Jake and Amy-Ethics 301

Jake and Amy-Ethics 301 - 2 Images of Relationship N 1914,...

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Unformatted text preview: 2 Images of Relationship N 1914, with his essay “0n Narcissism,” Freud swallows his distaste at the thought of “abandoning observation for bar- ren theoretical controversy” and extends his map of the psy- chological domain. Tracing the development of the capacity to love, which he equates with maturity and psychic health, he locates its origins in the contrast between love for the mother and love for the self. But in thus dividing the world of love into narcissism and “object” relationships, he finds that while men’s deve10pment becomes clearer, women’s becomes increasingly opaque. The problem arises because the contrast between mother and self yields two different images of relationships. Relying on the imagery of men’s lives in charting the course of human growth, Freud is unable to trace in women the development of relation- ships, morality, or a clear sense of self. This difficulty in fitting the logic of his theory to women’s experience leads him in the end to set women apart, marking their relationships, like their sexual life, as “a ‘dark continent’ for psychology” (1926, p. 212). Thus the problem of interpretation that shadows the under- standing of women’s development arises from the differences ob- served in their experience of relationships. To Freud, though living surrounded by women and otherwise seeing so much and so well, women’s relationships seemed increasingly mysterious, difficult to discern, and hard to describe. While this mystery indicates how theory can blind observation, it also suggests that development in Images of Relationship 25 women is masked by a particular conception of human relation- ships. Since the imagery of relationships shapes the narrative of human development, the inclusion of women, by changing that im- agery, implies a change in the entire account. The shift in imagery that creates the problem in interpreting women’s development is elucidated by the moral judgments of two eleven-year-old children, a boy and a girl, who see, in the same di- lemma, two very different moral problems. While current theory brightly illuminates the line and the logic of the boy’s thought, it casts scant light on that of the girl. The choice of a girl whose moral judgments elude existing categories of deve10pmenta1 assess- ment is meant to highlight the issue of interpretation rather than to exemplify sex differences per se. Adding a new line of interpreta- tion, based on the imagery of the girl’s thought, makes it possible not only to see development where previously development was not discerned but also to consider differences in the understanding of relationships without scaling these differences from better to worse. The two children were in the same sixth-grade class at school and were participants in the rights and responsibilities study, de- signed to explore diflerent conceptions of morality and self. The sample selected for this study was chosen to focus the variables of gender and age while maximizing developmental potential by hold- ing constant, at a high level, the factors of intelligence, education, and social class that have been associated with moral development, at least as measured by existing scales. The two children in ques- tion, Amy and Jake, were both bright and articulate and, at least in their eleven-year-old aspirations, resisted easy categories of sex-role stereotyping, since Amy aspired to become a scientist while Jake preferred English to math. Yet their moral judgments seem ini- tially to confirm familiar notions about differences between the sexes, suggesting that the edge girls have on moral development during the early School years gives way at puberty with the ascend- ance of formal logical thought in boys. The dilemma that these eleven-year—olds were asked to resolve was one in the series devised by Kohlberg to measure moral devel- opment in adolescence by presenting a conflict between moral norms and exploring the logic of its resolution. In this particular di- lemma, a man named Heinz considers whether or not to steal a drug which he cannot afford to buy in order to save the life of his wife. In the standard format of Kohlberg’s interviewing procedure, 26 In a Drfl‘erent Voice the description of the dilemma itself—Heinz’s predicament, the wife’s disease, the druggist’s refusal to lower his price—is followed by the question, “Should Heinz steal the drug?” The reasons for and against stealing are then explored through a series of questions that vary and extend the parameters of the dilemma in a way de- signed to reveal the underlying structure of moral thought. Jake, at eleven, is clear from the outset that Heinz should steal the drug. Constructing the dilemma. as Kohlberg did, as a conflict between the values of property and life, he discerns the logical pri— ority of life and uses that logic to justify his choice: For one thing, a human life is worth more than money, and if the druggist only makes $1,000, he is still going to live, but if Heinz doesn’t steal the drug, his wife is going to die. (Why is life worth more than money?) Because the druggist can get a thousand dollars later from rich people with cancer, but Heinz can‘t get his wife again. (Why not?) Because people are all dif— ferent and so you couldn‘t get Heinz’s wife again. Asked whether Heinz should steal 'the drug if he does not love his wife, Jake replies that he should, saying that not only is there “a difference between hating and killing,” but also, if Heinz were caught, “the judge would probably think it was the right thing to do." Asked about the fact that, in stealing, Heinz would be break- ing the law, he says that “the laws have mistakes, and you can‘t go writing up a law for everything that you can imagine.” Thus, while taking the law into account and recognizing its function in maintaining social order (the judge, Jake says, “should give Heinz the lightest possible sentence”), he also sees the law as man-made and therefore subject to error and change. Yet his judg- ment that Heinz should steal the drug, like his view of the law as having mistakes, rests on the assumption of agreement, a societal consensus around moral values that allows one to know and expect others to recognize what is “the right thing to do.” Fascinated by the power of logic, this eleven-year-old boy 10- cates truth in math, which, he says, is “the only thing that is totally logical.” Considering the moral dilemma to be “sort of like a math problem with humans," he sets it up as an equation and proceeds to work out the solution. Since his solution is rationally derived, he assumes that anyone following reason would arrive at the same Images of Relationship 27 conclusion and thus that a judge would also consider stealing to be the right thing for Heinz to do. Yet he is also aware of the limits of logic. Asked whether there is a right answer to moral problems, Jake replies that “there can only be right and wrong in judgment,” since the parameters of action are variable and complex. Illustrating how actions undertaken with the best of intentions can eventuate in the most disastrous of consequences, he says, “like if you give an old lady your seat on the trolley, if you are in a trolley crash and that seat goes through the window, it might be that reason that the old lady dies.” Theories of developmental psychology illuminate well the po- sition of this child, standing at the juncture of childhood and ado- lescence, at what Piaget describes as the pinnacle of childhood in- telligence, and beginning through thought to discover a wider universe of possibility. The moment of preadolesccnce is caught by the conjunction of formal operational thought with a description of self still anchored in the factual parameters of his childhood world—-his age, his town, his father's occupation, the substance of his likes, dislikes, and beliefs. Yet as his self-description radiates the self-confidence of a child who has arrived, in Erikson’s terms, at a favorable balance of industry over inferiority—competent, sure of himself, and knowing well the rules of the game—so his emergent capacity for formal thought, his ability to think about thinking and to reason things out in a logical way, frees him from dependence on authority and allows him to find solutions to problems by himself. This emergent autonomy follows the trajectory that Kohl- berg’s six stages of moral development trace, a three-level progression from an egocentric understanding of fairness based on individual need (stages one and two), to a conception of fairness anchored in the shared conventions of societal agreement (stages three and four), and finally to a principled understanding of fair- ness that rests on the free-standing logic of equality and reciprocity (Stages five and six). While this boy’s judgments at eleven are scored as conventional on Kohlberg’s scale, a mixture of stages three and four, his ability to bring deductive logic to bear on the solution of moral dilemmas, to differentiate morality from law, and to see how laws can be considered to have mistakes points toward the principled conception of justice that Kohlberg equates with moral maturity. In contrast, Amy’s response to the dilemma conveys a very 28 In a Drfierent Voice different impression, an image of development stunted by a failure of logic, an inability to think for herself. Asked if Heinz should steal the drug, she replies in a way that seems evasive and unsure: Well, I don’t think so. I think there might be other ways be- sides stealing it, like if he could borrow the money or make a loan or something, but he really shouldn’t steal the drug—abut his wife shouldn’t die either. Asked why he should not steal the drug, she considers neither prop- erty nor law but rather the efl'ect that theft could have on the rela- tionship between Heinz and his wife: If he stole the drug, he might save his wife then, but if he did, he might have to go to jail, and then his wife might get sicker again, and he couldn’t get more of the drug, and it might not be good. So, they should really just talk it out and find some other way to make the money. Seeing in the dilemma not a math problem with humans but a narrative of relationships that extends over time, Amy envisions the wife’s continuing need for her husband and the husband’s continu- ing concern for his wife and seeks to respond to the druggist’s need in a way that would sustain rather than sever connection. Just as she ties the wife’s survival to the preservation of relationships, so she considers the value of the wife’s life in a context of relation- ships, saying that it would be wrong to let her die because, “if she died, it hurts a lot of people and it hurts her.” Since Amy’s moral judgment is grounded in the belief that, “if somebody has some- thing that would keep somebody alive, then it’s not right not to give it to them,” she considers the problem in the dilemma to arise not from the druggist's assertion of rights but from his failure of re- sponse. As the interviewer proceeds with the series of questions that follow from Kohlberg’s construction of the dilemma, Amy’s an- swers remain essentially unchanged, the various probes serving nei- ther to elucidate nor to modify her initial response. Whether or not Heinz loves his wife, he still shouldn’t steal or let her die; if it were a stranger dying instead, Amy says that “if the stranger didn’t have anybody near or anyone she knew,” then Heinz should try to save her life, but he should not steal the drug. But as the interviewer Images of Relationship 29 conveys through the repetition of questions that the answers she gave were not heard or not right, Amy’s confidence begins to di— minish, and her replies become more constrained and unsure. Asked again why Heinz should not steal the drug, she simply re— peats, “Because it’s not right.” Asked again to explain why, she states again that theft would not be a good solution, adding lamely, “if he took it, he might not know how to give it to his wife, and so his wife might still die.” Failing to see the dilemma as a self- contained problem in moral logic, she does not discern the internal structure of its resolution; as she constructs the problem difl‘erently herself, Kohlberg’s conception completely evades her. Instead, seeing a world comprised of relationships rather than of people standing alone, a world that coheres through human con- nection rather than through systems of rules, she finds the puzzle in the dilemma to lie in the failure of the druggist to respond to the wife. Saying that “it is not right for someone to die when their life could be saved,” she assumes that if the druggist were to see the consequences of his refusal to lower his price, he would realize that “he should just give it to the wife and then have the husband pay back the money later.” Thus she considers the solution to the di- lemma to lie in making the wife’s condition more salient to the druggist or, that failing, in appealing to others who are in a position to help. Just as Jake is confident the judge would agree that stealing is the right thing for Heinz to do, so Amy is confident that, “if Heinz and the druggest had talked it out long enough, they could reach something besides stealing.” As he considers the law to “have mis- takes,” so she sees this drama as a mistake, believing that “the world should just share things more and then people wouldn’t have to steal.” Both children thus recognize the need for agreement but see it as mediated in different ways—he impersonally through sys- tems of logic and law, she personally through communication in re- lationship. Just as he relies on the conventions of logic to deduce the solution to this dilemma, assuming these conventions to be shared, so she relies on a process of communication, assuming con- nection and believing that her voice will be heard. Yet while his as- sumptions about agreement are confirmed by the convergence in logic between his answers and the questions posed, her assumptions are belied by the failure of communication, the interviewer’s inabil- ity to understand her response. Although the frustration of the interview with Amy is ap- .;:_. a, 3-52.; “cos-eatmmmz. 4‘ : = r:--=. ww‘ aust'P—Wafirs‘, 30 In a Difi‘erent Voice parent in the repetition of questions and its ultimate circularity, the problem of interpretation is focused by the assessment of her re- sponse. When considered in the light of Kohlberg’s definition of'the stages and sequence of moral development, her moral judgments appear to be a full stage lower in maturity than those of the boy. Scored as a mixture of stages two and three, her responses seem to reveal a feeling of powerlessness in the world, an inability to think systematically about the concepts of morality or law, a reluctance to challenge authority or to examine the logic of received moral truths, a failure even to conceive of acting directly to save a life or to consider that such action, if taken, could possibly have an effect. As her reliance on relationships seems to reveal a continuing de- pendence and vulnerability, so her belief in communication as the mode through which to resolve moral dilemmas appears naive and cognitively immature. Yet Amy’s description of herself conveys a markedly different impression. Once again, the hallmarks of the preadolescent child depict a child secure in her sense of herself, confident in the sub- stance of her beliefs, and sure of her ability to do something of value in the world. Describing herself at eleven as “growing and changing,” she says that she “sees some things differently now, just because I know myself really well now, and I know a lot more about the world.” Yet the world she knows is a different world from that refracted by Kohlberg’s construction of Heinz’s dilemma. Her world is a world of relationships and psychological truths where an awareness of the connection between pe0ple gives rise to a recognition of responsibility for one another, a perception of the need for response. Seen in this light, her understanding of morality as arising from the recognition of relationship, her belief in com- munication as the mode of conflict resolution, and her conviction that the solution to the dilemma will follow from its compelling representation seem far from naive or cognitively immature. In- stead, Amy’s judgments contain the insights central to an ethic of care, just as lake’s judgments reflect the logic of the justice ap- proach. Her incipient awareness of the “method of truth,” the cen- tral tenet of nonviolent conflict resolution, and her belief in the re- storative activity of care, lead her to see the actors in the dilemma arrayed not as opponents in a contest of rights but as members of a network of relationships on whose continuation they all depend. Consequently her solution to the dilemma lies in activating the net- Images of Relationship 31 work by communication, securing the inclusion of the wife by strengthening rather than severing connections. But the different logic of Amy’s response calls attention to the interpretation of the interview itself. Conceived as an interrogation, it appears instead as a dialogue, which takes on moral dimensions of its own, pertaining to the interviewer’s uses of power and to the manifestations of respect. With this shift in the conception of the interview, it immediately becomes clear that the interviewer’s prob- lem in understanding Amy's response stems from the fact that Amy is answering a different question from the one the interviewer thought had been posed. Amy is considering not whether Heinz should act in this situation (“should Heinz steal the drug”) but rather how Heinz should act in re5ponse to his awareness of his wife’s need (“Should Heinz steal the drug?”). The interviewer takes the mode of action for granted, presuming it to be a matter of fact; Amy assumes the necessity for action and considers what form it should take. In the interviewer’s failure to imagine a response not dreamt of in Kohlberg‘s moral philosophy lies the failure to hear Amy’s question and to see the logic in her response, to discern that what appears, from one perspective, to be an evasion of the di- lemma signifies in other terms a recognition of the problem and a search for a more adequate solution. Thus in Heinz’s dilemma these two children see two very dif- ferent moral problems—Jake a conflict between life and property that can be resolved by logical deduction, Amy a fracture of human relationship that must be mended with its own thread. Asking dif- ferent questions that arise from different conceptions of the moral domain, the children arrive at answers that fundamentally diverge, and the arrangement of these answers as successive. stages on a scale of increasing moral maturity calibrated by the logic of the boy’s response misses the difl‘erent truth revealed in the judgment of the girl. To the question, “What does he see that she does not?” ,Kohlberg’s theory provides a ready response, manifest in the scor- ing of Jake’s judgments a full stage higher than Amy’s in moral maturity; to the question, “What does she see that he does not?” Kohlberg’s theory has nothing to say. Since most of her responses fall through the sieve of Kohlberg’s scoring system, her responses appear from his perspective to lie outside the moral domain. Yet just as Jake reveals a sophisticated understanding of the logic of justification, so Amy is equally sophisticated in her under- c-‘i-asa-fim ;;s:—.;M”"""~u~_5.,-—:e: ' "—‘f' I ""4 tea-52%} 32 In a Dgfl'erent Voice standing of the nature of choice. Recognizing that “if both the roads went in totally separate ways, if you pick one, you’ll never know what would happen if you went the other way,” she explains that “that’s the chance you have to take, and like I said, it’s just really a guess.” To illustrate her point “in a simple way," she de- scribes her choice to spend the summer at camp: I will never know what would have happened if I had stayed here, and if something goes wrong at camp, I'll never know if I stayed here if it would have been better. There’s really no way around it because there’s no way you can do both at once. so you’ve got to decide, but you‘ll never know. In this way, these two eleven-year-old children, both highly intelligent and perceptive about life, though in different ways, dis- play different modes of moral understanding. different ways of thinking about conflict and choice. In resolving Heinz‘s dilemma, Jake relies on theft to avoid confrontation and turns to the law to mediate the dispute. Transposing a hierarchy of power into a hier- archy of values, he defuses a potentially explosive conflict between people by casting it as an impersonal conflict of claims. In this way, he abstracts the moral problem from the interpersonal situation, finding in the logic of fairness an objective way to decide who will win the dispute. But this hierarchical ordering, with its imagery of winning and losing and the potential for violence which it contains, gives way in Amy’s construction of the dilemma to a network of connection, a web of relationships that is sustained by a process of communication. With this shift, the moral problem changes from one of unfair domination, the imposition of property over life, to one of unnecessary exclusion, the failure 'of the druggist to respond to the wife. This shift in the formulation of the moral problem and the concomitant change in the imagery of relationships appear in the responses of two eight-year-old children. Jeffrey and Karen, asked to describe a situation in which they were not sure what was the right thing to do: Jefl’rey Karen When I really want to go to my I have a lot of friends, and I friends and my mother is clean- can’t always play with all of ing the cellar, I think about my them, so everybody’s going to Images of Relationship 33 Jqfrey (cont) Karen (cont) friends, and then I think about have to take a turn, because my mother, and then I think they’re all my friends. But like _ about the right thing to do. if someone’s all alone, I’ll play (But how do you know it's the with them. (What kinds of right thing to do?) Because things do you think about when some things go before other you are trying to make that deci- things. sion?) Urn, someone all alone, loneliness. While Jefl‘rey sets up a hierarchical ordering to resolve a conflict between desire and duty, Karen describes a network of relation- ships that includes all of her friends. Both children deal with the issues of exclusion and priority created by choice, but while Jefl'rey thinks about what gees first, Karen focuses on who is left out. The contrasting images of hierarchy and network in children’s thinking about moral conflict and choice illuminate two views of morality which are complementary rather than sequential or op- posed. But this construction of differences goes against the bias of developmental theory toward ordering differences in a hierarchical mode. The correspondence between the order of developmental theory and the structure of the boys’ thought contrasts with the dis- parity between existing theory and the structure manifest in the thought of the girls. Yet in neither comparison does one child’s judgment appear as a precursor of the other’s position. Thus, ques- tions arise concerning the relation between these perspectives: what is the significance of this difl‘erence, and how do these two modes of thinking connect? These questions are elucidated by considering the relationship between the eleven-year—old children’s understanding of morality and their descriptions of themselves: Jake Amy (How would you describe yourself to yourself?) Perfect. That’s my conceited You mean my character? (What side. What do you want—any do you think?) Well, I don't way that I choose to describe know. I'd describe myself as, myself? well, what do you mean? (If you had to describe the person you are in a way that you yoursle would know it was you, what would you say?) Id start ofl‘ with eleven years Well, I’d say that I was some- old. Jake [last name]. I’d have one who likes school and study- .... u=rgm1wffivzinam :_. - ...
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Jake and Amy-Ethics 301 - 2 Images of Relationship N 1914,...

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