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December 3rd, 2010

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03:07 am - Musings on Politics and Morals
I've seen a number of recent references to Jonathan Haidt's moral psychology, If you want to go into detail about this, take a look at this interesting 18 minute TED talk, and here's a short article about these ideas and how they are reflected in political views. In brief, the 5 dimensions of Haidt's moral psychology are:
  • Care for others, protecting them from harm. (He also referred to this dimension as Harm.)
  • Fairness, Justice, treating others equally.
  • Loyalty to your group, family, nation. (He also referred to this dimension as Ingroup.)
  • Respect for tradition and legitimate authority. (He also referred to this dimension as Authority.)
  • Purity, avoiding disgusting things, foods, actions.
The data indicates that liberals value the first two far more than the later three, and conservatives value all three approximately equally. This certainly makes sense in light of some of the current political hot issues in the US, and I think is very clearly reflected in this distinction between liberal Negotiated Commitment families & conservative Inherited Obligation family, that I mentioned in a a post a few years back.

If you're interested, someone also examined this data, which shows that it looks fairly robust

In any case, here's the test Haidt mentions in his TED talk, I took it, and my answers were unsurprising –
  • Well higher than the liberal average for Care/Harm (which to me includes actively preventing harm coming to people). To me, this is very obviously the most important aspect of morality, especially when applied to politics or law.
  • A bit above the liberal average in Fairness.
  • A bit below liberal average in Loyalty (likely because I value loyalty to people I personally care about very highly but feel essentially no loyalty to abstract entities like nations).
  • Well below the liberal average for Authority.
  • Far below liberal average for Purity – there's another test on the site that measures "liberal purity", which measures disgust with things like fast food or genetically modified foods – I also scored exceedingly low on that scale (junk food is occasionally quite yummy :)
In any case, my only real disagreement with Haidt's ideas is that I disagree about the value of different approaches, and instead I agree with this excellent article that liberal values are inherently superior, because they are inclusive and not exclusive. In any case, this does seem to be a useful way to look a politics and morality.

On a somewhat related note, I have heard some people (I can't find the sites now) who advocated a 6th axis – liberty, one reason being that it would help differentiate libertarians from liberals, which is a valid distinction. I'm fairly certain where I would fall on that axis – it's considerably less important to me than the first two (Harm & Fairness). I'm now reminded of my post about automatic cars , and how I think that if they become safe and effective enough that laws prohibiting non-emergency manual car use in populated areas are both likely and a good idea. I'm curious how other people feel about that – have a poll.

Poll #1652538 Freedom, safety, and automatic cars

If automatic cars could be made safe and reliable enough that they reduced both fatal and non-fatal accidents by at least 75%, should turning off automatic control in a car equipped with it (and driving it manually) be illegal in populated areas?

If no, would your answer change if they instead reduced accidents by 95%
Other (please explain)
Ticky box

Current Mood: thoughtfulthoughtful

(19 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:December 5th, 2010 05:27 am (UTC)
I wonder if the results to Haidt's test are skewed by people like me, who baulk at registering on websites. I find it a sufficient barrier that I usually wander off to something else. (FTR, I consider myself liberal, not libertarian.)

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