Peter Blood – Review: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt

Via NC Links

Westerners, particularly liberal ones, tend to disregard concepts such as loyalty, sanctity, and authority while over-emphasising care and fairness.  But more traditional people around the world tend to have a more balanced view of the importance of these concepts.

Haidt takes you through his (and others’) research and theories on how we make moral decisions. His ultimate conclusion is in the picture of an elephant with a rider. The elephant is our moral intuition, the rider is our reason. The big point is that the elephant goes as it goes, and the rider goes along:

“…the rider’s function is to serve the elephant. Reasoning matters, particularly because reasons do sometimes influence other people [emphasis added], but most of the action in moral psychology is in the intuitions.”

This is not an unsurprising view–the word “rationalize” is basically the function of reason–we intuit moral decisions and then justify them with reason. It’s why you never can just lay out the pros and cons of a position and your interlocutor changes his mind on the spot. It takes a lot to turn the elephant. It’s why if you want to influence the morality of a people, you don’t do it with reason, and you do it from a young age. Plato called education “moral training”, because you need to shape the intuitions from the start. Whoever really did write William Bennett’s “Book of Virtues”, the use of stories in shaping morality is age old.

[. . .]

It should be clear where this is headed, it’s about more morality than liberals have. He starts out talking WEIRD: Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic. Such people are a small subset of the world’s population and cannot be used to generalize about human nature, but the principle of WEIRDness is: “The WEIRDer you are, the more you see a world full of separate objects, rather than relationships.” In a nutshell, more individualistic than groupish; ultimately, sociopathic.

“Americans are likely to list their own internal psychological characteristics (happy, outgoing, interested in jazz), whereas East Asians are more likely to list their roles and relationships (a son, a husband, an employee of Fujitsu).”

[. . .]

The liberal is dominated by Care and Fairness; the conservative is not dominated by any one or two dimensions. Later Haidt introduces Liberty / Oppression; liberals do work on that dimension, and libertarians are monomaniacal about it to the exclusion of all other dimensions.

So, liberals work on three of the six dimensions of the moral domain. Conservatives work easily on all six dimensions. (Libertarians are on one dimension, as we’d expect of autistes.) In other words, liberals are morally stunted or deficient. We might even consider them as children morally.  They are not just blind to three axes, they consider those three axes (Authority, Loyalty, Sanctity) to be evil.  This is a significant–possibly uncrossable–divide with conservatives, and most of the rest of the non-WEIRD world.  Liberals overestimate their morality, while clearly being too narrow in their moral dimensions.  It’s a case of Dunning-Kruger effect.  They then rage against evil conservatives.  How can one deal with such people?

Read more at Blood Flows.

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