Unite the Pair so long Disjoined: Justice and Empathy in Moral Development Theory

From: Volume 8, Issue 1: Spring 2011, Theological Perspectives Pages 46-63


The paper provides an analysis of moral development theory developed by Jean Piaget and Lawrence Kohlberg. The paper explores the primary critiques of Kohlberg’s moral development theory, including justice (the right) as the primary motivation for morality. The paper examines the research of Martin Hoffman’s view of empathy (the good) as the primary motivation for morality. John Gibbs takes Hoffman’s research a step further by advocating that the primary motivation for morality is co-primary (the right and the good). A Wesleyan view of moral psychology is developed by following Charles Wesley’s famous stanza, “Unite the pair so long Disjoined: Knowledge and vital piety.” This statement is a framework to discuss how empathy and justice become the primary motivation for moral development. The paper argues for a Wesleyan view of morality that includes the transformation of the human emotions and affections by the “means of grace” as a basis for moral development. The paper concludes by exploring how congregations can be a means of grace in shaping and forming moral persons.



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