Student Question

What stages of Kohlberg's Moral Development are shown in Spielberg's film Schindler's List?

Quick answer:

Schindler's character represents a mix of Kohlberg's, with the exception that Schindler ascends to universalised conditions of morality at the same time as he clings to the Nazi conformist vision and attempts to make money.

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I think that, as a character, Schindler represents different elements of Kohlberg's stages of moral development.  For example, I think that the start of the film represents some of Schindler's demonstration of a pre- conventional stage of behavior.  For Schindler, "behaving right" translates to making money.  He struggled with this prior to his work in Poland during the Second World War, hence his moral behavior code is governed by his embrace of how to make money and what practices need to be done in order to profit.  Kohlberg's second stage of moral development, addressing self interest, is seen when Schindler opts to use Jewish laborers as opposed to Polish ones so that he can generate more money and amass more personal wealth.  The conformist element in Schindler's behavior can be seen as he befriends Nazi officials, such as Goeth, in his desire to make more money.  Yet, the interesting element here is that Schindler acts in a socially conformist manner with the Jewish population, as well.  He takes more Jewish people into his factory, gives them more benefits, and shows them more benevolence, in general by permitting them to work and allowing them to remain free from the clutches of the Nazis.  This is where Schindler begins to advance in Kholberg's moral development, in that Schindler operates in moral succession in parallel universes, it seems, until Schindler reaches a point where he can no longer abide by what Nazi morality preaches, ascending to a moral state of universality.  Schindler is able to do this, while still clings to the conformist vision of the Nazis, and ascending to universalised conditions of morality at the same time.

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What stages of moral development does Speilberg show in his film Schindler's List with the character of Amon Goeth?

Regrettably, there is not much in way of moral development with Amon Goeth.  I think that part of this is deliberate.  It is essential that the film represents the Nazis with a lack of moral development or moral stature.  In telling the story of the Holocaust as a type of morality play, the Nazis represent the end of the morality spectrum where there is little in terms of spiritual redemption or development.   There are a few moments when Goeth does represent this.  These moments have to be taken in isolation rather than representative of his whole character, which does not show much in way of development.  The moment when Goeth pardons the servant for not cleaning the tub well enough might be one example where moral development towards a social convention end is enhanced.  Schindler's discussion of how society functions on a conception of power whereby individuals are able to pardon one another is something that Goeth represents in this instant.  It is undercut by his recognition of a filthy nail from the mirror and he takes his rifle and shoots the boy in the back from a distance.  Yet, in an isolated instant, we see the idea of moral development for a split- second.  Obviously, when Goeth makes the deal for Schindler's workers, there is a reflection of a moral development out of self interest, in terms of "What's in it for me?"  Goeth represents behavior driven by motives that strictly benefit the self, in his exchange for Schindler's workers for money.  In these two moments, there might be some level of moral development on Goeth's part, but again, these would have to be looked in isolation.  As Goeth is killed, his final words praising Hitler would conclude that his life has been one where little in way of moral development has been reached.

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What stages of moral development does Speilberg show in his film "Schindler's List" with the character of Amon Goethe?

Amon Goeth does not show much in the way of moral development at all in the film Schindler’s List. He is out to make money by bribing the factory owners who use his prisoners for labor. He kills without regard for human life.

At one point in the film, we see Goeth attempt to reform himself after being encouraged by Schindler to be kinder to his prisoners. He does it for a little while, but cannot deny his true inner nature and soon reverts back to his cruel ways. The scene in which in he looks at himself in the mirror and says “I pardon you” tells the viewer that Goeth has given in to this nature and will fight it no longer.

However, there is one moment in the last fourth of the movie when Goeth shows a little compassion for Helen, the housekeeper he loves (in his own twisted way). Although he doesn’t want to part with her, he allows to Schindler to save her life by taking her to his factory in Brinnlitz.

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