Phase 3: Interpreting Information

Updated 8 years 4 months ago

There haven't been too many widely accepted moral developement theories, and of those that are, Kohlberg's theory is at the very top. Besides that, Jean Piaget and Carol Gilligan 's two theories are the only two theories that have been taken in by the world.

Lawrence Kohlberg: Read about his theory here
Simple Breakdown: Kohlberg's theory states that people will reason about things differently, or act differently altogether as they start to mature in terms of their morals and moral reasoning. His theory is split into 6 phases.
1) Punishment avoidence- They believe that if something is given a punishment for being done, that something is "wrong."
2) Punishment avoidence- They believe that it is a bad idea because it is given punishment, but it isn't absolutely "wrong"
3) Good motives- They believe that something is right if the intentions behind the action are good.
4) Social order- People will do things in order to benifit Society as whole, and being a good citizen. Following the law is what is "right"
5) Social Contract and Rights- People don't want to break laws, but believe that if things like life and liberty are threatened, those are more important than the laws. 
6) Following morals and values- Following our own versions of "justice", and even going against the majority in order to follow our own rules. Examples include people like Martin Luther King, Hitler, Gandhi. 

Jean Piaget: Read about his theory here 
Simple Breakdown: His theory states that people develop awareness of the things around them at the age of 2, and continue to develope their sense of self until the age of 7. At 7, they start to develop rules and restrictions for the things they do around them, and at age 11, they are able to create hypotheses by drawing upon past experience

Carol Gilligan: Read about her theory here
Simple Breakdown: Her theory of moral development was made for women, in contrast to Kohlberg and Piaget's theories, which more mostly based on male subjects. She stated that women have stronger emotional feelings due to their dependence on their mother for later into their lives. Gilligan's theory is split into three sections. The first is switching over from selfish to responsible. The second is finding a place within a group of people (joining society), and finally, third stage is starting to understand the consequences for their own actions.  

Note: Among these three, Lawrence Kohlberg's theory is the one most widely accepted.

The Railway Track Dilemma (Watch Michael Sandel's "Justice" videos for more information)
Simple dreakdown: There's a train that can't stop, and if the train keeps going, it will kill 5 workers working on the tracks. Fortunetly, there's a way to stop the train with the death of one person, but that involves you deliberatly pushing him onto the tracks. What do you do? 

Robin Hood Dilemma: (Read here for more information)
Simple Breakdown: You catch a robber stealing from the bank to donate the money to an orphanage. If he doesn't get this money, the orphanage will have to close down. Do you turn the robber in, or turn a blind eye?

Cheating Dilemma
Simple Breakdown: 
You notice your friend is looking off of your paper during a test. Your friend hasn't thought of it, but if you didn't study at all, and if the two of you were to hand in papers with all the same mistakes, your teacher is bound to figure out. You can either risk secretly telling your friend to stop, and risk being caught, resulting in both of you getting zeros, or simply let your friend copy off of your paper, and when the teacher asks, act clueless and pin the blame on your friend. 

The Concentration camp Dilemma: 
Simple Breakdown:
 you're living in a concentration camp. A guard is about to hang your son (he was caught trying to run away from the camp), and tells you to be the one that pulls the chair from underneath him. if you don't pull the chair out, the guard will spare your son, but kill 10 other innocent strangers from the camp. What do you do? 

For most of the people that don't have specific choices that I wish to ask about, I will ask them to answer these dilemmas and to give me their reasons for their choices. I will post the more interesting answers, and try to derive out of those answers some of the answers to my questions from phase one. 

The Locals

Mr. Yang (Horse Cart Driver)

Mr. Yang is a very interesting man. I first met him when he was passing by, and thought that we were a bit far from where we were heading, and decided to give us a ride. We'd tried to pay him when we shook his head "no" to the money. I asked him why, and he said "I didn't give you a ride for the money." We hung out with him for a while to sort of talk, and hand-feed his horse some apples. He told us very interesting stories about some of his old horses. He'd become a horse cart driver because of the people he'd meet, and the love of horses that his father had passed from him. He stated that when he was younger, he'd wanted to have the same job in Dali Old Town, but he couldn't let go of the connection to home, and didn't really like noise and business of a bigger town. "I love the quiet of Xizhou... It shows that part of the older world can still be preserved in this new world we live in."

Mr. Yang (Linden Centre Greeter)
Mr. Yang grew up in Xizhou, and started work at 16 to help with the work around the farm. He's lived in the same home for 61 years, and has hardly left the confines of the village. He mentioned that even after various chances of leaving and living in Dali, he's always turned down the chances in order to stay in his "home." He says that the reasons that he'd never left was because he'd valued history, and instead of continuing to move from place to place in search of better luck, he's always stayed in the same place, valuing the home that was passed down to him. 


Upon trying to answer how the locals here reason, I came blank. I think the happiness of being where you were born, and the joy of doing what you love is what's so special here. My view is that they value the concept of home, and being where you can truly live your life in pursuit of happiness, not money. That is the part of Xizhou that impresses me so much. In many other cultures, children grow up valuing emotions, and reach adulthood valuing shallow things like money. Not here. Here, the bond between people and the concept of "home" is stronger than anywhere I've ever seen, and people live their lives with no want for accumulation of money, just the need for it to buy food and clothes. Following their own rules, living in the home that they believe is the life for them, is the culture so well preserved here, and is the culture that inspired Mr. Linden to build his center here. 

The Linden Center


Train track Dilemma: Shane stated that he'd push the person in front of the train track, even if it was a friend.
Reasons: 5 strangers' lives are obviously more important than one person's life, no matter who or what that person may be. "All life is equal. Even though the person I have to push in front of the train may be my friend, the five workers working with the track are all the same level of friend to someone else. 

Concentration Camp Dilemma: Shane said that he'd pull the chair from underneath the Son.
Reasons: "The ten people from the concentration camp that the guard would kill wouldn't have been killed if it weren't for me not pulling out the chair. So in this case, it's like killing 10 innocent strangers versus killing one son." 

When asked what he liked about living in the Linden Center, Shane answered that he liked how everything was so slow. No deadlines, no countdowns, no busy atmosphere of the city. It got a bit slow going once in a while, and America is always a treat to Shane, but he also mentioned that if he were to live in America 9 months a year, and spent the summer in Xizhou, it’d be the same situation. 

Result: Through these two answers, one can tell that Shane's values weigh into human life more than the emotional connections. Justice is an obvious value, and so is equality. Even though it'd be justified for one person to die in exchange for two to live, most people can't make the decision of saving 10 in exchange for the death of their friend. It isn't heartless or cruel, it's saving as many people as possible. Again, "all life is equal."

Brian Linden

Brian and Jeanee decided to create the Linden Centre because they believed that they could create a lifestyle that would be able to combine the Western and Eastern cultures, and share the love of Chinese culture and history, giving guests an oppurtunity to experience the joys of the world slowly going by. 

Frank He

Frank is very strange in many aspects. His hometown is less than a 4-hour drive from here, and in no way is the culture foreign to him. He’d set off working abroad, going from place to place as assistant CEO of a massive company, but always wanted to find a place closer to home, where he could feel at peace. Going from the Philippines to Hong Kong, he was content for a while. However, the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong was so unlike the slow, easy-going town he grew up that he started to get discontent with the world of Hong Kong little by little. Eventually, he came across the Linden Center through CCTV (Central Chinese Television) and the Discovery Channel, and was glued to his TV for the next hour, taking in as much of the world he was dreaming of simply be described to him. He spent more time afterwards researching the Center on the internet, trying to learn as much as possible. At last, he set off for the Center in hopes of checking it out. However, listening to Brian and Jeanee explain their vision of the Center, Frank was so sure that this was what he wanted that he immediately went and quit his job and signed on to the Linden Center. As a result, he is now the member of the staff that’s worked for the longest at the Linden Center, and considers the Center his "family."

Results: Some of the main points that many of the Linden Center staff share are those of loving peace. Shane likes America, but mentioned that he preferred how much slower everything went here, and how much everything that came with America was so much more focused on money. Frank also said that he'd been working at a massive company, but hated the feeling. He hated the way everything was so strict, and there were no times where, like back at home (Near Xizhou, similar village), he could simply take a break and watch the world go by. The Linden Center is the symbol of that calamity that the people working at the Linden Center value, a place where all that peace of rural China clashes with western culture, taking upon a world that makes it so special. 

My Friends


Train Track Dilemma: Derek would push the stranger onto the train tracks, but wouldn’t for the friend.
Reasons: “To me, one strangers life is worth less than five stranger’s lives, but if a friend is worth more.”

Robin Hood Dilemma: I would stop the robber, but wouldn’t turn him in.
Reasons: Derek said that it was justified (in a way) because the robber was stealing for the sake of an orphanage, but the money from the bank may be someone’s life’s savings. Creating happiness for the orphanage by ruining another’s life isn’t worth it, and if it’s the only way, allowing it to happen will be the same as he himself robbing the bank.

Cheating Dilemma: Derek would risk it and tell the friend he had no idea what the answers were.
Reasons: He said that he didn’t know the answers, and that if the friend didn’t know either, they were both sunk for the test. The guilt on conscience of being the one that somehow got his friend caught cheating on the test is bad enough that risking getting caught to tell him that he was clueless as well is worth it. Quoting Derek, “I got his back.”

Concentration Camp: Derek said that he’d pull the chair.
Reasons: Different circumstances, different decisions he said. Even though he’d answered that he’d let the friend live in the train track dilemma at the cost of 5 strangers, in this case, his son is in a position where he has to die in order for the 10 others to live. In the train track dilemma, it was different because you’d be killing one person to save five but in the concentration camp situation, if you don’t kill your son, you’re technically killing ten people to save one.

Train Track Dilemma: Jeremiah would push the stranger, and wouldn’t push the friend.
Reasons: Jeremiah gave the same reply as Derek, almost word for word. “You save five lives by killing one life in the case of pushing stranger, but when you push the friend, it’s like pushing ten people to save five lives.”

Robin Hood Dilemma: Jeremiah would turn a blind eye.
Reasons: Jeremiah’s most noticeable quote was “Steal from the rich, steal from the poor” ©. When I asked him to explain, he said that even though people with life’s savings may have their money in the bank, the fact that it’s in a bank means that they’re 1) not using it right now, 2) saving it for later, or 3) have so much that they just keep it in a bank to be safe. The orphanage is at a stage where if they don’t get this money, it will have to close down. No matter how badly off the people being stolen from may be, the orphanage needs money more.

Cheating Dilemma: Jeremiah said he would risk both people getting zeros by telling his friend.
Reasons: Your friend will get a zero if you don’t do anything, and will get a zero if you both get caught.  

Concentration Camp: Jeremiah would pull the chair.
Reasons: Jeremiah said the son tried to escape, and the hanging is a punishment. Whereas he doesn’t exactly like the idea of killing anyone at all, in the case of the train track dilemma, the friend was innocent, and had no reason to be killed except for to stop the train. It’s all a philosophical idea, with what line you’ll draw on killing less for the sake of saving more. 


Train Track Dilemma: Ryan wouldn't push the stranger OR the friend in.
Reasons: Interfering with the course or something like that by killing someone else in the four peoples place would be killing somebody that shouldn't have been killed, like changing the course of "fate." The guilt

Robin Hood Dilemma: Ryan would turn a blind eye towards the robber.
Reasons:  At first, Ryan said that he'd stop the robber, but not turn him in, as stealing was absolutely wrong, but then changed his answer because he believed that things like stealing are justified if they're done for the right causes.

Cheating Dilemma: Ryan said that he'd definetly risk getting caught while trying to tell his friend that he had no idea what the answers were.
Reasons: It was "my fault I got a failed grade because I didn't study. However, making it my fault that my friend got a failed grade just makes me guilty. Besides, pinning the blame AFTER the test was over would just be mean."

Concentration Camp Dilemma: Ryan wouldn't pull the chair from underneath the son.
Reasons:  Because "no matter what the circumstances are,  killing somebody is always wrong. Even if I knew I needed to kill the son, I never would have had the nerve to do it." 


Results: Most of my friends have different extents of how far they'd go to help another, but in terms of the cheating dilemma, they all said they'd risk telling the other person. I think this goes very far in showing that friends will always be there for each other. All of them stated that they'd never push a friend in front of a track, and it's interesting to see how all of them are so against killing people at all, even if they know in their minds that they need to. 

What do my friends believe is morally just?
I think that the one part of "moral justice" that's so well shown in these interviews is the concept of friends never stabbing each other in the back, and never hurting them for the sake of strangers. At our age, unlike what Kohlberg believes, our emotional bonts are stronger than are moral obligations, and if we were to have to choose between what's right and what's good for our friends, we'd do what's good for our friends. At our age, I guess that's the most important part. 

Where do some of their morals and values come from?
Like it was written in Johnathan Haidt's paper, people cannot entirely be held responsible for their actions when facing morality. In some cases, things like religion or parents push them to make actions that they have no say in. I think that some of the morals that my friends have come from religion, especially the strict, no killing policy that seems to occur between many of them. 


If I were to compare myself to the Lindens, or the locals, or even my friends, I seem to be very different. My values of what kind of life is the best fit for me go along the lines of the life I was living in Shanghai. I’m not a very independent person, and I value change and movement. The calamity of the Linden Center taught me a lot about slowing down and thinking about things, but I’ve lived my entire life speeding up and hurrying. My life is intertwined with the city, and that’s where my bubble of comfort lies. Like the story of the City Mouse and the Country Mouse, my life goes on a lot faster, and I’m not to good with the slow atmosphere of Xizhou.

I think the level of Moral reasoning I operate on most often is usually on levels one and two. I know that that those are the beginning levels, but the instinctual “do it when you need to, and don’t if you don’t need to” knee-jerk reflex after living in Shanghai for so long is irresistible.

I think I can become a lot more mature in making my own choices by simply being self-conscientious of my actions. Whenever I have to make a choice, I take the decision apart and look at the reasons I might choose something on either side. Right now, my choices are made by instinct. When faced with a choice, I simply narrow the decision to two sides, and decide which one sounds better. Because I never really weigh in the consequences that arise, my actions usually cause me to regret, and if I’m inclined to thinking of my actions every time, I’ll eventually get to a phase where that’s what I do instinctively.

Like I mentioned before, my values are a lot more focused on the fast-paced life and routine of Shanghai, where my life feels a lot more comfortable. The independency of making my choices here is probably the one thing that isn’t for me, as, like I mentioned before, my choices are probably the things I regret after I make them, because I hardly think of the consequences. 

Hi. I'm Harrison. I've lived in China most my life, and haven't really gone anywhere else. Short vacations and camp trips are all I really have of living someplace outside of my cozy little home. As a result, I thought that the experience I could gain from living in Yunnan for a month, taking in the sight, living the life, would be the best thing I could do right now for my own experience.