Note from Project Advisor: The following description of stages of moral development was created by the author after a four-week immersion experience in a small village in Yunnan Province. The author paid particular attention to people from the village for whom he had respect, and attempted to develop his own ideas about what he saw as the stages or levels of moral development present in the village.
There are various levels of moral development that people go through over the course of their lives. Whether changes between these stages occur due to aging or maturation is unclear, but there seems a general positive correlation between experience and levels of moral development. While there are the occasional children that are far more mature than the norm, as well as adults who are found to be immature for their age, on average, adults are more mature than children, and seniors more mature than adults. This is why people often look to their elders to seek advice and or comfort in times of uncertainty. Over the course of an individual's aging, they will pass through five stages of basic moral development. Thereafter, there are three paths of moral obligation and reasoning an individual will have to choose between in order to determine their life style.
Stage one: instinctive action
There is not much to be said about the first stage of moral development. An infant will have joined the world, and resorts to any temptations and urges it comes across. There is no thought process at this stage, simply doing whatever comes to mind.
Stage two: Self Loyalty
The stage in life where one is loyal to oneself is a stage that may reoccur constantly. Actions during this phase are caused by pure greed, with no regard for others. Certain individuals who tend to regard themselves as more important than those around them constantly revisit this phase.
Stage three: Familial Loyalty
Family is probably the most important concept within most people‚Äôs lives. Parents, siblings, and cousins are essentially the fundamental building blocks of an individual‚Äôs personality. Most individuals go through this stage between ages 4 and 7. While loyalty towards your family members remains, it comes to be lower on the list of priorities as the fourth stage approaches.
Stage four: Loyalty to friendship.
Friends and peers become the essential parts of life after entering any educational institute. Peers slowly become more important than parents after entering school. Once reaching teen years, these friends reach a climax, and friends eventually become first and foremost over everything. Over the course of life, friends will remain one of the top priorities, no matter what the situation.
Stage five: Passion
Once loyalty is outgrown, moral obligations turn to passions, driving people‚Äôs lives. Those who don‚Äôt find the passion in life eventually lead meaningless, shallow lives. Passion is often found shortly after independence from parents. Those who find passion in their lives, and let these passions define who they are, are the ones who shake the world, and leave a mark for the future to remember. Many people allow these passions to drive them until their dying day, or until that passion is somehow satiated. Often, people don‚Äôt find these passions in life, and lead relatively aimless lives until reaching the after stages of moral obligation.
After stage one: Continuing Passions
Passion can be seen as a positive force by most. However, if seen from a different angle, passion can be seen as negative. It diverts people from leading well-rounded lives, and can even lead to obsession. Once learning of the joys of having a passion, individuals can follow multiple passions, missions to live for, and fulfilling these until their dying day. While these people may live lives with no regrets, they are often lonely, never getting to experience many of life's finer points that are left in the details.
After stage two: Going back
Besides following whatever passion comes to mind, a large portion of the population prefer to go back to the first four stages of moral obligation, remaining loyal to their friends, family, and often self. While the majority of these people are referred to as the ‚Äúnormal‚Äù people, and are considered "non-world-changers." They still remain the happiest as individuals, and as a whole, among the three after-stages of moral obligation.
After stage three: Devotion
Probably the most rarely reached stage of moral reasoning and obligation is devotion. Devotion is a concept that can only be understood by rare individuals that come and go over the course of the years. The Dalai Lama, Hitler, Bill Gates, and many more are examples of devotion. Unlike passion, devotion requires laying your entire life down for a cause, and willing to die for it. Such commitment is often next to impossible for most, and those that manage to reach this stage of moral obligation are the ones that truly change the world, for better or for worse being their choice.