Kohlberg's Moral Dilemmas--Breaking Bad

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When I read the segment in the text on pages 395-396, my mind jumped instantly to the TV show Breaking Bad, in which almost every character is morally ambiguous and impossible to judge. The show, very briefly, is about a high school chemistry teacher (Walt) who is diagnosed with lung cancer while still middle aged, with a wife and a handicapped child. He refused handouts to pay for his expensive treatment for personal reasons, and instead chose to cook and sell Meth with an ex-student of his in order to create a financial nest egg for his family, should he pass away. Kohlberg doesn't score the answers from his dilemmas based on what IS morally right or wrong, he only scored the reasoning processes they used to decide right from wrong.
Applied to Breaking Bad, Kohlbrg's moral dilemmas in my mind would look like this.
Preconventional morality: a focus on punishment and reward. Walt SHOULD cook meth because he could get away with it and get a lot of money. Walt should NOT cook meth because he might get caught, get arrested, and embarrass the family he is trying to provide for.
Conventional Morality: a focus on societal values. Walt SHOULD cook meth because dealing hard drugs (and not consuming them) will eventually allow his family to live comfortably without him, and Society would see him as a failure post mortem if he left his family with staggering debt and no real income. Besides, through supply and demand, the drug would still be produced if Walt was not cooking it. Walt should NOT cook meth because its against the law, and he is providing something that ruins the lives of others (even though he doesn't know the people to whom he provides).
Postconventional Morality: a focus on internal moral principles that transcend society. Walt SHOULD cook meth because providing a healthy life for ones family and allowing them to live without massive financial burden of higher moral principal that can overrule anti-drug laws in this case. Walt should NOT cook meth because in doing so, he is violating basic human principles of empathy and what is good by providing life-ruining drugs to the lower class and slums of Arizona while re-investing the money into his own family.
Personally, I think that Walt is morally wrong in his decision to make money in the way that he does. However, examining the thought process is interesting, and it's difficult to know the right answer.

What do you think? Dealing drugs is clearly morally wrong, but is this particular case justifiable? Keep in mind that when walt makes his decision, he is the primary earner of the household, his child is handicapped, and his wife is currently pregnant with a second.

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A very interesting post! Although I have never seen the show Breaking Bad, I have heard of it and it has a unique story line. I think things that are morally wrong are different person to person. I do agree with you that dealing drugs is morally wrong, but in Walt's case it is justifiable. We all do things we may not be proud of, but we choose to do them anyways. Now if he chooses to make money doing this then that is his decision. I do not think he is morally wrong in his decision to cook meth for an income.

I think this is a very interesting point as well. Even though Walt is dealing with drugs in order to secure his family financially, which could be justifiable, I still do not believe that in the long run it is in his best interest. Although working with drugs probably makes a lot more money than any other easy to get job, I still think that it is morally wrong to do so. If he is looking out for his family, he would not take the risk and potentially put himself and his family on the line because we deals with meth. I personally wouldn't think it would be worth it to risk having yourself and your family in danger because of the way in which you choose to support and provide for your family. If he were to get caught, which could easily happen, the consequences would be much worse and his family's situation would only continue to get harder and worse off.

I think this is a very interesting point as well. Even though Walt is dealing with drugs in order to secure his family financially, which could be justifiable, I still do not believe that in the long run it is in his best interest. Although working with drugs probably makes a lot more money than any other easy to get job, I still think that it is morally wrong to do so. If he is looking out for his family, he would not take the risk and potentially put himself and his family on the line because we deals with meth. I personally wouldn't think it would be worth it to risk having yourself and your family in danger because of the way in which you choose to support and provide for your family. If he were to get caught, which could easily happen, the consequences would be much worse and his family's situation would only continue to get harder and worse off.

I love this comparison. I have been a fan of Breaking Bad since it first began and am sad to here that the upcoming season will be the last one. This is an interesting dilemma I agree that what Walt is doing is wrong but in the case that you are a person who believes there dying and leaving a family behind with massive medical bills does morality or the law matter? Walt is not thinking like a normal rational individual he is instead panic stricken with one thought that is how do I provide for my family when I am gone. If Walt thinks he is gonna die do legal percussion's really matter after all he will be dead in a matter of months. Walt is doing something that he knows he can make some cash from and if he is caught what does putting him in jail really do. Walt knows what he is doing is wrong but in his mind he will die no matter what he does. The show provides an even more interesting situation when Walt's Cancer goes into remission and he continues to cook meth. This is a great comparison for this course.

I think that this is a complicated situation. There are definitely other ways Walt can make money for his family, but how much money is the issue. He clearly needs a lot of money with a handicapped child, another child on the way, and his doctor bills. Therefore, he would need to be able to acquire a job that makes a lot of money which is unlikely considering he is a chemistry teacher. This show reminds me a lot of the show Weeds, where the main character Nancy's husband dies and now the family has little money so she starts selling weed to make money for her family. Walt's situation is a little more difficult than Nancy's because of his illness and his kids being handicapped and unborn. Nancy has older boys that could work for money for the family too. All in all I think that Walt's decision is morally wrong, but in his situation isn't the worst thing he could do. I think it's hard to judge someone unless you've been put in their situation and see what you'd do.

It's really difficult to say whether or not this is morally right. What he is doing is highly illegal, but he is doing it for all the right reasons--to ensure that his family does not sink in a sea of debt. It's like stealing a loaf of bread to feed your starving family.

In this instance, however, I would say this is not the right way to go about things. In the show, Walt's wealthy ex-girlfriend offers to pay his medical bills, but ultimately he declines and opts to sell drugs to raise money for his medical expenses. This simply can't be overlooked and therefore I'm inclined to say that Walt's actions aren't justifiable as a) his family isn't to the point of desperation where their immediate well-being is in jeopardy and b) Walt has clear alternatives to pay his medical bills.

This is a great concept because it is totally applicable to the real world. Its interesting to judge things based on the thoughts that went into them, and not the actual outcome. Its kind of like if someone does something bad on accident, do you blame them because they did it, or not blame them because it wasn't their intention to do it. But by that logic, most drunk drivers shouldn't be at fault because they don't go out and think "I WANT TO KILL SOMEONE RIGHT NOW!"
Its definitely and iffy area where we cannot say what is right and what is wrong. I'm personally a supporter of doing whatever you need to do (other than killing) to support your family.

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