Kohlberg believed that few people ever reach the sixth stage of moral development—post-conventional morality. This is because this stage requires abstract contemplation of ethics and an in-depth understanding of the social order. Post-conventional morality weighs the context of the law, such as its motivations, its implications, and the people it serves. For example, consider journalists who go to prison for writing articles that expose their governments’ human rights violations. In such cases, the journalists believe breaking the law is the right thing to do because it could end the suffering of many people. Although the journalist will suffer, the action promotes the greatest good for innocent people.
Post-conventional morality’s approach to human law is similar to natural law theory’s in how it assesses actions. Natural law theory recognizes that human action can often oppose natural laws like survival and reproduction. For example, murder goes against the natural law of survival, as it interferes with a person’s natural life cycle. Since human laws are the result of human action, they can often oppose natural law as well. For example, consider scenarios in which stealing food is the only way to save a group a people. Although stealing is illegal, natural law and post-conventional morality would likely assert that this is a scenario in which human law should be disregarded in favor of the greatest good.