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Redskins Trademark Ruling

The Federalist recently published an article by Robert Tracinski about the Redskins Trademark Ruling: Why The Redskins Trademark Ruling Should Terrify You. Anyone deemed politically incorrect is now outside the law

I believe that Moral Foundations Theory helps us to understand the ruling and reactions to it like Tacinski’s.

Tacinski reacts the way he does because the ruling is a blatant and egregious violation of the fairness and liberty foundations.

Fairness means one set of rules that applies, and is applied, the same for everyone. It is the purpose and meaning of the rule of law; of the Constitution. Without it despotism and tyranny soon follow.

Liberty means the absence of attempted domination by said, despots, bullies, and tyrants.

Has trademark law changed? If not, then how in the world is it possible that something that was legally obtained and on the books suddenly illegal?  Tracinski is right, the ruling is purely subjective, purely selective, and purely driven by political correctness. If people and business can be arbitrarily targeted like this then there’s no such thing as fairness, liberty, or the rule of law. In his talk titled When Compassion Leads to Sacrilege Haidt described 5 different ways liberals commit sacrilege against conservative sacred values, usually unknowingly.  This ruling is one of them.

The cognitive processes behind the ruling are characteristic of the liberal brain, and always have been. The left no longer lops off the heads of people who don’t conform to its world view, it just attacks their livelihoods, reputations, property, etc. I suppose we should consider this “progress.”

Moral Foundations Theory helps us to understand this common trait of liberal cognition.

Moral foundations are not just taste buds, they’re cognitive tools of social perception, intuition, and reason. They are the brain’s social radar, constantly scanning the environment of human interaction for the patterns of behaviors, circumstances, and situations associated with the adaptive challenges and opportunities the foundations evolved to detect. They are the subconscious algorithms the brain uses to process the data the radars receive, and to send signals forward to consciousness when the patterns are detected. They are the logical constructs available to conscious reason for the purpose of alerting others to the signals, and attempting to convince others that they’re the right signals.

As Haidt says, moral foundations “structure the space in which we do our reasoning.” (1)

This structured space of reasoning is what he calls a “moral matrix. In Krista Tippett’s interview of Haidt he explains it this way:

Dr. Haidt: That comes straight out of the movie The Matrix. The matrix is a consensual hallucination. And that’s kind of cool. And you know, the internet, and all that stuff. But, um, it was just the perfect metaphor for the moral world that we live in. It defines what’s true and what’s not true. Um, it is a closed epistemic world. What I mean by that is, it has within it everything it needs to prove itself. And it has within it defenses against any possible argument that could be thrown at it. Um, it’s impossible to see the defects in your own moral matrix, so again…

Ms. Tippett: So it becomes impossible to think beyond.

Dr. Haidt: Exactly.

“Impossible to think beyond:”  In other words, moral foundations define the limits and the extent of our ability to perceive, understand, reason about, and articulate the adaptive challenges and opportunities that constantly confront us in the social world.   Moral foundations are not just taste buds of the moral mind as Haidt sometimes describes them, they’re actual cognitive capabilities. The more of them we employ, the wider and deeper is our cognitive space, and the socially aware and sensitive we are; the fewer of them we employ the more socially impaired.

When half of these evolved psychological mechanisms of social awareness are inaccessible to one’s perception, intuition, and reason, as is the case for the liberal brain, one is left with practically no cognitive alternative but to conclude that those whose awareness differs from one’s own must be, for all intents and purposes can only be, afflicted with some sort of perceptual, intuitive, rational, psychological, or social dysfunction; they’re just simply batshit crazy.

The more entrenched and extreme one is in the three-foundation moral matrix, the more coldly analytical one’s thought style tends to become, and the more one tends to see a world full of separate objects – some of which happen to walk round on two legs – rather than of relationships (2), (3), (4), (5), (6). And if one believes that one’s own world view is based in cool reason and analytical science, and is therefore really nothing more than the pragmatic pursuit of what works (and therefore not technically an ideology at all), then it is only natural for one to feel not only justified, but righteously duty-bound to banish those crazy people and their nutty ideas from “polite” (sic) society.

It’s a heinous, dangerous trait, and one that tends to increase when liberals feel that they have the political power, social momentum, or safety in numbers to protect them from possible repercussions of those who feel aggrieved by liberal actions. It is the exact opposite of the liberal ideals of tolerance and inclusiveness, and of the character trait of “openness” commonly thought to correlate with the liberal personality.


(1) Jonathan Haidt, The Rationalist Delusion, , around 17:30 into the video.

(2) Liberals Think More Analytically (More ‘Weird’) than Conservatives, by Talhelm, Haidt, Oishi, Zhang, Miao, and Chen.

(3) Bold and underlining added to this passage from The Righteous Mind:  The moral domain is unusually narrow in WEIRD [Western Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic] cultures, where it is largely limited to the ethic of autonomy (i.e., moral concerns about individuals harming, oppressing, or cheating other individuals). It is broader-including the ethics of community and divinity-in most other societies, and within religious and conservative moral matrices within WEIRD societies.” The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Vintage), (p.129)

(4) Bold font added to this passage from The Righteous Mind:  “Several of the peculiarities of WEIRD culture can be captured in this simple generalization: The WEIRDer you are, the more you see a world full of separate objects, rather than relationships. It has long been reported that Westerners have a more independent and autonomous concept of the self than do East Asians} For example, when asked to write twenty statements beginning with the words “I am … ,” Americans are likely to list their own internal psychological characteristics (happy, outgoing, interested in jazz), whereas East Asians are more likely to list their roles and relationships (a son, a husband, an employee of Fujitsu).

The differences run deep; even visual perception is affected. In what’s known as the framed-line task, you are shown a square with a line drawn inside it. You then tum the page and see an empty square that is larger or smaller than the original square. Your task is to draw a line that is the same as the line you saw on the previous page, either in absolute terms (same number of centimeters; ignore the new frame) or in relative terms (same proportion relative to the frame). Westerners, and particularly Americans, excel at the absolute task, because they saw the line as an independent object in the first place and stored it separately in memory. East Asians, in contrast, outperform Americans at the relative task, because they automatically perceived and remembered the relationship among the parts.

Related to this difference in perception is a difference in thinking style. Most people think holistically (seeing the whole context and the relationships among parts), but WEIRD people think more analytically (detaching the focal object from its context, assigning it to a category, and then assuming that what’s true about the category is true about the object). Putting this all together, it makes sense that WEIRD philosophers since Kant and Mill have mostly generated moral systems that are individualistic, rule-based, and universalist. That’s the morality you need to govern a society of autonomous individuals.

But when holistic thinkers in a non-WEIRD culture write about morality, we get something more like the Analects of Confucius, a collection of aphorisms and anecdotes that can’t be reduced to a single rule. Confucius talks about a variety of relationship-specific duties and virtues (such as filial piety and the proper treatment of one’s subordinates).

If WEIRD and non-WEIRD people think differently and see the world differently, then it stands to reason that they’d have different moral concerns. If you see a world full of individuals, then you’ll want the morality of Kohlberg and Turiel-a morality that protects those individuals and their individual rights. You’ll emphasize concerns about harm and fairness.

But if you live in a non-WEIRD society in which people are more likely to see relationships, contexts, groups, and institutions, then you won’t be so focused on protecting individuals. You’ll have a more sociocentric morality, which means (as Shweder described it back in chapter 1) that you place the needs of groups and institutions first, often ahead of the needs of individuals. If you do that, then a morality based on concerns about harm and fairness won’t be sufficient. You’ll have additional concerns, and you’ll need additional virtues to bind people together. The Righteous Mind(pp 113-114)

(5) “If you are a member of a WEIRD society, your eyes tend to fall on individual objects such as people, and you don’t automatically see the relationships among them.” The Righteous Mind, (p. 340)

(6) “Psychopaths seem to live in a world of objects, some of which happen to walk around on two legs.” The Righteous Mind,( p. 72)


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