The Evolution of Morality - Jonathan Haidt

by cofty 19 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • GrreatTeacher

    Wow. Just wow. The downvote on a post in which I am legitimately trying to find an answer to the problematic political climate in the US through scientific research is very disturbing.

    I hope it's not a knee-jerk reaction on the part of a member of the political right, but it seems suspiciously so, and only serves to reinforce my confusion about /disdain for conservatives.

    If just trying to understand is problematic for those on the right, I hold very little hope out for finding common ground. :(

    Sorry, Cofty, for the derail. I love this kind of science. I'm teaching elementary parts of this subject to my 3rd graders right now. I will order Haidt's book.

  • cofty

    Good question GT.

    Haidt admits that as a liberal he too equated hierarchy = power = exploitation = evil.

    He was later influenced by the work of Alan Fiske who described the "Authority Ranking" social relationship. Drawing on his own work in Africa Fiske showed that people who relate to each other in this way have mutual expectations that are more like those of a parent and child than those of a dictator and fearful underlings.

    Conservatives react negatively to anything that subverts the traditions, institutions or values that provide stability.

    The liberty/oppression intuition is interesting. It was a late addition to Haidt's scheme. It arose out of the need to control oppressive hierarchies. Once we invented spears and the language skills to gossip about bad leaders no tyrant was safe. We see it today in the right's demand for small government and Tea Parties slogan "Don't Tread on Me". Conservatives are more parochial. For them the sacred value is liberty.

    But exactly the same moral intuition is motivating the left's drive for social justice and opposition to capitalism. Liberals are more universal in their moral concerns. Hatred of of oppression is found on both sides of the political spectrum. For liberals who rely more heavily on the care/harm foundation the Liberty/Oppression foundation is employed in the service of underdogs everywhere. It leads to appeals not just for equality of opportunity but equality of outcome.

  • cofty

    I wanted to say I can't believe somebody downvoted your comment; but of course I can. Which is very much Haidt's point.

    You would really enjoy his book. He is a self-confessed liberal who has used experimental work to really try to understand why the right and left don't get each other.

    One of the funny moments in the book is when he felt an irresistible urge to put a flag on his car after 9/11 The group instinct had kicked in despite his years of liberal conditioning. In the end he put a flag sticker in his window and balanced it up with a UN flag.

  • GrreatTeacher

    Digesting. Thanks.

    Liberals tend to view Tradition as dictatorial and oppressive and resistant to new knowledge, including new scientific knowledge that could improve lives. It's that that we are struggling against. Tradition=Oppression to many liberals.

    That's why, I believe, that arguments complaining about the unconsitutionality of something (eg 2nd amendment gun rights) fall on deaf liberal ears. The Constitution should not be an ossified document. It's a living document that is subject to judicial interpretation, the thinking goes.

    So very, very interesting!

  • cofty
    Cofty- "experiments suggest that those on the right are far better at accurately understanding the perspective of those on the left than vice-versa."
    Links? - GT

    Haidt did an experiment along with Jesse Graham and Brian Nosek. They asked 2000 Americans to fill out the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. One third of the time they had to fill it out as themselves, one third as they thought a typical liberal might respond and one third as a typical conservative.

    The results were clear and consistent. Liberals were really bad at trying to think like a conservative. They seemed to wrongly assume that care and fairness were not important parts of a conservatives moral matrix. Liberals also have difficulty understanding how Loyalty, Authority and Sacredness have anything to do with morality.

    The problem for liberals is that these things are innate and the right know how to speak to these values.

  • GrreatTeacher

    Wow. The flag thing after 9/11.

    My instinct was to fly a pure white flag of peace. I wonder what that says about me.

    I didn't, though, even though I probably could have. Now, you put the wrong bumper sticker on your car and you get fired, or a tow-truck driver refuses to tow you.

  • cofty

    I have to describe more about the sanctity/degradation foundation. It explains so much.

    Haidt locates its roots in the "omnivore's dilemma".

    Tomorrow - unless Azor has time to describe this part before then?

  • GrreatTeacher

    Thanks, Cofty, go get some sleep! Time changes this weekend, we lose an hour's sleep. Don't know about the UK, though.

  • azor

    Omnivores dilemma a term coined by Paul Rozin. Omnivores must seek out and explore new foods while remaining wary until they are proven safe.

    Omnivores therefore go thorough life with two competing motives. Neophilia (an attraction to new things) and neophobia (a fear of new things). People vary in terms of which motive is stronger. Liberals score higher on measures of neophilia (also known as openness to new experiences) and conservatives on neophoia. These carried over to more areas than just food. It carried over to new experiences, people, and music.

    The emotion of disgust evolved initially to deal with the omnivores dilemma.

  • Landy

    I remember reading/hearing somewhere (it may have been Dawkins) that morality, or the desire to do what was 'right', evolved because we developed in small groups. We soon came to realise that we got along better by being nice to each other, and because we were in small groups, and we knew everyone very well, it was easier to be nice to them than to not be. It's thought that those who went against the developing social norms were perhaps killed or exiled.

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