theories as she claims they are insensitive to females 'different voice' on morality and therefore result in women achieving lower stages, thereby labelling them morally inferior to men.

Gilligan (1982; also see Langdale' 1986; Lyons, 1983; and Noddings, 1984) proposed that male and females hold different life orientations, with particular emphasis on their moral belief structure. According to Walker et al., (1987) a moral orientation 'represents a conceptually distinctive framework or perspective for organising and understanding the moral domain' (p.844). Gilligan's moral orientation model states that males typically have a justice/rights orientation and females have a care/response orientation. For the purposes of this study a justice/rights orientation and a care/response orientation is operationalised according to the definitions utilised in Brown et al's. (1990) Reading Narratives of Conflict and Choice for Self and Moral Voices: A Relational Method. A care voice is defined by Brown et al. (1990) as describing 'relationships in term s of attachment/detachment, connection or disconnection.' (p.30.). A justice voice is defined as describing ' relationships in terms of inequality/equality, reciprocity or lack of respect' (p.30.).

Gilligan believes that males typically have a justice/rights orientation because of their individualistic and separate conception of the self, their detached objectivity, their basing of identity on occupation and their tendency to gravitate towards applying abstract and impartial principles to situations. Therefore in her theory she claims that males view morality as involving issues of conflicting rights. The other side of Gilligan's dichotomy believes that females have a typically care/response orientation because of their perception of the self as connected to and interdependent with others, their basing of identity on close personal relationships, their sensitivity not to endanger or hurt, their concern for welfare and care of others and for harmonious relationships in concrete situations. Thus, Gilligan believes that females view morality as involving issues of conflicting responsibilities. (Walker, 1990).

Table 1. presents an example of both a justice and a care orientation. The examples are adapted form Gilligan and Anttanucci's, (1990) article entitled Two Moral Orientations. These examples are drawn from discussions of real life moral dilemmas. In 1J a peer pressure dilemma is presented in terms of how to maintain one's moral standards and withstand pressure from...

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