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Posts Tagged ‘Moral Foundations Theory’


So far we’ve looked at Jonathan Haidt’s Social Intuition Theory and in the second section his Moral Foundations theory. In that first section we learned that “intuition comes first, strategic reasoning second” with a central metaphor of an elephant (intuition) and a rider (reasoning). In that second section of The Righteous Mind his point is “there’s more to morality than harm and care” and his central metaphor is that the righteous mind is like a tongue with different taste receptors.

In the third and final section of his book, Haidt wants us to understand that “morality binds and blinds” with a central metaphor that we are “90% chimp and 10% bee.” What he’s getting at is that we are individuals but that being part of a group is important to most of us. Our religion and politics are not simply based on self-interest but also related to the groups to which we belong.

Groupish Are We

Haidt uses the term “groupish” sort of how Julian Edelman says he’s “Jew-ish”. We are not pack animals but we are social and groups begin to shape our thinking and acting. He communicates this beginning with 9/11 which triggered his patriotism in a way he never expected.

“Professors are liberal globetrotting universalists (globalists), reflexively wary of saying that their nation is better than other nations.”

He recognizes that unlike many liberals he’s painted a fairly negative picture of humanity. Influenced by Glaucon he sees us as more obsessed with how we look than with who we really are.

We are groupish, joining teams, clubs, leagues and frats. In addition to our individual identities, we also have group identities wherein we work with others for common goals. We often vote in light of that, not simply bare self-interest. We do promote our interests to our peers but also are good at promoting group interests. This is why I see baseball as the sport that most reflects real life. There are individual battles that occur for the benefit of the team, but there must also be teamwork. Individual stats are important, but the goal is to win and for that you need teammates to do their job too.

In this chapter there is far more evolutionary speculation and too few studies to back up his conclusions. While I don’t agree with how he gets there, I see merit to his conclusions.

Each successful group has to address the reality of “free riders”, people who don’t do the work but want the benefits. He also notes that chimps lack shared intentionality. They don’t work together (like each picking up one end of a log to move it). From his perspective, developing this capacity is a huge evolutionary jump.

One study had big issues. It involved the controlled breeding of foxes to show change doesn’t require a huge number of generations. Life isn’t controlled breeding, and their lifespan isn’t very long. It only shows us micro-evolution, change within a species rather than the development of a new species (macro-evolution).

The Hive Switch

He begins by talking about basic training when individuals are formed into a military unit through shared experiences. In successful units people “forget about themselves, trust each other, function as a unit, and then crush less cohesive groups.”

“We are like bees in being ultrasocial creatures whose minds were shaped by the relentless competition of groups with other groups.”

Haidt’s theory is that we are “conditional hive creatures”. We don’t always function this way, but have a switch (so to speak) that activates this function. He builds on Durkheim to show that we are “Homo duplex, a creature who exists at two levels.” Collective emotions can pull people together and are most commonly associated with the sacred. We can’t remain there indefinitely. In some religions hallucinogenics are used to gain an ecstatic state. In raves the music and often ecstasy are used to create a similar ecstatic group state.

“Oxytocin simply makes people love their in-group more. It makes them parochial altruists.”

One of the glues that bind people together is the hormone oxytocin which helps mothers bond with babies, and partners together.

“We are conditional hive creatures. We are more likely to mirror and then empathize with others when they have conformed to our moral matrix than when they have violated it.”

Good organizations build those bonds to create a hive thereby overcoming the self-interest that destroys organizations. Where there is buy-in people work harder and have more fun. They are less likely to change jobs or pursue legal action against their employer. If you want to develop a hive he recommends:

  • Increase similarity, not diversity. Therefore don’t point out differences in race or ethnicity. Focus on the similarities.
  • Exploit synchrony. Groups work together to prepare for battle.
  • Create healthy competition between groups, not individuals. Friendly group rivalries build group dynamics. But when an organization promotes individual competition (like bonuses) you erode “hivishness, trust, and morale.”

Political Hives

Great leaders build hives. They tap into the desire to be part of something greater than yourself. Some evil leaders use this groupishness to develop dangerous communities that aren’t simply less concerned with outsiders but destroy outsiders. They create a single hive as a nation rather than recognizing there will be interlocked hives.

“In fact, a nation that is full of hives is a nation of happy satisfied people. It’s not a very promising target for takeover by a demagogue offering people meaning in exchange for their souls.”

Religion Is a Team Sport

Durkheim saw that religious rites helped form communities in the way that tailgating, face painting, fight songs etc. build a hive with collective motions at sporting events. Haidt addresses the Four Horsemen of the New Atheism and how they misunderstand religion. While he’s an atheist, he’s not part of the New Atheism which is openly hostile to religion.

I yawn at the evolutionary explanation for religion whether the New Atheists or Scott Atran and Joe Henrich’s more reasonable proposal. They propose, in part, that it is religions that evolved, not us or our genes. Less effective religions faded in to obscurity.

“You don’t need a social scientist to tell you that people behave less ethically when they think nobody sees them. … Creating god who can see everything, and who hates cheaters and oath breakers, turns out to be a good way to reduce cheating and oath breaking.”

Haidt finds that religious communes last longer than secular communes. In secular communities requests for sacrifice are met with a cost-benefit analysis. But if sacrifice rests on the Sanctity foundation, religious people are more willing to make it. He then argues that religious groups bind people together better, suppressing selfishness.

Also differing from the New Atheist, Haidt believes that religious has produced some (much?) good, particularly for their communities through parochial altruism. Religious people are more generous, though much of that goes to their communities (is that really surprising?). Religious people are also more likely to give to charities that aren’t connected to their faith. Religion, then is “well suited to be the haidmaiden of groupishness, tribalism, and nationalism.” The danger is when the group demonizes the other group, and religions have been used by demagogues to further their sick agendas.

He compares religion to an exoskeleton. You become “enmeshed in a set of norms, relationships, and institutions that work primarily on the elephant to influence your behavior.” This is an important function for society.

“When societies lose their grip on individuals, allowing all to do as they please, the result is often a decrease in happiness and an increase in suicide, as Durkheim showed more than a hundred years ago.”

Defining Morality

Haidt at the end of the chapter on religion finally defines morality:

“Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible.”

He admits this is a functionalist definition. Not much love there. He focuses on what it does, and I’m not sure he quite gets that either. In terms of ethical systems he doesn’t know what normative theory would be best for individuals. He seems to favor a Durkeimian utilitarianism which recognizes “that human flourishing requires social order and embeddedness.”

Can’t We All Disagree More Constructively?

Finally we are getting to the pay off as he brings it all together to address the driving question of the book. We don’t live in a world of philosopher-kings or panels of supposedly unbiased experts (insert maniacal laugh here). Since we don’t have a king we have parties pursuing our votes (and money). This quest for power inevitably includes tricks, lies and demagoguery.

In years past there seemed to be plenty of swing votes, including politicians who were moderate. In 2012 he notes that few people call themselves centrists or moderates. More people are calling themselves either conservative or liberal. Sadly he sees changes fostering new behavior in Congress. Friendships across party lines are discouraged and those weakened relationships make it easy to demonize the other side. As opposed to being in one club there are two.

“This is not a collegial body anymore. It is more like gang behavior. Members walk into the chamber full of hatred.” Congressman Jim Cooper (D) 2011

America’s problems are often the world’s problems due to the increase of globablism in practice. We have a “battle between a three-foundation morality and a six-foundation morality.” Here he wants to hammer “morality binds and blinds” to help us understand our situation.

He quotes a definition of ideology as: “A set of beliefs about the proper order of society and how it can be achieved.” This is what the fight is about. We don’t agree on the proper order of society and/or how to get there. There is one drive to preserve (conserve) the present order, and another to change it.

A twin study indicates that twins raised in different homes are more likely to be similar than unrelated children raised together. This includes political orientation. Genetics, it is believed, accounts for 1/3-1/2 of the variability in people’s political attitudes. Innate, in his view, is malleable. Our experiences shape and hold the attitudes already present. Not hard wired, but leanings.

The Power of Narrative

We process stories more than we are logical. The Bible is filled with stories, a big Story, rather than a series of logical propositions. Parents use stories to communicate morality to children. Stories begin to move the elephant. Perhaps this is why NPR’s news stories are often that: people and their stories that communicate embedded ideas. Movies and TV shows use narrative to shift us. Politicians tell stories or visions to sway us rather than present logical arguments. Democrats tend to tell stories about care, fairness and oppression while Republicans also tap into loyalty, authority (law & order), sanctity (particularly pro-life). As a result each side can’t really understand the other since the stories are so different and appeal to different moral foundations.

This is revealed when people were asked to pretend to be the other in studies he’s done.

“The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. … The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives.”

This lack of understanding feeds dehumanization. Obviously the other side doesn’t have morals. Some pundits even wonder if the other side should live. He quotes theater critic Michael Feingold who believed Republicans don’t have imagination, just want to profit from disaster and should be exterminated. Haidt then notes the numerous ironies including that a theater critic can’t imagine Republicans have a moral matrix. This is an example of morality binding him to his party and blinding him to the morality of the other party.

“As a lifelong liberal, I had assumed that conservatism = orthodoxy = religion = faith = rejection of science.”

Sound familiar? Just the other night Bernie Sanders at the DNC Convention joined a number of Democrats in saying Republicans don’t believe in science (whatever that means).

He introduces orthodoxy as the “view that there exists a ‘transcendent moral order, to which we ought to try to conform the ways of society.'” Examples of “orthodoxy” would be the Moral Majority or Sharia law. As I function with a 2 kingdoms model like Augustine, Luther and Calvin I recognize that my faith won’t control the government. For me orthodoxy critiques both conservativism and liberalism but at different points because both are based on humanism. This is similar to Keller’s point that the Bible criticized every society and culture.

Moral Capital

Slowly Haidt began to agree with some conservative claims about the good society, and found they understood moral capital more than liberals did. He wants us to know he’s thinking of intellectuals, not the RNC. Social capital became a common concept with Bowling Alone. There are social ties that foster reciprocity and trustworthiness. He notes that these ties allow ultra-Orthodox Jews in the diamond trade to keep their costs lower. Moral vision requires social capital. Moral capital is not about trust but the web of relationships necessary to sustain a healthy society. Moral communities extend beyond kinship because of the environment in which relationships are embedded. He defines moral capital as “the resources that sustain a moral community.” It refers to:

“… the degree to which a community possesses interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, and technologies that mesh well with evolved psychological mechanisms and thereby enable the community to suppress or regulate selfishness and make cooperation possible.”

It reflects his definition of morality. Moral communities are hard to build. They are easy to destroy. Moral capital can make a community efficiently, but some efficient communities can inflict harm on other communities. Haidt notes that liberal reforms often neglect the effects on moral capital and end up destroying moral communities.

This leads Haidt to conclude that liberalism isn’t a sufficient governing philosophy due to this overreach, but needs to work with conservativism to preserve moral capital. Conservatives often fail to recognize oppression and limit the powerful. In other words, they need each other like Batman and the Joker need each other in The Lego Batman Movie.

“A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.” John Stuart Mill

He provides a similar quote from Bertrand Russell. Our polarization means that the parties don’t work together (compromise in the good sense) for the good of the nation but “stick to their guns” for the approval of their base. In terms of bees we are not a healthy hive, but two sick hives.

The “third rail” for Liberals is caring for the oppressed. They tune out appeals to loyalty, authority and sanctity for the most part. He quotes Garrison Keillor who calls liberalism as “the politics of kindness.” The most popular definitions of liberals found on YourMorals.org is care for the vulnerable & oppressed, opposing hierarchy and “changing laws, traditions and institutions to solve social problems.” He argues that government should limit corporations that become superorganisms. They change legal and political systems. The only organism large enough to stand up to the Amazons of the world is the federal government. Corporations, if publicly held, are to maximize profits so costs are often passed on to others (like pollution). Haidt argues that when they operate out of the public eye they are unrestrained. There has to be a free press to hold them accountable (unfortunately some buy papers and stations)and governments to regulate them (unfortunately they hire lots of lobbyists and can make unlimited donations to political causes). He admits that liberals often go too far with regulation, hence the need to work together rather than for the nation to see-saw.

For Libertarians, the third rail is liberty and many of them are frustrated with Covid restrictions. They generally fear big government as a threat to liberty (and they have a point!). In most countries they are called classical liberals or right liberals, but here they are a small party called Libertarian. They’ve been called “liberals who love markets and lack bleeding hearts.” This liberty goes beyond economic choices to personal choices which is why many Christians don’t go full Libertarian. Many Libertarians have supported the Republican party since both see liberals as the biggest threat with big government and lots of intrusion.

Haidt recognizes that “markets are miraculous” in terms of resolving plenty of issues. He gives the example of health care, noting David Goldhill’s article “How American Health Care Killed My Father.” The problem is using insurance for routine matters instead of protection in catastrophic cases. We all want such insurance for some reason even though it drives up and obscures prices. Since you have to be “in network” there is no competition to lower prices and drive innovation. I used to joke that dealing with EOBs was CavWife’s part-time job. Because prices rise, care-motivated Liberals want to subsidize insurance for the poor or offer government healthcare for all. This means no competition and even less innovation so the situation worsens. Working markets produce supply to meet demand.

“Care and compassion sometimes motivate liberals to interfere in the working of markets, but the result can be extraordinary hard on a vast scale.”

Conservatives, having a broader moral matrix, are better able to detect threats to moral capital. They don’t resist all change, but change that will damage institutions and traditions tied to loyalty, authority or sanctity. One way Haidt puts it is “you can’t help the bees by destroying the hive.” Change that helps individuals but destroys society is not a good thing. You have to have groups even though they exclude some people. You need internal structure, and if you destroy them you destroy moral capital.

In a study, Putnam discovered that ethnic diversity didn’t bind people into networks of trust but actually dissolved trust. High immigration (don’t read that as immigration, the adjective matters)and diversity reduce social capital: both bridging capital (between groups and bonding capital (within a group).

“Diversity seems to trigger not in-group/out-group division, but anomie or social isolation. … people living in ethnically diverse settings appear to ‘hunker down’- that is, to pull in like a turtle.” Robert Putnam

I like diversity, but apparently there is a tipping point where it becomes a bad thing. Haidt, a liberal, notes that liberals “push for changes that weaken groups, traditions, institutions, and moral capital.” Their good intentions create havoc. In one of his counter-intuitive moves he says “emphasizing differences makes many people more racist, not less.” Conservative generally tend to the hive, while liberals to the bees. The hive is for the bees because without a hive you’ve got no bees.

More Civility

He argues that politics in America has become Manichaean. That is a form of Gnosticism with polarities. Your side is good and the other is evil. There is no common ground, no working together. This process began with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which moved many conservative Democrats into the Republican party in a massive realignment. Similar but smaller movements happened with the Reagan Democrats and Blue Dog Democrats. The moderates from both parties jumped ship leaving fewer swing votes and moderates. This was aggravated by Newt Gingrich encouraging incoming Republicans to keep their families at home so they spent more time in their districts. The unintended consequence was fewer friendships with people of the other party. With social capital disappearing, trust eroded and polarization increased.

If you want to understand “the other side” follow the sacredness: “figure out which one or two (moral foundations) are carrying the most weight in a controversy.” Friendly interactions can build trust and move the elephant. Like Neo, you need to enter the Matrix to defeat it. Try to enter their views to understand them and appeal to their moral foundations instead of demanding they embrace yours. Find those points of commonality, build that trust. It’s like evangelism, gaining the respect of outsiders so they become interested in your message.

“Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.”

 

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The first section of Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion developed Haidt’s Social Intuition Theory. He summarizes this as “intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.” In his metaphor the rider serves the elephant, explaining why the elephant (intuitions) is going in the direction it is going.

The second section of the book develops the thesis that “there’s more to morality than harm and fairness”. His metaphor is that “the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors.” He’s going to develop the foundations of morality. In the process, he’s going to look at the differences in the moral foundation between conservatives and liberals, as well as how they lean differently in common ground.

WEIRD People

He begins with the concept of WEIRD. Many of his subjects for his dissertation research came from his time at McDonald’s. He was surprised “these working-class subjects would sometimes find my request for justifications so perplexing.” He began to note class and educational differences. His students at Penn were devoted to John Stuart Mill’s “harm principle.” They were the only group that didn’t express some form of disgust for one of his test questions. Haidt borrows the WEIRD acronym from Henrich, Heine and Norenzayan. It stands for western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic. These people are statistical outliers but often form the sample for many studies in the West. “Even in the West, Americans are more extreme outliers than Europeans, and within the United States, the educated upper middle class (like my Penn sample) is the most unusual of all.”

As he lays out the differences, most people think holistically but the WEIRD are more analytical. They gravitate toward Kant and Mill. They see the world differently and have different moral concerns. They are more individualistic while other are more sociocentric in their morality, meaning groups and institutions are placed ahead of the concerns of the individual.

He leans on Shweder in recognizing that you can’t ignore culture when you study how people think. Conversely you can’t study culture and ignore psychology. Shweder discovered “three major clusters of moral themes”: autonomy, community, and divinity.

Autonomy: “People should be free to satisfy these wants, needs, and preferences as they see fit, and so societies develop moral concepts such as rights, liberty, and justice, which allow people to coexist peacefully without interfering too much in each other’s projects.” There is dependence on utilitarians Mill and Peter Singer.

Community: “based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, members of larger entities such as families, teams, armies, companies, tribes, and nations… they are real, they matter, and they must be protected. … Many societies therefore develop moral concepts such as duty, hierarchy, respect, reputation and patriotism.”

Divinity: “people are first and foremost, temporary vessels within which a divine soul has been implanted. … The body is a temple, not a playground.” Therefore people shouldn’t do things that degrade themselves or dishonor their Creator.

Becoming a Pluralist

Haidt was admittedly WEIRD, until he moved to India for a study. He wasn’t on vacation but immersed himself in the culture, “a sex-segregated, hierarchically stratified, devoutly religious society, and I was committed to understanding it on its own terms, not mine.” He learned that as people were kind to him, his elephant leaned toward them, and his rider began to look for reasons to defend them. I liken this, in part, to John Perkin’s idea that “love is the final fight.” If we are kind to one another we’ll begin to care for one another and seek reasons to defend one another (and their view points).

He began to understand the concept of moral disgust which “is felt whenever we see or hear about people whose behavior shows them to be low on this vertical dimension.” He says that while a man who robs a bank commits a crime, and we judge him, those who traffic in children disgust us and we consider them monsters rather than simply criminals. Haidt found himself adopting some Indian practices associated with disgust, including removing shoes before entering a house (since the streets are filthy).

He began to understand the moral outrage of conservatives when a crucifix is placed in a jar of urine and called art. He encourages people to consider what would happen if images of Martin Luther King Jr. or Nelson Mandela were treated this way. This, I think, is part of what is driving the move to remove confederate statues. They are viewed as polluting our society. He notes that “the ethic of divinity is sometimes incompatible with compassion, egalitarianism, and basic human rights.” Yet it also provides critique for the ugly parts of secular culture.

Leaving the Matrix

The creators of The Matrix built on William Gibson’s view of cyberspace in his novel Neuromancer. Neo took the red pill to leave the matrix and see reality for what it really was. Shweder’s ideas were Haidt’s red pill. He now understood “many moral matrices coexist within each nation.” Each one presents a “complete, unified, and emotionally compelling worldview”. Growing up Jewish his community saw unions and labor providing protection from the exploitation they faced. Since FDR was a President who supported labor and was in office when Hitler was defeated, Jews have been largely Democrat ever since. There is an emotional tie that doesn’t seem rational to others.

His own political views seemed so ethical, and the other party’s so obviously evil, that he and his friends looked for the psychological pathology to explain why anyone would be a Republican. They didn’t consider that moral choices were more complex than reducing harm and increasing fairness. When he returned to the States, Republicans didn’t seem quite so crazy. He had escaped from his “partisan mind-set(reject first, ask rhetorical questions later).” He felt freed from partisan anger.

“If you grow up in a WEIRD society, you become so well educated in the ethic of autonomy that you can detect oppression and inequality even where the apparent victims see nothing wrong.”

Moral Taste Buds

Who’d go to a restaurant that only focused on one taste receptor, he asks. Imagine Salt, with a menu filled with food focused exclusively on your salt receptor. From this he moves to morality. As our tongue has different receptors (sweet, salty, sour etc) so our righteous mind has variety of moral receptors or foundations. A balanced moral view encompasses all or most of them, but individuals and communities will prefer different blends.

“In this analogy, morality is like cuisine: it’s a cultural construction, influenced by accidents of environment and history, but it’s not so flexible that anything goes.”

He understands morality as a social or cultural construct (of your tribe). While it is not internally generated, it is internalized. We all have the same receptors but don’t all like the same foods, or ethical views. Here Haidt returns to his love for Hume. Moral judgement is a kind of perception, an intuition, not the result of reasoning (most of the time at least). In this, Haidt looks at Kant and Bentham, two of the great systemizers in ethical realms. Those who are autistic are high systemizers with low empathy (ability to put yoursefl in another’s shoes). Much of what we know about Jeremy Bentham, the other famous Utilitarian, indicates he’d likely be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome today. Even Mill apparently despised Bentham. Kant, the leading Deontologist, also seems to be close to the “autism zone”. Both utilitarianism and Kant’s categorical imperative lack empathy and isolate one receptor above all others, excluding the others.

Haidt sought “links between virtues and well-established evolutionary theories.” He borrowed “modularity” from Sperber and Hirschfield. They are like switches in our brains, fight or flight for instance. I wasn’t enamored with his attempts to tie all this into evolution, so I’ll his Moral Foundations Theory (see chart above). He will add a sixth later but we can see the main switches in our minds that influence our ethical and moral views.

In the next chapter he sets out to apply Moral Foundations Theory to politics, showing that these foundations are used differently to support different moral matricies. He begins with homo economicus, or economic man. This means we make our choices based on self-interest. But his studies disproved self-interest. There were somethings people wouldn’t do no matter how much money you offered them.

Innate knowledge is not quite hard-wired. It is built in, but malleable. Our experiences shape how we express innate knowledge.

Compassion is the emotion linked to the care/harm foundation. Cuteness is tied to our care/harm foundation. You don’t want to hurt something cute, but an ugly bug … step on it. Media uses the care/harm foundation to shift people’s minds on moral issues. They want to trigger it, and so do many retailers in their ads. This is the point: “to get your vote, your money, or your times, they must activate at least one of your moral foundations.” He views bumper stickers are tribal badges: declaring who you are and your moral matrix. He argues that the moral matrix of liberals (remember, he is one!) rests more heavily on this modularity than others.

This doesn’t mean that conservatives don’t have compassion, they just express it differently (and for different causes). In keeping with loyalty, their compassion tends to stay home first. Not exclusively, but primarily. This is why they want to limit foreign aid so we can address issues here at home first. They also express it as individuals rather than seeking “compulsory compassion” through the government (aka taxes). So, liberals generally seek compassion through government while conservatives express compassion personally (studies indicate that conservatives are more generous to causes).

Fairness/cheating is about justice. “On the left, concerns about equality and social justice are based in part on the Fairness foundation”. The key there is equality. On the right, fairness is expressed proportionally: “people should be rewarded in proportion to what they contribute, even if that guarantees unequal outcomes.” So liberals tend to press for “equal outcomes” such as concern about income inequality and the wealth tax and limitations. Conservatives tend to press for “equal opportunity” which means each person can succeed or fail. Both want justice but see it differently.

In looking for a new-to-me car, I went to test a car with a great price. I liked the car but apparently that was the price “if”: if you had a trade in, and used them for financing. There was no such fine print in the Car Gurus information. My fairness switch was triggered. It was still a very good deal, but not the deal I came in expecting. I’m still on the horns of this, for me, ethical dilemma.

Loyalty/Betrayal addresses our communal life. Leaders arise in each group by consensus, even if unspoken. In the sitcom Community, Jeff Winger is the unspoken leader who naturally arose in the study group. People deferred to and followed him. He decided who was in or out. Until his role was challenged, then it all became more explicit as the rival was “put in their place” for his betrayal of the authority, and the tribe. Loyalty matters to people. Women focus on loyalty to persons. Men tend to focus on groups (teams or coalitions). We like team players, and punish the selfish. Those perceived as disloyal are ostracized. Swing votes, more moderate in their views, as criticized. They are the Blue Dog Democrats (aka Reagan Democrats), RINOs (Republican in name only) and the PCA’s “squishy middle”. Dante consigns the traitors to the innermost circle of hell. (One thing that Haidt does that annoys me, beginning in this section is using the term ‘universalism’ instead of ‘globalism’. I hear the former used in religious circles about salvation, and the latter in political circles. Many Liberals/Moderates I knew lamented the end of the “globalist dream” after the 2016 election.)

Authority/Subversion addresses the respect, or lack thereof, shown to parents, teachers and others in authority. This reflects the reality of the hierarchical impulse. Someone needs to be in charge. In some languages this is encoded through the use of the polite form. It is also reflected in the use or abandonment of titles. He spends time talking about the alpha male, and all I can think about is Negan. But we should remember that they “take on responsibility for maintaining order and justice.”

Haidt used to hold to the common liberal belief that “hierarchy = power = exploitation = evil.” He admits he was wrong and delves into “Authority Ranking”, asymmetric positions in hierarchy. There are people above you and below you. This modularity shapes how we respond to both. The political right builds on loyalty more often than the political left does. It is the party of law and order.

Sanctity/Degradation builds on divinity cluster. Those who are materialists tend to dismiss degradation in favor of autonomy. It’s just a body, after all. Others have a greater sense of disgust that is “irrational”. I was updating my license the other day and the organ donor question came up. I hate that question. I want to be philanthropic, but something about organ donation creeps me out (Frankenstein movies???). Perhaps it is that my body remains united to Christ even in death. I find I can’t overcome that hump. Many people have a strong sense of sanctity/degradation which drives moral choices. Conservatives are more likely to speak of the sanctity of life or marriage. This modularity means more to them. But it also shows up among environmentalists worried a bout degrading the environment.

“Kass argued that our feelings of disgust can sometimes provide us with a valuable warning that we are going too far, even when we are morally dumbfounded and can’t justify those feelings by pointing to victims…”

The Conservative Advantage

I’ve been going long so I’ll try to keep this last section short. As a liberal, Haidt believes that conservatives have an advantage. That advantage is that they utilize a greater number of moral modularities in their messages. Liberal politicians tend to focus on two: Care/Harm and Fairness/Injustice. Haidt notes how he’d criticize Kerry’s speeches in the 2004 election. Kerry’s slogans (“American Can Do Better” and “Help is on the way”) remind me of Biden’s “A Better America”. They really don’t connect with moral foundations. Haidt spoke to Charlottesville Democrats about how Republicans understand moral psychology much better than Democrats. Democrats, he argues, appeal to the rider while Republicans appeal to the elephant.

“Republicans don’t just aim to cause fear, as some Democrats charge.” Plenty of Democrats aim to cause fear too.

Republicans trigger a wider range of moral intuitions. Haidt devised a study to prove his theory. The study showed that while Care and Fairness were moderately high across the political spectrum, they were highest among liberals. The other three increased the farther right you went. Liberals largely reject loyalty, authority and sanctity foundations. This was not simply a U.S. phenomenon. Haidt notes that so much of the research seems to want to find out what is “wrong” with conservatives (being done by liberals). Haidt doesn’t seem to think this is the right approach (normalizing my view and disparaging theirs aka partisanship and demonization).

He notes that at first Obama showed great dexterity in triggering moral intuitions. But then he began to follow the familiar path of addressing Care and Fairness primarily (appealing to the base?). He still got elected twice, however. But you understand the criticism from the right for his globalism as disloyalty to our nation.

Liberals tend to gravitate toward John Stuart Mills’ position (which assumes people are basically good, which isn’t a good assumption to make). Conservatives tend to gravitate toward Emile Durkheimian society that values self-control, duty and loyalty to one’s own group. This explains Obama’s “God and guns” complaint about the heartland. Democrats focus on the pluribus (many), and Republicans the unum (one).

What I Missed

Haidt realized that he missed something. He got some strong responses to his Moral Foundations Theory which didn’t fully fit into it. There was another moral foundation: liberty/oppression. Alphas need to know their limits or oppressed subjects eventually rise up. Liberty operates in a tension with authority. Authority must exist, but not oppress. The Federalists saw authority as protecting liberty. I can see this, but see liberty and safety being in tension. You sacrifice one to get the other (this is the theme of the second and third Captain America movies).

“Liberals sometimes go beyond equality of rights to pursue equality of outcomes, which cannot be obtained in a capitalist system. This may be why the left usually favors higher taxes on the rich, high levels of services provided to the poor, and sometimes a guaranteed minimum income for everyone.”

He argues that in America, conservatives focus on liberty rather than equality. They want a limited government that treats people equally instead of one that tries to control outcomes. So, his Moral Foundations Theory now has (at least) 6 foundations for the world’s numerous moral matrices. Conservatives have the advantage because they address 6 foundations while liberals focus on 3.

And so we’re done with the second section of the book.

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