Answer to Question #170727 in Philosophy for Nathanael Prempeh

Question #170727

Evaluate how an individual in each of Kohlberg's three levels of moral development would respond to the following moral dilemma and why:

A train with broken brakes is speeding towards a fork in the tracks. On the left, there is a woman crossing with her two children; on the right, there is a man doing routine maintenance on the tracks. The engineer must decide which side to aim the speeding train towards.

Expert's answer


According to Kohlberg, there are three stages of moral development, and each stage is divided into two. These stages play a significant role in cognitive development. These stages further indicate that as an individual grows, their mental state also develops, which affects how they make decisions. The analysis of Kohlberg’s stages of moral development, therefore, helps to overcome dilemmas and aim at producing the best results or making a decision that minimizes the damage. One of the stages is preconventional. In this stage, a child is still young, and it can last up to nine years; the child does not know what is right or wrong. It is divided into obedience and punishment, where a child does well so that they cannot be punished. The other sub-stage is individualism and exchange, where a child starts o recognize that people are different. In this case, the engineer must think of the most moral decision and act upon it.

The next stage is conventional, where an individual internalizes what is morally acceptable and unacceptable. At this stage, an individual can form good relationships with others and also maintain some level of social order. The engineer must think about what the law says and the most favorable decision. According to Kathes (2019), the engineer must first take time to think before making a rush decision in such a scenario.

The post-conventional stage is the last stage whereby an individual is aware of the importance of the greater good. As much as the law is to be considered, life is always more important. At this stage, the engineer is well aware of the individual rights but at the same time has universal principles in mind. Generally, the engineer knows that the woman with two children is three lives and the man doing maintenance is just one life. The engineer must think in terms of the greater good and choose the woman with three children.

According to Kohlberg, as an individual develops both mentally and psychologically, they have the ability to make the right decision based on the best results. If the engineer is to choose the woman and her children, three lives will be lost as compared to one. The theory provides that as an individual develops, they have the ability to choose between what’s right or wrong. And at the same time, they have the ability to either pick the law or not. These aspects are quite important and are used to determine the best possible result when faced with a dilemma, (Mathes 2019).

In conclusion, dilemmas occur every day, both at the workplace and in personal life. However, it is imperative to pick the best option and one that will produce the best results. There is a chance that the choice of the engineer will affect people and choosing one life over the other is quite a dilemma. However, the choice of the engineer would be one that minimizes the damage. As an individual grows, they start to be aware of their environment and they begin to appreciate things around them. They also get the ability to make the right decisions.


Mathes, E. W. (2019). An evolutionary perspective on Kohlberg’s theory of moral development. Current Psychology, 1-14.

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