I like Haidt’s approach of peeling the onion back to evolutionary adaptations. It seems to me that that’s where the psychological and ideological buck stops.
I’m surprised he stopped peeling where he did (with moral foundations).
It seems there are deeper layers that his curious mind would be positively aching to explore. (I suspect that this is in fact the case, and he feels, at times, trapped, in the sense that the momentum of what he’s created is forcing him down a path he might not choose if it were completely up to him. He’s a victim of his own success.)
Speaking of deeper layers, the political divide seems to be between two psychological profiles, distinguishing traits of which seem to include:
- epistemic confidence/arrogance vs epistemic humility
- Primacy of feelings vs primacy of social capital (for lack of a better term right now)
- Presentism vs a longer, ‘arc of history’ mindset
All of these traits seem to be different ways of describing two fundamentally different underlying senses, feelings, perspectives, of existence; dispositions of what it means to “be;” of what is a “self,” and where that self fits in the universe, and of its relationship with all the other selfs, and even of its relationship with time (e.g., item c above). (rereading this paragraph it seems very “out there,” but I don’t feel it that way. To me it feels as immediate, real, and down to earth as, say introversion and extroversion)
That sense seems to precede moral foundations. The one-foundation and all-foundation moral matrices seem to follow from the two essential senses of self.
From this perspective, terms like liberalism and conservatism seem quaint, anachronistic, and, frankly, a mental smokescreen that obfuscates our view of what’s really going on, and a cognitive roadblock that shuts down paths of inquiry that could potentially yield greater insights.
From an onion-peeling, evolutionary, perspective, WHY are there only two main profiles? Why aren’t there three, or seven? And why THOSE two? Why not two other, different ones? Where, when, and why did the evolutionary path split the way it did? Are the two profiles the human equivalent of, say, beak sizes of Darwin’s Galapagos birds? (Think in terms of Charles Murray’s perspective on genetic differences. Aside: I can tell you from first-hand experience that genetics is beginning to play a HUGE role in medicine, see this )
I’m a bit surprised Haidt steps out of his wheelhouse and delves into day-to-day politics as much as he does. Because of his roots in philosophy, I’d expect Moral Foundations Theory to lead him down the path of more onion peeling toward more “Big Ideas” rather than down the path of speculating about things like nationalism/globalism, or authoritarianism.
Or, because of his roots in psychology I’d expect more from him about mental health, along the lines of his “Coddling of the American Mind” article, and his “like” of my observation that Campus Protesters Match the Symptom List for Behavioral Disorders.
Speaking of which, the left seems to have jumped the shark. Rather than learning any sort of lesson from this election, and from the cumulative effect of the past few elections – from which Republicans now own something like 33 Governorships and hold majorities in a similar number of state legislatures (almost the 2/3 majority needed to change the Constitution at will, were Republicans so inclined) – the left seems to be doubling down on, well, everything; identity politics, the culture of victimhood, and cognitively distorted thinking, all of it.
Which leads to the idea that Tribal Moral Communities harm not only science, the credibility of academia, and free speech, but mental health as well. At the risk of sounding like an angry polemicist, I’d bet good money that a serious, careful, vetted, peer-reviewed, study along the lines of “Coddling” and “Behavioral Disorders” would yield an official diagnosis of some sort of collective groupthink syndrome or disorder on the left brought about by the cognitive inbreeding (metaphorically speaking) that results from its isolation from the real world in the insular, cognitive/behavioral/psychological bubble of the Super Zips.
Even before the new administration takes office the Democratic Party is now clearly the party of “No;” the party of obstructionism, the party of resistance to change, and the party of blind dogmatic adherence to an out of touch dogma that’s a relic of the past. If the left continues this way over the next four and maybe eight years it may cause Haidt to do a lot of re-thinking about a recurring theme of his recent years about the Republican Party and Republicans as a group (e.g., Conservatives Good, Republican Party Bad). My point in saying this is not so much an “I told you so,” (though I admit to some of that), but rather that a lot more of what goes on is basic human nature that’s common to everyone, regardless of which way their elephant leans, than we like to think, and that the number of real differences between left and right is actually quite small, but the effects of those few things are far reaching and profound.