Us and Them – the great bifurcation of the moral sense
I want to add a number of things to Haidt, of singular importance in this respect are the obvious ways in which the moral sense is bifurcated: there is US and there is Them. The US is the moral community to which our moral sensibilities are extended, the in-group to which Haidt’s Loyalty Foundation is applied. The Them are the out-group to which our moral sympathies are extended intermittently, weakly, haphazardly and perhaps most commonly, not at all.
The split is most famously evident in the Christian bible whereby the Ten Commandments are conceived as a moral code pertaining to US, whereas the grimmer passages of the Old Testament commanding the destruction of enemies is the moral code as it is applied to Them.
This concept has huge implications for that part of the left which is strongly reverse dominant. If it conceives of In group authority as not moral then it can conceive of the enemy of In group authority as the enemy of my enemy, potentially a friend, or at least conceive of them benignly. The right makes the inverse error regarding its friends in the out-group as morally benign especially when in coalition against an out group enemy. The enemy of my enemy is my friend.
The dynamics rooted in Hadtian Moral Foundations explain the support of some of the left for the Soviet Union during the Cold War (my enemies’ enemy) and the right’s tolerance of illiberal regimes in the out group such as South Africa who were enemies of my enemy – the Soviet Union.
In the Righteous Mind (2012 UK edition, page 286) Haidt observes that “even though many conservatives opposed the great liberations of the 20th century – of woman, of sweatshop workers, African Americans, and gay people – they applauded others such as the liberation of Eastern Europe from communist oppression” Bravo Conservatives! How did they miss injustice in one place and see it in another? In the in-group (the US from above) they valorize social dominance and authority as moral goods. In the out-group they demonise opponents and enemies of the in-group but are open to support their enemies’s enemy – the oppressed people of Eastern Europe.
You need the theory of Moral Intuitions and the central feature of our moral sense – its bifurcation to understand that completely.
Similarly and absurdly on the left – the UK’s Stop the War Coalition, full of reverse dominance demonising In Group authority proceeds as follows: my enemy’s enemy is my friend. The wretched regime of Assad in Syria assaults it people with brutal genocidal fury but enjoys the esteem of the Stop the War Coalition. Moral Intuitions bifurcated lead to moral corruption.