Life After Arcosanti

Arcosanti and Moral Development

Posted in news, philosophy and commentary by buderman on July 13, 2008

Lawerence Kohlberg proposed a model for moral development, with the following stages

  • Level 1 (Pre-Conventional)
    • 1. Obedience and punishment orientation (How can I avoid punishment?)
    • 2. Self-interest orientation (What’s in it for me?)
  • Level 2 (Conventional)
    • 3. Interpersonal accord and conformity (The good boy/good girl attitude)
    • 4. Authority and social-order maintaining orientation (Law and order morality)
  • Level 3 (Post-Conventional)
    • 5. Social contract orientation
    • 6. Universal ethical principles (Principled conscience)

Robert Hartman suggests that morality depends more on awareness and security than it does on age or maturity.

People who operate out of principled consciece are those who, for whatever reason, can afford to. If most people remain conventional in their morality, I suspect that has more to do with risk aversion than with an underdeveloped sense of right and wrong. The way I see it, those who can take the risk of a more universal stand are precisely the people who believe the risk of personal (or family) loss is worth the benefit to be gained. When soldiers take risks in battle to save their buddies, their primary motivation might by conventional (accord, conformity, honor), but the risk of shame and ostracism that they find unbearable (preconventional) is huge. And, if the battle is for a just cause, the fact that they are there at all speaks to a post-conventional (supra-conventional?) aspect as well. So which of these motivations is the one that most influences a soldier to put his/her life on the line in the heat of a firefight?

It may well be that we can broaden the general scope of awareness by showing people how looking out for human rights and the welfare of all increases their personal security and freedom. I think that’s what the framers of the US Constitution were doing.

He suggests a “constitutional convention” on sustainable economics in which we could begin to reconsider conventional norms and values and their contribution to the current ecological and interrelated social mess we are in.

Consider also that a place like Arcosanti is a social and economic as well as architectural experiment.

What are some of the lessons we might learn from the relatively stagnant and slow pace of development that it seems to be operating under?

I was particularly considering the social contract oriented in level 3. My observation is that a strong social contract linked alumni and residents with the organization running the project is what is needed to move Arcosanti forward into a  structure of governance and operational reality that is consistent with its values and aspirations and those who are also participating in the project.

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