you're reading...
The Moral Mind In Action

Liberal and Conservative Moral Visions

If reason and Moral Foundations are the result of natural selection then chances are quite good that all of them contribute in some way to our individual and collective survival and well being. 
Unlike our physical adaptations – for example our eyes, ears, arms, legs, and opposable thumbs – reason and Moral Foundations are cognitive adaptations.  They’re adaptations relating to how we perceive the world around us, and how we process and react to our perception of that world.  Specifically, they are adaptations designed “to easily learn to detect and respond to (at least) five sets of patterns in the social world.” (1)

In other words, Moral Foundations are the tools with which each of us perceives, understands, thinks about, argues about (i.e., reasons about), reacts to, and tries to affect change in, the social world.  They are the color receptors of our moral mind, the color palette of our moral imagination, and the arsenal in our moral arguments.  Moral foundations define the scope of human moral vision in every sense of the word, including proactive, even aggressive, argumentation by our Rider/Lawyer on behalf of the application and implementation of that vision. 

Of the six moral foundations Haidt has identified so far, liberal thought and morality embrace only the three that are focused on the individual, and conservatism embraces all six more or less evenly, placing roughly equal importance on individual autonomy and the needs of the community.   Figure 1 is a Venn Diagram showing the relationship between liberal and conservative moral foundations.


Figure 1. Venn Diagram of Liberal and Conservative Moral Foundations


(1) Haidt,  J., & Graham, J. (2009). Planet of the Durkheimians, Where Community, Authority, and Sacredness are Foundations of Morality. In J. Jost, A. C. Kay, & H. Thorisdottir (Eds.), Social and Psychological Bases  of Ideology and System Justification. Available at the Publications page of MoralFoundations.org

Figure 1. Venn Diagram of Liberal and Conservative Moral Foundations



  1. Pingback: Haidt on Colbert « The Independent Whig - May 5, 2012

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

I Support Viewpoint Diversity


A politically diverse group of social scientists, natural scientists, humanists, and other scholars who want to improve our academic disciplines and universities. We share a concern about a growing problem: the loss or lack of “viewpoint diversity.” When nearly everyone in a field shares the same political orientation, certain ideas become orthodoxy, dissent is discouraged, and errors can go unchallenged.

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 Traits and Moral Foundations and

%d bloggers like this: