Psychology Dictionary of Arguments

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Lawrence Kohlberg on Honesty - Dictionary of Arguments

Slater I 168
Honesty/Kohlberg: Kohlberg addressed questions of honesty in his dilemmas and saw it as central to moral reasoning, which is consistent with a tradition within philosophy of declaring that lying is morally reprehensible because of its potential to cause injustice and harm to others. Although honesty is an important component of morality, the relation between the two is not always straightforward (Turiel, 2008)(1), and there are situations in which honesty comes into conflict with other moral values. Philosophers have often considered extreme cases in which the values of honesty and benevolence come into conflict such as when deciding whether to tell a murderer about a potential victim’s whereabouts.
Psychological Theories: Psychologists have tended to focus on the role of such dilemmas in everyday life, often in relation to “white lie” or “politeness” contexts. In a typical white lie context, an individual is given an undesirable gift and is asked if he or she likes it (Cole, 1986(2); Saarni, 1984(3)). The recipient must decide whether to tell the truth and risk hurting the feelings of the gift-giver, or lie to make the gift-giver happy. Children’s reasoning about such conflicts speaks to philosophical debates about the acceptability of telling a lie when the motive is prosocial (see Bok, 1978)(4).


1. Turiel, E. (2008). The development of children’s orientations toward moral, social, and personal orders: More than a sequence in development. Human Development, 51, 21—39.
2. Cole, P. M. (1986). Children’s spontaneous control of facial expression. Child Development, 57, 1309—
1321.
3. Saarni, C. (1984). An observational study of children’s attempts to monitor their expressive behavior. Child Development, 55, 1504—1513.
4. Bok, S. (1978). Lying: Moral choice in public and private life. New York: Random House.


Gail D. Heyman and Kang Lee, “Moral Development. Revisiting Kohlberg’s Stages“, in: Alan M. Slater and Paul C. Quinn (eds.) 2012. Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies. London: Sage Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Concept/Author], [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] resp. "problem:"/"solution:", "old:"/"new:" and "thesis:" is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

Kohlb I
Lawrence Kohlberg
The Philosophy of Moral Development: Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice New York 1981

Slater I
Alan M. Slater
Paul C. Quinn
Developmental Psychology. Revisiting the Classic Studies London 2012


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