Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Origins Of Morals And Ideology

FLG's interest was sparked by an excerpt from the NYTimes that Mrs. P posted about a UVA professor who studies the "intuitive foundations of morality and ideology."

FLG said, shit, this is getting awfully close to FLG's turf. You know, the time horizons thing and all that. So, FLG, ever the conscientious blogger, googled away and found this video from TED on the topic. Some interesting parallels between his research and FLG's theories that he pulled out of his ass highly-refined theories.

First, people who are open to new experiences are liberal. Duh, right. But that's something that came up as the end goal of Marxism. FLG argued, and still argues, that the end goal of Marxism is a bastardization of Aristotelian leisure. That is to say the goal is to remove all constraints from human action for the purposes of maximizing the possibilities of having experiences for people. And that echoes throughout the Left, not just Marx. If we look a Keynes:
I see us free, therefore, to return to some of the most sure and certain principles of religion and traditional virtue – that avarice is a vice, that the exaction of usury is a misdemeanour, and the love of money is detestable, that those walk most truly in the paths of virtue and sane wisdom who take least thought for the morrow. We shall once more value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful. We shall honour those who can teach us how to pluck the hour and the day virtuously and well, the delightful people who are capable of taking direct enjoyment in things, the lilies of the field who toil not, neither do they spin.

Here he's talking about experiencing things. Experience is necessarily in the present. It's about spending and consumption, not saving. All makes sense. Odd thing, Haidt is making the case that these open people are falling into a closed-minded tribal mode vis-a-vis the supposedly closed-minded out group. Still makes sense though.

Second, he argues there are five main moral categories, traits, issues, whatever you want to call them. He calls them the five foundations of morality -- Harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. His research indicates that liberals care a lot about the first two -- harm/care and fairness/reciprocity -- but much less about the other three. Conservatives on the other hand, care roughly equally about all five. He says this applies across all countries. Therefore, he argues, the debates in society aren't really about harm and fairness, but about the others. Liberals wonder what ingroup, authority, and purity even have to do with morality at all.

He then refers to "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by Hieronymus Bosch. (Who, by the way, FLG still maintains is obscure.) He uses the three panels to illustrate that order can descend into chaos.

This is what social scientist would call a time series. An examination of states at a series of points over time. If you watch the video, then you'll notice that he then proceeds to a game that was repeated over time, and he charts the results as a time series. FLG's time horizons still stands.

He then moves on to argue that liberals and conservatives need each other like yin and yang. They have complementary moral stances is how FLG guesses he would summarize the stance. This parallels FLG's take that both a valuing the short-term and long-term are valid. And if we understand that our interlocutor merely has a different time horizon, then it's easier to come to some agreement. FLG, however, finds his theory superior because it provides a clearer path to common ground. Understanding that somebody else has a different ideology because they have a different morality is great insofar as it goes, but once you get to the morality where is there to go? FLG thinks understanding that people have differing time horizons offers more room to understand and maneuver without getting into the strict right and wrong that moral stances are so intrinsically bound up with.

What does this all mean? FLG is still the greatest blogger ever.

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