Saturday, April 04, 2015

Conservative empathy

In moderately liberal Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind, he conducts pretty large scale tests to determine how much Liberals and Conservatives can understand each other. The results are very lopsided.

He outlines six, cross-cultural foundations of morality.
  1. Care/harm: cherishing and protecting others.
  2. Fairness/cheating: rendering justice according to shared rules. 
  3. Liberty/oppression: the loathing of tyranny.
  4. Loyalty/betrayal: standing with your group, family, nation. 
  5. Authority/subversion: obeying tradition and legitimate authority. 
  6. Sanctity/degradation: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions. 

He's pretty clear that Liberal morality not only emphasizes the first three but limits its moral imagination to them. Conservatives, although they give different colorings to the first three, see all six as important to morality.

The result of his tests show that while Conservatives can put themselves in the place of Liberals and accurately imagine that world, describing it in the same terms that Liberals do, Liberals fail badly at even being able to take the second triad of values as anything other than forms of evil.

This explains the failure of a lot of Left-Right "conversations".

As he goes on to point out, people live inside stories far more than they live inside intellectual propositions. Any therapist can tell you that. And the Left story and the Right story do not mesh.



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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ah. I see what you mean now about Liberals and Conservatives interpret the virtues in fundamentally different ways.

Looking at his interpretations, I hazard that Liberals are more concerned with fulfilling the moral virtues, and Conservatives are more concerned with avoiding the moral "vices," as it were. For instance, he interprets Care as giving care, whereas I (a deep conservative as you characterized me) interpret Care as not inflicting senseless harm.

Overall, his interpretation of the Virtues seems quite… fluffy, for lack of a better word. No, idealistic. Whereas mine have more… bite, I suppose. I bit more in the vein of the Founders, avoiding doing what is wrong. Thou-shalt-nots. A phrase that doesn't terrify me, to tell the truth.

How, I wonder, would somebody further down the path, a Jack Donovan, for instance, interpret them?

-Sean

DrAndroSF said...

I'm sure Mr D would begin with loyalty.

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