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Human History Explained in Ten Statements

This is first attempt at communicating an idea I’ve been kicking around for a while.  It has finally formed clearly enough out of a cloud of thoughts for me to write it down.  With time I may refine or enhance it, expand or contract it, or morph it into something else.  For the moment, here’s what I’m thinking:    

I propose that the ideas in The Righteous Mind can be summarized in a few short statements which, if worded well and arranged in just the right way, can explain the psychologies and motivations that drive, and have driven, all of human social and political history.  

1) Humans evolved to form into social groups for the mutual benefit and protection of the individuals within them.

2) At least six psychological “senses,” or threat/opportunity awareness modules, evolved in the human psyche to help individuals form into, and maintain the strength and integrity of, groups.

3) There are two types of social senses, 

a) Individualizing; focused on the autonomy, liberty, and well being of the individual, and

b) Binding; focused on the strength, health, and well being of the group.

4) The six social senses are primary, but not all, of the sources of our Fast intuitions about good and bad social behaviors (i.e., of right and wrong); and of our intuitions to like or dislike, approach or avoid, and fight or flee other individuals or groups.

5) Groups form around shared sets of intuitions called ideologies or moralities.

6) An individual’s ability to maintain membership and good standing in a group depends largely on the individual’s skill at managing his own reputation.

7) The human ability to reason (i.e., The “slow” thinking Daniel Kahneman describes in Thinking, Fast and Slow) evolved to help with reputation management; reason is for winning, not truth finding.

8) Groups compete with other groups for scarce resources, territory, and political power.

9) For the benefit and protection of the group, its members attempt to consolidate and concentrate political power into it.

10) The enemy of “individualizing” is consolidated, concentrated, political power.

In sum: The natural tension that exists between the opposing forces of individualizing and binding is the spark that lights the fire of human social and political action within and between groups.      

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Quotes I Like:

"The media tends to be liberal, um, as the academic world is, and Hollywood. So you cannot grow up in this country without being exposed to lots and lots of liberal ideas. But it wasn't until I was about 40 that I happened to pull a book off a shelf that said conservatism on it that I was ever exposed to conservative ideas. And I'm well educated. And I had never encountered conservative ideas. So, there's a real asymmetry in access to the other side’s ideas."

From an interview of Jonathan Haidt on On Being, with Krista Tippett Used in This Post.

Venn Diagram of Liberal and Conservative Moral Foundations

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An Interpretation of Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory

This sidebar lists a series of posts which together make up an essay relating Moral Foundations Theory to today's politics, and even a little history, as viewed through The Independent Whig's six-foundation moral lens.


Venn Diagram of Liberal and Conservative Moral Foundations


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