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Psychologist Jonathan Haidt recently published research that has been taken to indicate that conservatives hold six key values while liberals hold only three. Naturally, some commentators have had a great time with this one. Haidt followed this up with a new book: “The Righteous Mind.”

This was all based on the results of a “Moral Foundations questionnaire” completed by 2,212 participants. In the end, both liberals and conservatives are seen to relate positively to the concepts of Fairness, Liberty and Caring for the weak.

This is all good and commendable, as far as it goes. However, I made a point of finding and viewing all of the Republican primary debates and heard something else. I was left with serious doubts about the consequences of many proposed policies… and the callous audience reactions to them. The virtues of Fairness and Caring for the weak seemed to be missing in action. Individual Liberties received a lot of emphasis but issues of civil Liberties were neglected. The overall take-away seemed to be: “If the weak can’t take care of themselves then that’s their own misfortune.”

In Haidt’s research, conservatives related positively to three additional values more than liberals did: Sanctity, Loyalty, and Respect for authority. However, nobody seemed to notice that all three relate to those things needed to bind tribes, religions, and authoritarian governments together in the face of a common enemy.

Liberals have characteristically moved beyond “because tradition or our leader says so” as guidance for thought. Liberals want to be personally convinced, rather than bow to superior force or status. Although this independent streak can make them awkward and unruly members of a team or bureaucracy, it makes them ideally suited for participatory Democracy.

It need not be a bad thing to leave some values and virtues behind. For instance, you just don’t hear anybody recommending “fealty” anymore. Fealty is the submission that a member of a lower social class owes to his master or king. Vows of chastity, obedience, poverty and silence are not so popular anymore either. Neither is the penance of self-flagellation or the piety of sacrificing children by fire.

If you have been following my earlier discussion of developmental stages, you can see why most liberals are able to look at these “missing” values and say, “been there, done that, moved on, but still have friends that…”

Finally, others, such as Integral Theorist Jeff Salzman, have pointed out that Haidt’s research simply omitted some values that are part of the “language of liberalism” that many conservatives have yet to fully embrace. These three additional values are Empathy, Pluralism, and Social Justice.

My point is this: Please think critically the next time someone tells you that another group doesn’t have values just because their values are not exactly the same as his.

© 2012, David Satterlee

Poll

The highest values are:

22%22 votes
3%3 votes
4%4 votes
30%30 votes
30%30 votes
8%8 votes

| 97 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  Interesting beginning (0+ / 0-)

    but I would have appreciated links to the articles you are commenting about.

    “Human kindness has never weakened the stamina or softened the fiber of a free people. A nation does not have to be cruel to be tough.” FDR

    by Phoebe Loosinhouse on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 06:48:00 AM PDT

  •  Since progressives (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David Satterlee

    are always progressing, there is no reason to think that those three remaining values are the end of the line. If i had to guess i would suspect that liberty will be the next value to fall by the wayside.

    •  No end of the line? (0+ / 0-)

      I have written other diaries comparing conservatives and liberals and I welcome readers to compare them as well.

      A common theme is stages of individual and cultural development. The premise is that the stories we tell ourselves (and each other) spring from a predictable series of developmental worldviews. Each stage satisfies the cognitive/emotional/belief/moral/etc need to explain how things are and give meaning to life circumstances. As our current belief system begins to fail to explain everything, we reach a threshold and region of discomfort.

      If we struggle hard enough, we can transcend our existing worldview and adopt a new one. Stage by stage and struggle by struggle, we add layers to our ability to understand more-complex situations and embrace more-diverse others as "We" or "Us."

      I maintain that all liberals necessarily passed through an earlier conservative stage of group-identification and authority-acceptance. One of the defining characteristics of liberals is an individual acceptance of responsibility for judging subtleties of rightness in any given circumstance.

      Conservatives are more black-and-white and haven't gotten there yet. They think this kind of liberal ethical judgement is (im)moral relativism and it drives them nuts. It also makes it harder for liberals to act effectively as a group. This makes for piss-poor unity around a campaign message. Damn.

      This brings us back to the survey at the end diary. I am astonished at the wide range of (apparently serious) responses. Shouldn't even the most rabid conservative Christian fundamentalist (like every Buddhist or the saintly of every major religion) have taken notice that "God is Love" and that "The greatest law is love?" Thus it is demonstrated that the highest value -- the end of the line -- is UNRESERVED LOVE. Du-uh.

  •  Yeah (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bartcopfan, SuWho, David Satterlee

    This gets at my problem with Haidt's interpretation of his work, he takes as granted that his six core values are all equally legitimate:

    In Haidt’s research, conservatives related positively to three additional values more than liberals did: Sanctity, Loyalty, and Respect for authority. However, nobody seemed to notice that all three relate to those things needed to bind tribes, religions, and authoritarian governments together in the face of a common enemy.
    Excactly.  The core conservative values are prone to lead people to immoral behaviour.   "Loyalty" is a way of saying "I will treat certain people better than others, and better than they deserve based on some pre-existing relationship" - we tolerate for example that a husband might not want to turn in his wife for say, cheating on her taxes, but it's not a commendable virtue.  Yes, it's loyal, but that's a way of explaining what is otherwise immoral behaviour.  A bank regulator should feel no loyalty to the bank they regulate and if they do, it's a detriment to their job.   Hiring extended members of your family to key jobs in lieu of better qualified applicants is nepotism, a bad thing that comes of "loyalty."  

    It can be commendable in limited circumstances, such as a person refusing a lucrative offer to betray someone they're close to, but such behaviours can be justified by other values, like "fairness" (It's not fair to accept money from someone to betray someone else's confidence and trust).

    Sanctity is just a set of traditional restrictions on human behaviour not grounded in any rationally explainable set of moral precepts.  It is generally sexist (as it mostly pertains to treating women like chattel, an expendable good that is expended when she has sex).  

    Respect for authority is arguably good to a point - for pragmatic reasons it's good if everyone can follow a legitimately selected leader, accept that they're "in charge" (within whatever limits) and let them generally lead - unless one is an anarchist, then typically we accept some kind of pragmatic utility in this, but conservatives both take it too far and yet apply it selectively.  After all, for right wing leaders they bend over backward, but for left wing leaders, they are anything but respectful, and spend a great deal of energy undermining the legitimacy of their authority.  Obama wasn't born in America.  ACORN rigged the election.  The ACA is unconstitutional.  Etc.  

    Haidt is a great moral equivalence guy and I don't buy it.  Yes, at a certain distant level of abstraction conservatives and liberals just put different emphasis on a limited set of values but you can't stop there and say "well they're both the same" - you need to look at the consequences and frankly defensibility of those values.  Liberal values, applied leads to a better, happier and more just world.  Conservative values applied is the Dark Ages, feudalism, Victorian prudery and the Gilded Age.

    •  don't undersell loyalty (0+ / 0-)
      Loyalty is faithfulness or a devotion to a person, country, group, or cause
      there's a quickie definition from wikipedia.

      Loyalty is also what makes soldiers willing to fight and risk their lives for each other and for country.

      It is a reason to not sell our secrets to another country.

      Faithfulness is better than faithlessness in a spouse.

      Certainly there is a degree of wisdom in choosing what we give our loyalty to and it shold not become blind allegience.

      •  It's way oversold (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bartcopfan, coquiero, David Satterlee

        I did reference the limited upside of it, in as you say, not accepting a bribe to sell out your country or organization, but there are other values that tell you not to do that.

        As for soldiers, yes loyalty is effective in making them fight for their country, but whether that is good is dependent on whether their cause is good.  It would have been better for the world if WW2 German soldiers felt less loyalty and fought much less hard (As did Italian soldiers who were frequently happy to surrender to the Allies rather than fight for Mussolini's Italy).  

        Faithfulness can be accounted in fairness too.  eg:  My wife doesn't sleep around so I shouldn't either.  

        Anyway, I think we can tolerate a certain amount of loyalty, and admire it in some limited circumstances, but it doesn't deserve to be considered equivalent to fairness.

        Which was really my point, the six values Haidt uses shouldn't be thought of as morally equal.  They're not, and to the extent one puts loyalty over fairness, one is engaging in immoral behaviour.  Where they conflict, fairness should win.

        •  so if she had an affair (0+ / 0-)
          Faithfulness can be accounted in fairness too.  eg:  My wife doesn't sleep around so I shouldn't either.
          wouldn't it then be 'fair' for you to also be unfaithful and have one?
          •  maybe (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            coquiero, David Satterlee

            It would be "fair" to end our marriage more likely.

            I don't know if "fairness" really justifies revenge.  Certainly whomever I would have an affair with should probably not be used as an object to get revenge on my wife.

            Perhaps if my wife and I agree that I am free to engage in reciprocal sexual dalliances and I do so with women who know there is no possibility of a long term relationship.

            It's rather far afield.  I'm not sure I'd want to claim that fairness is the all encompassing moral value that alone could make a perfect world, just that I rate it above loyalty.

      •  I prefer loyalty to principle (3+ / 0-)
        Certainly there is a degree of wisdom in choosing what we give our loyalty to and it should not become blind allegience.
        The part I've bolded is what I think is the nut of it. Once you've declared your "loyalty" to someone(s), it strikes me as "they can do no wrong", which I've just never seen as believable.

        I'm not faithful to my spouse because she can do no wrong, but because I value being worthy of her (and others') trust and I don't want to cause her or my family the hurt that faithlessness would bring.

        To me, "loyalty" = omerta, which I generally don't see as good for society at large.

        "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

        by bartcopfan on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 07:37:44 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  you're describing (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          David Satterlee
          The part I've bolded is what I think is the nut of it. Once you've declared your "loyalty" to someone(s), it strikes me as "they can do no wrong", which I've just never seen as believable.
          blind allegence again. Loyalty can be given under false pretenses. You marry someone who had concealed he was a drug dealer. The deception obviates the loyalty you had given. Likewise if the person later becomes a drug dealer.

          The other party can certainly take actions that release you from your obligation.

          People swear marriage love/honor/obey till death do us part. But if the other party does not live up to their end of the bargain (been diloayal in effect) you are not obligated to be a sap for them.

          omerta to me is that blind allegiance which suspends our critical thinking and moral compass and which leads to bad ends.

          But when we know the other to be good and true, then we are bound by whatever loyalty we have proclaimed.

          Loyalty should be seen as a 2-way contract, not one way submission. Penn State was 'loyal' to Jerry Sandusky after he had violated the trust they put in him.

          •  Agreed. And I think you're agreeing that (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            coquiero

            loyalty to others is submissive to other, higher, values, e.g. loyalty to principles.  

            Penn Statutory could be loyal to Sandusky or to principles of protecting those under its care/supervision, but not both.  That they and JoPa chose what/who they chose will reflect poorly on them for decades (and on JoPa...forever).

            "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

            by bartcopfan on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 08:10:22 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks to David S. for this diary (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Scientician, David Satterlee

    I read the earlier article w/ interest (couldn't quickly find the link).  While I disagreed w/ much of it, as referenced above, I thought it might make a good jumping-off point for clarifying my own thoughts on the topic.  David beat me to the punch and has kept the idea alive for me.

    Again, thanks!

    "Push the button, Max!" Jack Lemmon as Professor Fate, The Great Race

    by bartcopfan on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 08:04:48 AM PDT

  •  Haidt is quite the fad these days (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    David Satterlee

    and an annoying careerist.  He says he used to be a liberal but is now a declared 'centrist' (aka conservative).  Basically, he works for The Other Team now.

    Conservatism works on a fundamental logic of insiders/outsiders.  Haidt's work is a kind of recognition of this plus a lot of verbiage catering to peoples' rationalizations of why they accept or reject this as fundamental outlook.

  •  For a more illuminating exploration of this (0+ / 0-)

    territory, see Christopher Lasch, "The True and Only Heaven".

    Where are we, now that we need us most?

    by Frank Knarf on Mon Jul 16, 2012 at 11:09:18 AM PDT

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