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Bloggingheads
06-08-2008, 01:16 PM

mike_k
06-08-2008, 02:49 PM
Jonathan talking about the non-unitary nature of the moral sense could have been ripped directly from Philosophical-Investigations-era Wittgenstein!

http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/11740?in=00:17:04

razib
06-08-2008, 04:19 PM
re: the homogeneity and happiness. will points out that europeans have been getting happier and more secular & heterogenous. jon points out that you need to control for the variables as and note historical contingency of dynamics. all that being said, european nations aren't really THAT heterogenous compared to the USA, for example. e.g., the USA is about 30% non-white/non-anglo. england the equivalent number is south of 10%, and when you have such small minorities they can be packed into the cities in a way that the vast majority don't perceive much change in cultural diversity (e.g., racial minorities are around half the population in london, but way below 10% in most of the country, closer to 1% outside of a few of the large urban areas).

Bloggin' Noggin
06-08-2008, 04:52 PM
Haidt says at the end of the diavlog that liberal theorists would set in-group/out-group and deference/respect "settings" to zero -- i.e., that they would regard loyalty and deference as unimportant.
I think this is definitely a mistake. The liberal can certainly account for the importance of loyalty within certain reasonable limits. Yes, the liberal moral ideal is committed to impartiality, but it doesn't follow that he is committed to impartial treatment of every one at every level. What impartiality rules out is the possibility that "this is ME" or "this is MY friend" can be an ultimate moral justification -- but it CAN be a less-than-ultimate justification.
Suppose that we admit that everyone is better off with personal loyalties -- families and friends who will do more for one another than they will do for strangers. Then such loyalties can be impartially justified. The impartial constraint is simply that if I admit that it's appropriate to do X for my friends but not for strangers, then I must be able to admit that it is appropriate for YOU to do the same for YOUR friends.
Insofar as liberals object to in-group/out-group across the board, they are simply over-generalizing an objection to treating the "out-group" as morally of no account.
I see no problem with admitting a rationalized form of respect. Kant of course believed that respect for all rational agents was essential to morality. But I see no problem with a more differential sort of respect, where we give more respect (of a different sort) to those of greater value to the rest of humanity -- inventors, teachers, presidents etc. I don't think Kant would have had a problem with this either, so long as this differential respect does not exceed the limits imposed by the general moral respect owed to rational agents in general.
Purity is probably the most troubling, but it seems like it too could be kept within rational limits. Our purity reactions could reasonably be directed at health and cleanliness, so long as we limit this by moral respect for other persons. For example, the disgust and "moral" indignation directed at fat people certainly needs to be brought within rational and moral limits.
I'd like to point out that the struggle against purity codes as the center of morality has been going on for a long time. At any rate, that's a reasonable interpretation of Jesus's attitude toward the purity-parts of the Jewish law (e.g., "the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath" -- and before that the prophets sided with social justice against ritual. Karen Armstrong also sees something similar going on in the Indian and Iranian traditions. (No, I don't take her as terribly reliable in her interpretations of religion, but her view in this case seems plausible to me.)
I have more to say about Haidt's comparison of moral truth to the market price of gold, but I'll come back later for that.

Although I think Haidt underestimates the resources of enlightenment/liberal /rationalist moral theory, this was a terrific diavlog and I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to. I thought I'd be gritting my teeth and yelling at the screen a lot more than I did. Thanks to Will and to Jonathan Haidt for a terrific discussion.

mentalelevation
06-08-2008, 05:04 PM
Will and Brink have to use the same webcam?!

Over at the American Enterprise Institute the webcams are perishable. But Ol' Kristol insists that every office has an e-waste compost bin.

Bloggin' Noggin
06-08-2008, 05:18 PM
Haidt makes an interesting remark about how he feels shame about the American/Virginian history of racial oppression and prejudice.
I think this is just right. People speak of "liberal white GUILT" over the racist history of the US. Clearly guilt is an inappropriate emotion here, since Haidt himself is probably not responsible for any of this history. But SHAME is not obviously inappropriate, since it covers, not only things one is responsible for, but what one identifies with -- you can feel shame about your family, even though your family is not something you are responsible for.
It wouldn't be good or even sensible for us to feel guilt about the behavior of our ancestors, but it seems evidently inadequate that we should bear no responsibility for making things better for the descendents of those our ancestors wronged. If we recognize the moral relevance of shame, not just of guilt, perhaps our dilemma is solved or at least eased.
The liberal's overgeneralized disavowal of in-group/out-group feelings (see my post above) actually makes it harder for liberals to account for the reasonableness of shame and our feeling that even those of us who are not directly responsible for past racism may have a responsibility to do something about that past.
This is a point that I think I probably owe to the philosopher Bernard Williams.

But what probably made this salient at the moment is the little bit of Slavery by another Name (http://www.slaverybyanothername.com/index.php?section=1) that I have read so far. Looks like an excellent book, though not probably a fun one to read.

Bloggin' Noggin
06-08-2008, 05:48 PM
A quick point about purity. Haidt's focus is entirely on the psychology of morality, on the part of morality that is "in the heads" of human beings. It's no wonder then that he sees the "purity" emotions as just as much part of the moral emotions as those concerned with justice and harm. But if one also focuses on the external reality to which these emotions must answer, liberal skepticism about "purity" is pretty well justified. If we value truth and evidence, what would count as evidence that sex with a menstruating woman is a "defilement"?
On the other hand, people exist and they really do have interests and really can be harmed. And, though there may be room for debate in difficult cases about what constitutes equal treatment or fair treatment, there are clearly limits to what we can regard as equal or fair treatment, given what we actually know empirically.
Haidt's emphasis on moral psychology, while perfectly understandable for a moral psychologist, limits his perspective when it comes to moral philosophy.

uncle ebeneezer
06-08-2008, 08:02 PM
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/11740?in=00:23:33&out=00:23:43

bjkeefe
06-08-2008, 08:51 PM
BN:

I thought I'd be gritting my teeth and yelling at the screen a lot more than I did.

It's okay. I'm sure I more than made up for you.

It's been a long time since I've heard such a hand-wavy, over-generalized, choose data-to-support-the-theory presentation of any idea. Sorry, but I'm not even going to debate the specifics. This was just too bogus.

Maybe I should have said nothing, but I did want to register my displeasure. This was one of the few diavlogs where a voting button would probably have been for the best.

AemJeff
06-08-2008, 09:20 PM
I tried to draw a parallel in another thread, a while back, between moral systems and languages; or more accurately between the development of moral systems and the evolution of languages – though I really haven’t tried to develop the idea in a lot of detail. I’m really taken with Jon’s monologue here (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/11740?in=00:53:04&out=55:06) – first he explicitly gets at what I think is a fundamental truth about the content of moral systems – I think they’re ultimately arbitrary and tell us more about those who hold them than they do about any sort of objective truth. Secondly, I love the “markets” analogy, which does everything I was trying to do with my analogy to language, but which does it with a clarity that my fumbling attempt lacked.

AemJeff
06-08-2008, 09:24 PM
It's been a long time since I've heard such a hand-wavy, over-generalized, choose data-to-support-the-theory presentation of any idea. Sorry, but I'm not even going to debate the specifics.

I was actually ok with most of it and I really liked some parts, as I indicated in another post. There were some stretches where the discussion seemed to veer from moral philosophy to something that sounded to me a lot like "Libertarianism good! Libertarians wise!" that seemed out of place and was somewhat irritating.

bjkeefe
06-08-2008, 09:50 PM
There were some stretches where the discussion seemed to veer from moral philosophy to something that sounded to me a lot like "Libertarianism good! Libertarians wise!" that seemed out of place and was somewhat irritating.

And there were longer stretches where it was all "Conservatives good! Conservatives happier! Conservatives better! Religion good! Don't tell me about your European countries! I'm not listening! I'm not listening!"

Another gripe: his sweeping claim about federalism. Granted, there are some parts of the liberal agenda that seek uniform national policies, and it's at least arguable that some of them may overreach. But what about conservatives, when individual states or other localities want to institute, say, environmental policies or gun control stricter than federal standards? There's no end of screaming from the right then.

Argh. I don't want to go on. This guy was the philosopher's equivalent of Rod Dreher.

Bloggin' Noggin
06-08-2008, 10:09 PM
I suspect what bugged Brendan was the stuff about religious belief and happiness.
I agree about the libertarian bit to some degree. I don't think it's at all fair to say that modern liberals demand equality of outcome. In addition, I think John Stuart Mill is not so easily categorized as a libertarian. I think he's pretty clear even in _On Liberty_ that his defense of free markets is not the same as his liberty-based, anti-paternalist argument for free speech and liberty of conscience:

This is the so-called doctrine of Free Trade, which rests on grounds different from, though equally solid with, the principle of individual liberty asserted in this Essay. Restrictions on trade, or on production for purposes of trade, are indeed restraints; and all restraint, qua restraint, is an evil: but the restraints in question affect only that part of conduct which society is competent to restrain, and are wrong solely because they do not really produce the results which it is desired to produce by them. As the principle of individual liberty is not involved in the doctrine of Free Trade so neither is it in most of the questions which arise respecting the limits of that doctrine: as for example, what amount of public control is admissible for the prevention of fraud by adulteration; how far sanitary precautions, or arrangements to protect work-people employed in dangerous occupations, should be enforced on employers. Such questions involve considerations of liberty, only in so far as leaving people to themselves is always better, caeteris paribus, than controlling them: but that they may be legitimately controlled for these ends, is in principle undeniable.

He would be open to government interference in markets to the degree that it is beneficial on balance. And, as I understand it, he did at times take a position on "economic liberty" that would be pretty recognizable to a modern liberal. I don't think Mill does count as a libertarian in the Randian sense at all, and (though this part I know less first hand), I think he would have disagreed at certain times in his life (though perhaps not at others) with Will's dictum that a libertarian is a liberal who has studied ecomonics. In On Liberty, he does seem to come close to that view. I wish I could remember where I read about Mill's more socialist tendencies. I'll try to think -- or rather I'll Google it -- and come back.

Bloggin' Noggin
06-08-2008, 10:23 PM
And there were longer stretches where it was all "Conservatives good! Conservatives happier! Conservatives better! Religion good! Don't tell me about your European countries! I'm not listening! I'm not listening!"

Another gripe: his sweeping claim about federalism. Granted, there are some parts of the liberal agenda that seek uniform national policies, and it's at least arguable that some of them may overreach. But what about conservatives, when individual states or other localities want to institute, say, environmental policies or gun control stricter than federal standards? There's no end of screaming from the right then.

Argh. I don't want to go on. This guy was the philosopher's equivalent of Rod Dreher.

My impression is that this is a bit of a misinterpretation of Haidt. As far as I can tell, he seems like very much of a non-believer himself. As far as I can see, he doesn't believe in the religious "purity" stuff himself -- but he believes that it is part of human nature.
It sounds as though he is actually happy that Obama is a liberal who maybe has finally learned how important the other bases of morality are in persuading others.
I think he personally is probably one of the New York/San Francisco types (at least insofar as he is willing to look at morality in this alienated, evolutionary wa), but he recognizes that to take that point of view does cost people something psychologically.

Regarding federalism, the problem I have is that very often the state level doesn't seem much more "local" than the federal level. San Francisco wanted to have gay marriages, yet San Francisco wasn't free to go off and do this on its own. There is something to be said for the principle of local control, but federalism seems only loosely related to this.

bjkeefe
06-08-2008, 10:41 PM
My impression is that this is a bit of a misinterpretation of Haidt.

Oh, you're right. No doubt I've exaggerated. (Liberally!)

There just gets to be a point when I've heard yet another sweeping generalization, followed by a rejection of yet another (inconvenient for the thesis) counterexample, where my willingness to engage the argument seriously vanishes.

Wonderment
06-08-2008, 11:55 PM
The liberal can certainly account for the importance of loyalty within certain reasonable limits.

The whole discussion of liberals and conservatives struck me as basically bogus. Sure, conservatives can be stereotyped as fiercely loyal prudish authoritarians, but how deep does that run?

Is loyalty not also a foundation of liberal morality? Don't liberals understand betrayal as much as conservatives do? Loyalty appears to be about power -- achieving and sustaining it.

The whole Democratic primary election was about affirming or denying conflicting loyalties (to blacks and/or women), wasn't it?

The members of the (liberal) Black or Hispanic Caucus are just as intensely loyal to each other in Congress as the members of Pro-Life groups are.

"Purity" seems to evolve from these kind of group loyality bonds as a means to differentiate and sustain group identity (no Jews eat pork; no Prius driver pollutes; no pacifist carries a dirty gun; enivironmentalist shoppers find plastic bags disgusting; evangelicals think gay sex is gross; segregationists thought "miscegenation was yukkie.)

A better approach would seem to recognize that libs and conservs are loyal, grossed out and deferential to different entities, causes and people.

themightypuck
06-09-2008, 09:23 AM
"I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it's an ethos."
Will bravely stares into the abyss: http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/11740?in=00:59:39&out=00:59:42

Bloggin' Noggin
06-09-2008, 09:49 AM
A better approach would seem to recognize that libs and conservs are loyal, grossed out and deferential to different entities, causes and people.

I basically agree. There will be something of a difference between the rationalist/progressivist and the social conservative on whether (or how far) our feelings of disgust are really appropriate to any external reality, however. The social conservative is more likely to trust his immediate feelings of disgust as signs of some important moral truth. The progressive has to be a lot more skeptical of these immediate deliverances of disgust -- many a progressive heterosexual probably at least starts off with feelings of disgust about homosexuality, for instance.
But even more progressive forms of disgust are (as Haidt and Wilkinson both point out) still deeply suspect. Sure, being overweight is bad for health and it's a good thing if people want to keep their weight within bounds or if they feel bad about smoking, but there really isn't anything (in a naturalistic world view) that corresponds to the primitive notion of "pollution" or "defilement" that we tend to fall into.

Bloggin' Noggin
06-09-2008, 10:40 AM
Haidt was interesting, but I have to say he has a bad habit of objecting to straw men, as far as I can see.

One case is at the very end of the diavlog, where he says that there is no moral truth that existed before human beings and would exist after them. As I have repeatedly pointed out here, this is a position that very few believers in moral truth hold, yet he acts as if this is the moral realist position. Plato identifies moral truth with psychic "health". Human health is not something that would have existed before human beings, yet there are certainly truths about human health that seem considerably more robust and invariant than the truths about the value of gold. Even Kant (if he didn't believe that there was an eternally existent rational agent) could regard moral truths as something that didn't exist before humans (or some other rational agents) came on the scene.

At the same time, Haidt seems to identify "relativism" with "subjectivism" -- the view that whatever an individual believes is morally right IS right for him. In this way, he evades the label of "relativism" for his own view, and manages to present his view as though it were something entirely new under the sun. In fact, it appears to be a version of cultural relativism -- albeit a somewhat sophisticated version. The sophistication lies in the fact that he doesn't think that whatever a society believes is right necessarily IS right for it. There seems to be room in his view for the recognition that a given society is liable to believe in a number of deep principles which may commit them to a number of contradictory conclusions, or may commit them to an unexpected conclusion when they recognize certain relevant empirical facts (e.g., that women are as intelligent and "rational" as men).
At least, I THINK that's possible on his view -- though his model of the price of gold doesn't clearly back this up. There was a point when tulip bulbs were worth their weight in gold. Were they REALLY more valuable than gold? This seems like a case of market irrationality, but if you identify value with market value, then there seems to be no room for any notion of market irrationality or for the claim that tulip bulbs were not REALLy worth so much.
Of course, he does seem to think that even broadly accepted moral views can be wrong, so I conclude he doesn't fully buy his market theory of value -- or that he would modify it with a provision of full information.

His view does indeed seem to be cultural relativism, because it's pretty clear that if you have two separate markets, gold could be worth more than silver in one market and worth less in another market.

He could use more sophistication in his discussion of cultural change. He says that given our current situation, women deserve equal treatment with men, but he's less sure that this is so when we consider the ancient past when a sexual division of labor may have been more necessary to social survival. Fine. But what he overlooks is that this point can be accepted by a moral realist utilitarian (for example) as much as by a moral relativist. The moral realist utilitarian believes that moral rules are right in the circumstances of a particular society if they promote the greatest happiness in those circumstances. A moral realist utilitarian believes that this is what "right rules" are across all societies and all circumstances. It is quite possible that the right rules by this definition were different in the past from what they are now. Perhaps rules that divided labor by sex promoted the greatest happiness in the circumstances of the ancients and no longer promote the greatest happiness now. This is a pretty basic point, and I'm a little surprised that Haidt seems unaware of it.

The other place where Haidt seems surprisingly unsophisticated is at the beginning of the discussion, where he acts as though philosophers ought to be terribly surprised that we start with an initial intuition (or reaction), which we then attempt to justify. Perhaps Piaget and Kohlberg really didn't recognize this, but most philosophers are surely quite well aware of it -- it's the way philosophical reflection has pretty much always proceeded, since the time of Socrates. We start with a lot of immediate moral intuitions -- both about individual cases and about general principles. Reason comes in when we recognize (as Socrates was so good at pointing out) that these intuitions tend to conflict.
What's most irksome is that Haidt goes immediately from the point that our moral reactions do not start off as part of some coherent system to the conclusion that moral reasoning and reflection must necessarily be mere "rationalizations". This doesn't follow at all! It's a possible interpretation of the facts, but there are others. Science starts from the recognition that common sense intuitions about the physical world (though usually very helpful in ordinary life) also don't constitute a coherent theory of the world. We have any number of immediate intuitions about physical reality (e.g., that things naturally come to rest unless a force is applied), which contradict other intuitions and observations (e.g., the motion of projectiles). Yet we do not conclude that science is mere "rationalization". We think it's genuine reasoning, genuine inquiry into the nature of things. Haidt fails even to see that he's making an argumentative leap in the case of morality that he would not make in other cases.
I suppose he has probably read moral realist philosophers, but he seems to have heard only strawmen.

Me&theboys
06-09-2008, 12:47 PM
Will's conclusion reminded me of the old Dr. Pepper jingle. Brendan, you feel the way I felt when I first read Haidt's work. It pissed me off, because I thought he was an apologist for all that is wrong with people. What changed my opinion was the realization that he is engaging in moral psychology, not moral philosophy, and that changed my interpretation of his message. That, and reading several other books on the topic, from both liberal and conservative perspectives. As I see it, Haidt is engaged in trying to understand and explain why people do what they do, not advocate for what they ought to do, or even pass judgment on what they do. I imagine he's subject to a lot of "shoot the messenger" action as a result, because a lot of what he has to say surely offends one group or another (I find that most people do not like having their behavior explained). I recently watched his talk and the subsequent discussion at the Beyond Belief conference at Salk, and he came under similar attack by the new atheists who did not want to hear about how secularism can be threatening to those whose morality includes such attributes as in-group, authority, and purity. Haidt is not advocating "oughts", though I am sure he has his strong personal opinions. He is explaining behavior. And what he has to offer in this arena is, in my opinion, important, fascinating, and worth serious consideration. As he and Will stated several times, the morality of others IS morality FOR THOSE OTHERS, and we dismiss it at great cost to any hope of change and progress. We have to understand it and come to terms with it if we have any hope of changing it. My Dad thinks it is immoral for women to wear pants. IMMORAL. Is this hand wavy? Maybe, but it is nevertheless a fact that I have to contend with when interacting with my father. Is it related to deference to male authority (probably) or disloyalty to my female in-group (maybe). I do know that understanding THAT he thinks this way [not that it is just wrong (a mere opinion), but that it is IMMORAL (a rule, in his mind)] is the first step to understanding WHY he thinks this way, which paves the way for trying to change the way he thinks. As a woman, I have far more to lose in a Society where morality consists in large part of deference to authority, purity, and in-group loyalty. Such morality works against female interests in every way. I railed against this morality for years, and finally decided there was more to be gained by trying to understand what could cause people to be this way. Evolutionary psychology has a lot to offer in the way of explanations. Haidt and others have a lot to offer, too, at least for serious consideration. At the very least, a better understanding of the WHY of "conservative" morality enables me to dismiss their truth claims. At best, I hope to use this knowledge to be able to change some people. So I'm a Haidtist. Know Thine Enemy. "Wouldn't you like to be a Haidtist, too?" ;-) Two books I recommend that also deal with this perspective of differing moral bases underlying many political differences are Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions (yes, it will piss you off) and George Lakoff's Moral Politics.

BTW, long time no chat on these very interesting topics :-)

Amanda

Will Wilkinson
06-09-2008, 01:07 PM
I'm really sorry if Jon seemed to you philosophically unsophisticated, because he's very far from that. One reason I like him and his work so much is that he has a much deeper grasp of the relevant philosophical issues than so most psychologists involved in these questions. I highly recommend The Happiness Hypothesis, which has an intellectual heft lacking in most of the related literature. And please do look go through a few of the papers on his web page, linked on the diavlog's page.

bjkeefe
06-09-2008, 01:26 PM
Amanda:

Good to see your face ... uh, words ... again.

I'll take your rebuttal under advisement. It does help to think of Jon as a psychologist rather than a philosopher, trying to describe rather than prescribe. And yes, I'll grant that part of my reaction was emotional, not intellectual. Part of this came from a sense that conservative political types are going to gleefully cherry-pick his results, and we are going to be subjected to a lot of nonsense about how science "proves" that [fill in unfounded claim here].

All that aside, though, I still object to Jon's tendency to speak in generalizations. He also reminds me of the saying, There are only two groups of people in the world: Those who divide the world into two groups, and those who don't. As anyone who spends any time on this site will readily grant, it borders on meaningless to say a person is either a conservative or a liberal, for example.

I am aware that a one hour conversation may not do justice to a new area of thought (cf. (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/11693)), so I'll try to keep an open mind about this, and maybe someday have a look at Jon's writings. Thanks for weighing in.

Bloggin' Noggin
06-09-2008, 01:41 PM
Thanks, Will. I did just buy the book (in audio form) last night. I enjoyed the talk and thought there was a lot of value in it on the psychology side. I do realize that in a talk like this, he can't get into too much nuance. I did read one of his papers a while back at commenter Me&theboys' suggestion. I did feel that the criticisms I leveled at his talk here applied to that paper as well.
I will have a look at some of the other papers.

By the way, we've had a lot of "experimental philosophers" on BHtv (and their colleagues in psychology). I wonder if you could possibly get Anthony Appiah on to discuss his book _Experiments in Ethics_, which sympathetically, but critically, examines this experimental approach in Ethics.

(Appiah would be good on other subjects as well -- e.g., relativism, identity politics and liberalism.)

I'd love to see another moral realist as well (Appiah's position is not clearly realist) -- Richard Boyd would be my candidate or Peter Railton. (They're both good talkers as is Appiah, I think.) Maybe Michael Smith, though I don't know what he's like as a speaker.

David Gauthier's contractualist justification of morality strikes me as having a lot in common with Evolutionary Psychology explanations of moral psychology, though he is looking at the problem of justification rather than at explanation (at any rate game theory is a big part of both). Again I have no idea what he's like as a talker, or whether he'd know very much about moral psychology.

Hope you don't mind my mentioning this wish-list of future "Free Will" guests -- I don't want to tell you whom to have on the show, but if you think they might be interesting and if you could get them, I think they'd be well worth watching.

Thanks again for one of the best shows not on television (and better than most I've seen ON television for that matter).

Wonderment
06-09-2008, 03:53 PM
To continue the liberal/conservative (false) dichotomy, it also seems that aggression adds heft to the in-group loyalty and authority categories more than politics per se does.

The military is the "conservative" institution par excellence: 1) that speck of dandruff on your collar, soldier, defiles the entire Marine Corps (purity); 2) never question your commanding officer (authority); 3) the Green Berets (or whatever) is the closest family you'll ever have (loyalty).

But when liberals are confronted with war they behave identically and form identical institutions based on the same weighting of the moral categories.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are prepared to be commander-in-chief because everyone knows they will flip into militaristic, hierarchical and patriarchal mode at the slightest sign of trouble.

Wonderment
06-09-2008, 04:49 PM
Thanks again for one of the best shows not on television (and better than most I've seen ON television for that matter).

Ditto. Free Will is awesome!

In this dialogue, I appreciated both speakers elucidating the affinity and overlap between libs and libertarians.

I hope the younger generation of those attracted to Ron Paul and (reborn) Bob Barr types will find they fit much more comfortably among progressive Dems.

Antiwar.org (www.antiwar.org) is a great example of an online community of libertarians and liberals, where you often really have to read the fine print to distinguish the libs from the tarians. (There's also room in the liberal-libertarian peace coalition for Repubs. like Pat Buchanan or Sen. Hagel, but that's a separate story.)

Me&theboys
06-09-2008, 06:17 PM
conservative political types are going to gleefully cherry-pick his results, and we are going to be subjected to a lot of nonsense about how science "proves" that [fill in unfounded claim here].

This is certainly a likely possibility. But I think the risk of people misusing information is worth the benefits of disseminating that information. And besides, no-one needs Haidt's work to justify what they already believe - it is the rare individual who is not already quite skilled at justifying what he/she believes without any help from others and often without any supporting facts. Knowing that some people make moral judgments on the basis of in-groupness, authority, and purity just makes me more aware of those red flags that bode trouble for me and the world I want to live in. As you point out, the terms liberal and conservative are too general to hold much meaning. Haidt offers a useful means of providing some granularity to the broader categories.

bjkeefe
06-09-2008, 08:09 PM
Amanda:

But I think the risk of people misusing information is worth the benefits of disseminating that information.

Yes, agreed. Didn't mean to imply otherwise. I was just offering an excuse for my initial reaction.

Wonderment
06-09-2008, 08:58 PM
As he and Will stated several times, the morality of others IS morality FOR THOSE OTHERS, and we dismiss it at great cost to any hope of change and progress. We have to understand it and come to terms with it if we have any hope of changing it.

Yes, that part was clear and fascinating. I also liked Haidt's openness to new categories like "authenticity" and "waste."

Where it got a little sketchy was in sticking the labels on political groups. Maybe Haidt was just trying to give some rough-equivalence examples. That's fine. But I'm sure the take-away for many listeners was that Republicans are more into purity and loyalty, while Dems. are more into doing no harm and social justice.

mike_k
06-10-2008, 09:43 AM
I have a question for anyone who might know:

Jon says he uses statistical analysis to figure out what are the most fundamental moral dimensions.

Presumably this means that he does something like this:
1) Start with 100 moral questions and get a bunch of people to answer them;
2) Independently, determine each person's "setting" on a bunch of moral dimensions;
3) Use factor analysis to figure out which moral dimensions are on average most predictive of a person's 100 answers.

If you can find, say, 5 moral dimensions that give me 90% certainty of the answers, that is interesting.

However (here's the question), how are the initial 100 questions determined? That affects the outcome very greatly. If I asked 100 questions only about disgust, I would come away saying that disgust is the only moral dimension! More subtly, if I ask too many questions dealing with a particular moral feeling, I would end up with too much emphasis on that feeling in the factor analysis.

So what Jon needs is a "random sample of the set of all moral questions." I'm not actually sure what this even means -- what is the underlying probability distribution?

How does Jon's research address this?

ledocs
06-11-2008, 08:06 PM
Bloggin' noggin's post is more interesting, and much less infuriating, than the diavlog itself. Liberal democracy is about the *pursuit* of happiness, not its attainment. If people in a fascist religious cult self-report that they are happy, why is that interesting or important in any way? I don't see that this empirical fact represents a serious moral challenge to the liberal or anyone else. Haidt is, I regret to say, an idiot. The science of happiness is an a priori science. He's off on the wrong track completely. The same thing applies to Free Will, but he's not nearly as obnoxious. The problem with the empirical approach to happiness is that it must inevitably terminate in neuroscience, in a confusion of some sort of measurement of somatic equilibrium and of what would normally be called contentment, with happiness. X says she's happy. Let's hook her up to our eudaimonometer here and find out if she's lying. Her blood pressure is high. She's lying.

It is quite possible, even likely, it seems to me, that a person could be relatively "happy," where happy is defined in some a priori way, let's say as highly "self-actualized," obtaining deep pleasure from many aspects of life, while simultaneously exhibiting many symptoms of profound discontent.

bjkeefe
06-11-2008, 08:37 PM
ledocs:

Good rant. And thanks for the new word (eudaimonometer).

Me&theboys
06-11-2008, 09:34 PM
Ledocs: So...... some questions for you: Are you happy, or still pursuing happiness? And if the latter, what will differentiate the pursuit from the attainment, or are they one and the same? And how will your happiness differ in any significant way from that of the fascist religious cultist?

a Duoist
06-12-2008, 06:30 PM
A few thoughts: Isn't the rise of secularism in Europe a function of rejecting the historical brutality of Christianity? If true, isn't it likely that Islam will become secularized in the near centuries ahead? Isn't OBL's correct analysis actually the revivalist's desperate attack to stand against the sweep of history arriving...tomorrow?

Secondly, the explosion in diagnosed depression in modern culture: How correlative is depression with urban living, versus 'happiness' in rural societies? As we humans 'herd,' aren't we becoming ever more pessimistic and depressed? Think of how important optimism is just to survive in a rural setting; who has to be an optimist in the modern city? Why is it that the research on 'happiness' do not measure a correlation between a deterministic world-view, psychological pessimism, and the rise of depression, especially in the urban/rural divide sociologically?

Finally, 'purity' in morality, like 'perfection' in aesthetics, is the adoption of an ideal, and all idealisms are the psychological rejection of reality. Whether it is Moses butchering 5,000 of his Hebrews for their impurity, or worse, Hitler, or the 800 years of intellectual stagnation in Islam ever since Muslims declared the religion to be 'perfect,' these ideals are unintended killers. They are toxins because they are "stasis," the 'freezing' of life, conflict, and intellectual thought.

Human existence is marked by its fallibility, impurity, imperfection, and evolution. Ideal concepts like 'infallibility,' 'purity,' 'perfection' or 'preservation' are the great unintended killers of humanity, because they entirely describe what humanity is NOT. OBL is a puritan; so is Mawdudi, Qutb, and Ibn Wahhab. Consider the results of adopting non-human ideals for human life: mass murder.

As ever, in the name of a moral ideal, we humans butcher one another. For any moral code to be life-nurturing--anabolic--it must carefully protect itself from adopting any ideals which are stasis, the rejection of reality--life-denying--catabolic.

Bobby G
06-12-2008, 08:12 PM
I have it on good authority (a friend of mine is a psychologist whose research specialty is in this stuff) that there are 0 (yes, zero) cases of depression among native Papua New Guineans, and that incidence of depression shot up in the US dramatically after 1950. Supposedly, in the 19th century, there were just a handful of depressives. Also supposedly, what is needed among groups to minimize the incidence of depression is:

(1) Lots of sunlight
(2) Living in a close-knit community
(3) Having periods of intense excitement (like hunting) mixed up with normal, boring stuff.