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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why are good people divided by politics and religion?

Why do people of different political persuasions disagree? Progressives find it difficult to accept that Conservatives really believe what they say, and Conservatives look askance at Progressives in the same way.

One explanation is that the differences go back to fundamental moral positions.
Jonathan Haidt has developed a system of six psychological foundations:

1) Care/harm: This foundation ... underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
2) Fairness/cheating: This foundation ... 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.
4) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation ... 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 ... underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
6) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation ... 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).

According to Haidt and his other researchers, progressives rely almost exclusively on the first three while conservatives use all six.

For more information click on this link.

Jonathan Haidt gave a TED talk back in 2008 on this topic. You will notice that there are some changes to the foundations (in 2008 he had only five with Libety / Opression missing) the basic message is the same.



This might explain why my conservative friends are so resistant to my reasonable, moral, and factually accurate arguments.

On the other hand, there have been significant changes to conservative thought in recent decades. For example, Sir Robert Menzies, the founder of Australia's major conservative party said the following in 1942:

The country has great and imperative obligations to the weak, the sick, the unfortunate. It must give to them all the sustenance and support it can. We look forward to social and unemployment insurances, to improved health services, to a wiser control of our economy to avert if possible all booms and slumps which tend to convert labour into a commodity, to a better distribution of wealth, to a keener sense of social justice and social responsibility. We not only look forward to these things, we shall demand and obtain them.

I can't imagine modern leaders of Menzies party writing these sentiments.

Even if conservatives have a different and valid moral outlook, I still think that they have moved too far to the irrational, anti-scientific right in recent decades.

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