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The Hierarchy of Evolved Psychology, Morality, and Public Policy

With the science-based definitions of liberalism and conservatism in mind, here’s how I perceive the steps in the ladder from the bottom rungs of “evolved psychological mechanisms” of “fast” subconscious moral intuitions to the middle rungs of “slow” conscious reasoning of ideological principles and tenets to the top rungs of the policy prescriptions we all argue about.  Just as Maslow had a hierarchy of needs, I imagine a cognitive hierarchy of how morality works that goes something like this:

  1. Liberalism AND conservatism, both, equally, are, first and foremost, psychological profiles consisting of 1) moral matrix, and 2) cognitive style.
  2. From which follow moral intuitions; flashes of affect of like or dislike in reaction to the things we perceive in the social world around us.
  3. From which follow visions (per Sowell) of what the social world IS.
  4. From which follow visions (also per Sowell) of what the social would COULD or SHOULD be.
  5. From which follow principles (e.g. Russel Kirk’s Ten Conservative Principles)
  6. From which follow what might be called a fully-formed ideological narratives or stories.
  7. From which follows ideas, suggestions, recommendations, for public policy; including a high-level conception of the role of government and low-level conceptions of the laws, rules, and regulations necessary to realize that conception.

Notice each of these operates at a different level. The first level consists of subconscious evolved psychological mechanisms of social perception, instinct, intuition, and groupishness.  Moral foundations have SEVERAL functions.

The next higher level is the instincts and intuitions themselves; the feelings of like/dislike, approach/avoid, and fight/flee we experience in response to the things we see in the social world around us.  This is the “Fast” thinking Daniel Kahneman describes in his book “Thinkng Fast and Slow.”

The next level begins the transition from subconscious “fast” intuitions to conscious “slow” reasoning about the way the world *should* be.

This is where the closed epistemic systems of formal ideologies begin to appear.

At the highest level are the laws, legislation, rules and regulations that are put into place based on, and to achieve, the ideologies, which in turn satisfy the moral intuitions, and so forth.


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