Welcome to my blog in which I will try to discuss and analyse British and Scottish politics, with the occasional wider foray, from the perspective of the Moral Psychology as outlined by Jonathan Haidt in his book the Righteous Mind.
Haidt’s Righteous Mind has been warmly received with some reviewers positively ecstatic in their praise, see endorsements such as
“remarkable and original” EO Wilson
“brave, brilliant and eloquent” Paul Bloom
“brilliant analysis” Larry Sabato
“It is not too much to hope that this book will reduce (political) conflicts” Richard E Nisbett
“Haidt’s research has revolutionized the field of moral psychology. This elegantly written book has far-reaching implications for anyone interested in politics, religion, or the many controversies that divide modern societies. If you want to know why you hold your moral beliefs and why many people disagree with you, read this book.” Simon Baron-Cohen
Haidt’s subtitle – Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion indicates that he is using the word morality not in its common sense meaning of abstaining from cheating, stealing, lying and doing actual harm, no Haidt’s core insight is that politics is driven by a another moral sense, a sense of right and wrong based on several other foundations such as fairness, freedom and loyalty. The foundations that Haidt posits won’t come as a great surprise but the new, brilliant insight is that the way in which we use make use of the foundations, determines our underlying moral psychology which drives our political beliefs. Everyone sees and feels these foundations slightly differently leading to political differences; Haidt argues that the left – right spectrum is caused by clustering of liberals around harm reduction and fairness and the right clustering around moral notions of loyalty, freedom, and respect for authority.
Haidt’s book is a game changer, a completely clear and brilliant insight from which a new type of political analysis will emerge, one which Haidt hopes will heal division and lead to better policy as left and right begin to understand each other better. Left and right will not agree, Haidt shows precisely why, but his hope is that the sheer incoherence of political discourse may diminish as he offers the political tower of babble a translation device, a means to understand each other, to understand what it is that they actually disagree about.
I want to get this new political analysis started, alert the left to the Conservative advantage and tell the left about a key weakness in one of its moral intuitions, one which undermines the other two: harm reduction and fairness. That other foundation is anti-authoritarianism technically reverse dominance.
I also want to try to discuss some of Haidt new insight in the context of the of Alan Page Fiske’s brilliant Social Relations Theory. I think that political thinking makes unconscious references to four social models and valorizes or demonizes them in our moral reasoning.
I also want to try to add in something that Haidt has yet considered in terms of his moral foundations, namely how do we add the bifurcation of the moral sense into the mix? In our moral sense there is US and there is THEM and our moral sympathies are only weakly extended outside of our circle to the other. This has huge implications for Foreign Policy in particular.
Another objective would be to look at how the ideas of the cognitive linguist George Lakoff in his book Moral Politics contribute a political moral psychology.
Additionally, I want to discuss the things that I don’t understand about political psychology such as “vengeance needs” and find out how they relate to, and feed in to, moral intuitions.