6/8/09

Care to step outside?

From TED: the moral roots of liberals and conservatives (March 2008)
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies morality and emotion in the context of culture.[1] He asks: Why did humans evolve to have morals--and why did we all evolve to have such different morals, to the point that our moral differences may make us deadly enemies?



Haidt outlines five moral values that he believes inform our political choices: harm/care; fairness/reciprocity; ingroup/loyalty; authority/respect; and purity/sanctity.

He notes that both conservatives (those who value the familiar) and liberals (those who are open to new experiences) embrace the first two values. Conservatives, interested in preserving order, hold the last three in high regard as well while liberals are wary of guidelines that can be used to oppress others, even at the risk of chaos.

Rather than advocating one approach over the other, Haidt urges us to "learn some social psychology and step outside the moral matrix." By doing so, he says, we cultivate moral humility and are better positioned to bring about positive change. [2]


1. You can learn about your own morality while contributing to scientific research on moral psychology at yourmorals.org.

2. Haidt credits Sent-ts'an, c. 700 C.E., with expressing the deepest insight moral psychology. "If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between 'for' and 'against' is the mind's worst disease."

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