The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There were many points as I was reading this that I had to check my assumptions and back down. Automatic groupings based on similarities tend to almost ALWAYS lead every single one of us to post hoc reasoning.
What do I mean?
Everyone jumps to conclusions based on their intuition. That feeling of rightness then leads us to find reasons and arguments why it is so.
Unfortunately, this is proven to be the means of how almost every single one of us uses reason. Over and over, we're constantly reminded of bias, of selective reasoning, of checking our assumptions, of realizing that not only our memories but our very foundation of knowing a thing is based on a lie.
And it's not like we do it on purpose. We try very hard to do the right thing all the time.
Unfortunately, Haidt makes a very convincing and well-researched argument showing us how we are all led by our noses. I don't particularly like his descriptive analogies, but their meanings are solid.
The breakdown? We are all led by our taste. Our moral foundations.
Right from wikipedia, the first five are:
Care: cherishing and protecting others; opposite of harm
Fairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating
Loyalty or ingroup: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal
Authority or respect: submitting to tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion
Sanctity or purity: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions; opposite of degradation
Liberty, as in the opposite of oppression.
This means an awful lot for our current climate. Each side claims supremacy in each of these moral bullet points but often one side will do one better than the other in certain areas.
Liberals lionize Care.
Liberals and Conservatives focus on different elements of Fairness. Social justice over Economics.
Conservatives lionize Loyalty, while often Liberals point to the nasty effects of it. (But it is still absolutely necessary, with precautions.)
Authority and Respect also come up in very different ways between the groups, too. Conservatives assume that a breakdown of Authority leads to anarchy, while Liberals (broadly) see the abuses of
Authority and focus on Respect. This last is usually about equality.
Sanctity is a strange one. It's the one that ties closest to religiosity on both sides. Disgust at the horrible things people do, the degradation of public institutions, the incalculable loss of life and liberty. I see a lot of outrage here and it's almost always a pure gut-punch that rarely gets post hoc reasoning. It's almost always virtue signaling for either side.
And then there is Haidt's own contribution: Liberty. Usually associated with Freedom.
Conservatives tie it to maintaining a moral way of life, maintaining institutions, and their economics.
Liberals ask, "Liberty for whom? Whose Freedom is maintained? Who gets left out?"
The fundamental CONCERN for liberty is the same. Each side wants liberty and freedom. But here's where it gets funky:
Which side believes they are beset with impurities that must be expunged? Which side is BEING expunged?
If you can point to BOTH SIDES, then you might actually be rising above bias confirmation.
Of course, nowadays, party members are actively told never to converse with the opposing party. In fact, the very idea of finding common ground is usually used as a way to ostracize a party member. So what happens? An individual is forced to find their moral grounds ONLY from the party that they must maintain fealty to.
And all the while, real communication breaks down. The greater similarities fall away in gross mistrust and purity signaling. This is true for both sides.
The Us VS Them is now in full swing and it is almost NEVER based on facts or reason. It is tribalism. It is intuition based on previously formed moralisms that are the foundations for every decision we make.
It doesn't make it right, but it does make a lot of sense.
It's a good argument for bringing back a kind of religion. One that is actually based on the welfare of all its members, that break down divides between social groups, that actually provides a safe space for all kinds of people to talk.
Odd, right? We can even leave deities out of it. But we must respect it. This is how we have always gotten along. Uber individualism just doesn't work. We all need people to survive.
And come on -- it's TIME TO DE-ESCALATE.
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