Haidt’s Moral Psychology

Haidt’s Moral Psychology

The lefts’ claim that social justice and preventing harm are moral purposes led Haidt to wonder if there were other moral purposes shaping politics. His research led him to a number of conclusions, supported by his Your Morals.Org project, which initially led him to add three other foundations to the two cited by the left, later he would add another one resulting in six altogether. They are in Haidt’s words:
1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.

2) Fairness/cheating: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy.

3) Liberty/oppression: This foundation is about the feelings of reactance and resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty. Its intuitions are often in tension with those of the authority foundation. The hatred of bullies and dominators motivates people to come together, in solidarity, to oppose or take down the oppressor.

4) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it’s “one for all, and all for one.”

5) Authority/subversion: This foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.

6) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).
Haidt says that we should think of these moral foundations as taste buds whose receptors determine the extent to which these foundations resonate with us, some (exceptionally) will recognize all of then as resonant and a few will derive little pleasure from any of them. The foundations are a work in process and it is possible that a new one could be added or the list re-organized. The way in which the foundations work is an open question, clearly Care/Harm appears to work like a spectrum from weak to strong with all us situated somewhere on the spectrum. Another foundation such as Liberty/Oppression may conceal differences in liberal and conservative taste buds such as Isaih Berlin’s “freedom from” and “freedom to”

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