By Luciano Peters Busarello
Faced with a very violent urban environment, not only related to crime, but also to the pressure generated by the socioeconomic system in our daily life, we can see a pattern of thinking increasingly guided by individualism. This can create major problems for individuals who depend on the altruism of others or on government programs that address the inequality present in the social strata.
For the benefactors who dispose of their resources (something valiant, whether it is an act of caring or the giving of a certain good) to the most needy, there is a question: what is moving such act? Simple selfishness, promoting a sense of personal fulfillment by “doing good”? Action as an end in itself, as the principle of empathic consciousness? Or, the image of the “good guy”, the one who seeks his personal promotion? Before we propose to reflect on this question, it is possible to seek help in the area of study of the science of Psychology. Taking the theories of moral development initiated by Jean William Fritz Piaget and developed by Lawrence Kohlberg, author who created the concept of moral competence, being the capacity to make decisions and to bring to light internal moral analyzes to the individual, being the guide of conceptions of justice and human actions.
In his research, the ethical dimension is not merely the internalization of moral values of the social group, such as the possible foments of individualism. Their studies indicate the existence of universal basic principles, such as respect for human life, empathy, which are apprehended and developed over time. In the light of the levels and stages of moral development found in Kohlberg’s research, I think, perhaps, the actors who perform charitable actions (from the most varied possible degrees) can be framed at two different levels and at specific stages, in which, if relate to the issue raised above. Thus, at the conventional level the individual can be guided by simple approval or prominence within a social group, characterizing the stage of instrumental hedonism, marked by selfishness; at the postconventional level, where the value of the actions is in the goal to which it corresponds – the promotion of the well-being of the neighbor – the individual is guided by the feeling of empathy, he feels the duty to offer some help to those who need it.
I also emphasize that acts of charity are already extremely important, taking the search for generative meaning as a form of self-analysis and reflection on the principles and virtues that guide us throughout our lives.