• Stage 5 -- Social contract orientation - The world is viewed as holding different opinions, rights and values. Such perspectives should be mutually respected as unique to each person or community. Laws are regarded as social contracts rather than rigid dictums. Those which do not promote the general welfare should be changed when necessary to meet " the greatest good for the greatest number of people ". This is achieved through majority decision, and inevitable compromise. Democratic government is ostensibly based on stage five reasoning . • Stage 6 -- Universal ethical principles ( Principled conscience ) - Moral reasoning is based on abstract reasoning using universal ethical principles. Laws are valid only insofar as they are grounded in justice, and a commitment to justice carries with it an obligation to disobey unjust laws. Rights are unnecessary, as social contracts are not essential for deontic moral action. Decisions are not reached hypothetically in a conditional way but rather categorically in an absolute way, as in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant . This involves an individual imagining what they would do in another's shoes, if they believed what that other person imagines to be true. The resulting consensus is the action taken. In this way action is never a means but always an end in itself; the individual acts because it is right, and not because it is instrumental, expected, legal, or previously agreed upon. Although Kohlberg insisted that stage six exists, he found it difficult to identify individuals who consistently operated at that level. Further stages In Kohlberg's empirical studies of individuals throughout their life Kohlberg observed that some had apparently undergone moral stage regression. This could be resolved either by allowing for moral regression or by extending the theory. Kohlberg chose the latter, postulating the existence of sub-stages in which the emerging stage has not yet been fully integrated into the personality. In particular Kohlberg noted a stage 4½ or 4+, a transition from stage four to stage five that shared characteristics of both. In this stage the individual is disaffected with the arbitrary nature of law and order reasoning; culpability is frequently turned from being defined by society to viewing society itself as culpable. This stage is often mistaken for the moral relativism of stage two, as the individual views those interests of society which conflict with their own as being relatively and morally wrong. Kohlberg noted that this was often observed in students entering college. Kohlberg suggested that there may be a seventh stage—Transcendental Morality, or Morality of Cosmic Orientation— which linked religion with moral reasoning. Kohlberg's difficulties in obtaining empirical evidence for even a sixth stage, however, led him to emphasize the speculative nature of his seventh stage.
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