This is a very different kind of post. But, before I get into it, I’m gonna explain the new path I am going to traverse with this blog. This blog was originally created as a place to share my writings and to share some of my musings. As you can see, that hasn’t worked out […]
I touched down at H’Hare just before 1 PM on May 13 at an airport that was green with strips of manicured grass between the runways. We taxied for about 20 minutes on a runway that seemed to extend to the horizon. I’m in Chicago to see the architecture, especially the works of Frank Lloyd […]
First, let me start by saying, No! This is does not mean, or mean to imply, the death wherein one ends up, “Going to Heaven.“ That kind of malarkey comes from and, is taught by indoctrination to those in and of the bankrupt world of the dead. That bankrupt customary phrase, “Going to heaven,” is a […]
Possibility of a methodological critique & question about how general our psychology is
Question about disentangling perception and reaction (judgement). Do we ever teach ourselves the signs that trigger our affective reactions? How? Or are we only consumers of those signs — and then how do we decide where to shop?
Haidt is answering the question, “How can we design resilient groups to resist cognitive biases,” which I think is important. But I also think–because history thumbs the scale on some of the moral foundations, and an abstract commitment to loyalty can be incarnated as white supremacy–that a more urgent question is, “How can anyone change or shape someone else’s mind?”
He’s also reacting to a liberal tic of calling oneself the only rational thinker, saying you’re emotional too.
It must be, in the end, that there is a concrete answer for how every person decided their initial alliances: a personalized story of a series of formative events, interacting with inherited predispositions. & likwise with parties choosing their issues.
How do people sort into parties? One story is based on region, economic interests, race … but then why would people in the same party share such similar rankings on the MF categories? Do those traditional factors shape MF? Or does one join a party and then have on’s
Questions I’m trying to explore in reading this book again:
1) Whence should a single person derive their own morality — a trust of instincts or a logical structure?
This is also, I think, parallel to the question of how a government should choose its policy. Haidt is certainly trying to convince us through research, through an appeal to our rational aspect. Instincts are at a second level in his policy recommendations: being able to predict, rationally, that our irrational instincts will influence us in such and such way, we should craft this or that policy.
2) Is there any point to, or any justification for, condemning other people’s political and moral beliefs?
3) (One I had forgotten about until haidt offers his definition of morality) which types of system 1 reflex count as morality? That is, which intuitions are moral intuitions, and are there any intuitions on the border of being considered moral?
New question — where have weird moralities come from? And why is universal love sometimes preached, as in the new Testament? How have something as powerful and adaptive as our moral foundations been narrowed by a supposedly weak rider? (Or is the rider not the cause?)
People who devote their lives to studying something often come to believe that the object of their fascination is the key to understanding everything. xxvii
Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.
There’s more to morality than harm and fairness.
Morality binds and blinds.
The intuitionist model is contrasted with the rationalist, and since the later suggests that deliberate, mature, learned reasoning has a vital role, the first, in its triumph, is taken to mean that our decisions and judgements are based mostly on innate aspects of one’s disposition, the combination of universal human tendencies and individual coloration. So it’s shocking and seems worth pausing over how nearly instant intuitions are based on past learning. Subjects demonstrate negative priming from a fart spray — no cultural training needed — and from the word “pro-life,” assuming they’re liberal, requiring a lot of cultural background knowledge.
We have innate structures that define our processing of situations (by which I mean narratives, however long, involving agents; so a situation is the sort of thing that is fair game for moral claims and moral judgements) just as we have innate structures that define our visual processing. But we also have built intuitions, acquired over years of exposure, that can influence how we interpret the world even before we know we’ve started interpreting (within a tenth of a second). That’s not new knowledge, I guess. Is it any different from pavlovian training to react to stimuli, or studies on implicit bias?
Is there a range of size of units that cause affective reactions? Ie, a word, but also a sentence or a paragraph? Can the bigger unit subsume the smaller? It would seem like, yes, both from personal experience and the two word priming experiments.
Where does the initial lean come from in developing a moral stance? Since the same module can give rise to two different political responses to an event — for example, fairness/proportionately leading Santelli to see borrowers as deserving the fall-out for the 2008 crash and leading me to see the risk-taking lenders as deserving to absorb the loss, in terrible profits and being forced to forgive loans they should never have made — what happens before the module is triggered to make us use confirmation bias and seek out the view of the data that will invoke our module in the way we want? This is connected to the question — which, as of pg 200, Haidt treats as marginal — of what victims one cares about, whether one’s care reaction is universal or parochial.
But the obvious connection between political affiliation and which modules — treated here as clusters of related words and types of explanation — you use, with and without prompting, to describe your own moral stances, shows that which moral modules are the strongest in you is related to how you frame the application of any particular module (eg, care for police or for victims of police violence). Would be nice to see relative strength of modules and framing distinguished, as in the punishing experiment, where we measure strength of desire to punish and there is no ambiguity about whom to punish, about who has cheated. Pair that with a survey on political affiliation?
Berlin 1997, negative liberties
Factor and cluster analysis, 414
Can humans be made eusocial? (like termites or mole rats)
Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible. (324)
“When we talk about making laws and implementing public policies in Western democracies that contain some degree of ethnic and moral diversity, then I think there is no compelling alternative to utilitarianism.” But what makes us flourish is not just avoiding harm, but encouraging groupish aspects of our identities through some belief in sanctity, authority, and loyalty. (316)
Dispositional traits, characteristic adaptations, life narratives
When I read the book last time, I misunderstood some of haidt’s advocacy and was undeservingly critical. I had taken the taste metaphor to heart, and when he began to speak of the wisdom of conservatism and the ways we should try to be responsive, in our public policy, to a diverse assemblage of all six moral foundations, I thought he was primarily justifying this for its gustatory value: seeing the oppressed lifted up pleases many of us, and should be sought, but seeing flag-burners imprisoned also pleases a lot of people, so it should also be a high priority. Now I’m picking up on that sort of appeal barely, if at all. Instead, the taste metaphor seems to have receded into the background by this point in the book, and Haidt is instead saying that the whole array of our moral behaviors are helpful for suppressing selfishness and binding communities together. For this reason, they are adaptive, and we have developed a taste for them — but he advocates them for the advantages to group cohesion that initially made them advantageous, not for the secondary benefit of their power to briefly satisfy when seen or trumpeted.
Can he point to examples of liberal enclaves today that are impoverished by this lack of groupishness? He has the historical example of religious communes
Part of the process of psychological research seems to be looking for generalized forms out of a large number of specific instances, as with haidt’s six foundations. and so these generalized categories take on neutral, somewhat dull names — eg, “authority” instead of “father” or “senator palpatine”. But I wonder — and this is only a weak hypothesis, which would need to examine a lot of data for support — whether sometimes one could make a case for a more charged general term that still adequately covers the specific instances. For example, since authority figures in most of the world tend to be men, could “authority” be re-termed “patriarchy?” A piece of evidence that would support this would be if survey respondents place less opprobrium on disobeying orders when these are explicitly identified as coming from a woman.
I think this is plausible, though I don’t know if I would exactly say I expect the data would support it, because our moral matrices are formed through lived experiences, not read treatises. What we describe with the general term “authority” may in practice almost always, at least in some societies, mean the status of men within families & institutions and the status of the traditions those men pass down.
We shouldn’t assume that the most accurate general term for a module is one stripped of all particularity, in cases where the particularity or bias is pervasive.
Question of genetics?
At last to the stumbling block, the specific policy criticisms and proposals. Haidt criticizes liberals for inefficient healthcare and welfare systems, for promoting multiculturalist education, and letting students sue schools. He criticizes conservatives for over-reliance on corporations and excessive resistance to government regulation.
So, part of Haidt’s criticism seems to just be liberals, or liberal parties, misreading markets. But the principle could stand — ie, health care is a human right, but a mixed market is a poor way to get it, and we need a social safety net or guaranteed income, but it shouldn’t be structured to discourage families and marriage. His deeper criticisms are two-fold, and they are really an accusation that liberals misunderstand human nature and “reduce moral capital” — a utopia of John Lennon’s Imagine, a world of universal love and rational individuals who help each other unconditionally and do not take advantage of that help, is not coming. We need institutions and reliance on irrational impulses to suppress free-riders (like litigious students) and to feel fully human and happy.
I wonder if the criticism of multiculturalism fits with this. He’s saying, people don’t like newness and diversity as much as they like recognition of commonality. But he’s ignoring that the majority will happily keep an assimilating minority in permanent apartheid. Less direly put, there is a consequence to not stirring the pot that may be worth the consequences of stirring it. Sure, we could all get behind the myth of Columbus and use his holiday to celebrate values we truly do want to share, like curiosity and endurance. Does it matter if the mythical man is ahistorical? I think so. I think the price of shared rosy feelings in the moment is projecting a rosy past for ourselves, and that myth is used to argue against structural changes to undue the structural oppression of white supremacy, patriarchy, etc.
And the LORD appeared to him by the Oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent door to meet them, […]
Wales are traipsing back to their hut, 2,222 feet above sea level in the Swiss Alps, after another offensive morning training. "This is harder than the last time," says a player at Head of Physical Performance Paul Stridgeon. Warren Gatland's prosecutor is back in Fiesch, where they spent two weeks four years ago at a […]
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There is not a more picturesque place in the country than the scenic Hudson River Valley from New York City to Albany, New York and beyond. It has been a chosen spot for the rich and famous who build their summer homes on the crest of the hills with spectacular views of the River. One […]
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