Jonathan Haidt gave a talk at the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University. It is available on video, here. From that video I personally typed this verbatim transcript of that talk:
Thank you all for coming out tonight, it is an honor to be here as part of this lecture series. As Jim mentioned I began by studying disgust and back then people assumed my name was Jon “Hate,” and then I switched over to studying moral elevation and now my name is Jon “Height.”
And as Paul said many of us just sort of stumbled into the study of positive emotions not, I think, because of any deep internal problem that we were having, just because nobody was doing it, there was a pretty wide open field these emotions that nobody was looking at. And I think the work of CCARE is really an example of that.I was just asking some of the CCARE staff today if they had been involved in positive psychology because it really is a movement since the late nineties to look at the human strengths and virtues, the causes of human well being, that many of us have neglected and I think that altruism has been studied for a long time but compassion as an emotion has not been studied until recently so I’m very excited to have this new association with CCARE and I’m very impressed by the work that they’re doing on the emotion of compassion.
Now at the same time though today I’m going to offer some constructive criticism of the approach that is sometimes taken, and the bottom line is that I think that the approach taken of the study of compassion and altruism reflects certain assumptions about human nature that are probably widely shared by people in this room, but that I think need to be examined, which is what I propose to do in my talk tonight.
First, before we get into the real content of the talk let’s start with a little projective test.I’m going to read you two little passages of text and just, how do they make you feel.
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace
You may say that I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one
OK? Like it, don’t like it? OK, here’s another piece of text.
It is not true, then, that
Human activity can be
Released from all restraint….
Man’s characteristic privilege
Is that the bond he accepts is
Not physical but moral; that
Is, social.He is governed not
By a material environment
Brutally imposed on him, but
By a conscience superior to
His own, the superiority of
Which he feels…
Like it? Don’t like it? Make you happy?
Well, let’s take a vote. The first message was from John Lennon, of course, and the second was from Emile Durkheim’s book Suicide. So what I’d like you to do now is ah, first let’s just do, let’s just vote, which one makes you feel better? Raise your hand if it’s the John Lennon (pause) and raise your hand if it’s Suicide. (pause) OK. Now, here’s the harder question. Which one do you think is a better philosophy for running a decent, caring, and compassionate society? If you think there would be more total care and compassion and well being if we were to follow this general philosophy removing the artificial divisions that separate people, removing constraints. Raise your hand if you think that John Lennon offer us a better guide for how to run a society (pause) and raise your hand if you think Emile Durkheim does, in which case we need to basically strengthen constraints. OK, so a substantial majority here favors John Lennon although many of you sense, I think, that this was a trick question. You didn’t want to look foolish, so I think, perhaps, the voting regimen would have gotten more dramatic results. The point is the majority of you resonated to John Lennon and thought that it was a good way to run a society. What I basically gave you were two illustrations of the two visions of human nature talked about by Thomas Sowell, who is here at Stanford, at the Hoover Center, Hoover Foundation, I think? At any rate Sowell says that throughout history we find, especially in modern history since the Enlightenment, we find two basic visions of human nature, either
[Text projected on a screen]:
“Unconstrained vision: human nature is malleable and can be improved – perhaps even perfected – if social conditions are improved. Anything is possible, if the artificial constraints placed on human beings can be removed.”
Take off the constraints and people can flourish.
To contrast that with the constrained vision – now, this is not the Hobbsian vision. Hobbsians who think think that Oh people are just terrible evil sexual aggressive creatures that have to be constrained -That would be a constrained vision, but Sowell is really not talking about that extreme. He is talking more about people like Edmund Burke, David Hume, the Founding Fathers, John (sic) Hamilton and John Jay, who thought, that well yes we have moral emotions, we have compassions, Adam Smith fits in here, but you need institutions that will hem people in, restrain their baser side, and allow the positive side to come out, or that will harness, as in Adam Smith’s case, that will harness selfishness, ultimately for positive ends, as in the basic philosophy of capitalism. So that’s the constrained vision, that you need these laws, institutions, customs, traditions, and nations and religions in order to have a flourishing, functioning society.
[Text projected on screen]:
“Constrained vision: Human beings need external structures or constraints in order to behave well, cooperate, and thrive. These external constraints include laws, institutions, customs, traditions, nations, and religions.”
So, those are the two basic visions that will be crucial to my talk.
I’m just going to do one last little poll of the audience here which I think is related, and in a way I already know the answer from what you’ve told me. Politically, would you describe yourselves as liberal, or left of center, or would you say center, or would you say right of center, conservative, or would you say libertarian? So, raise your hand if you would describe yourself as liberal or left of center politically, (pause) ok, a strong majority of you. Raise your hand if you’d say you were centrist (pause) ok, fair number. Raise your hand if you’d say were conservative or right of center – no, ah, more socially – raise your hand high if you would say you are, overall, that you were conservative, right of center, if in doubt we’re going with social here. Raise your hand? One, two. OK. And raise your hand if you’re libertarian.
Elapsed time on video: 13:11
OK, so, this is the common distribution I get for academic audiences, ah, almost, about eighty to ninety percent liberal, about one percent conservative, and the rest centrist or libertarian.
OK, so, with that as our prologue, now we’re ready to address the real topic of the talk, which is this puzzle. Paul Eckmann gave a talk here a while ago, and in Jim’s introduction Jim said “Well if compassion is so good for us, why doesn’t everyone pursue it? Being compassionate and being happy are free, so why is it so hard to achieve it?” This, I suppose, is the animating question of CCARE. It is a very good question, and CCARE is trying to answer it, investigating many of the, let’s call them psychological obstacles. What conditions will make people feel more compassionate, what parts of the brain are lighting up? Why aren’t people more compassionate? And if you look at people and you try to figure out how to increase their compassion. This is from the web page of CCARE: …was established to “examine methods for cultivating compassion and promoting altruism within individuals and society-wide.”So that’s the goal. It’s to increase the total amount of altruism and compassion in society. So you focus on the psychological obstacles, but in my talk today I’m going to suggest that there are also some major moral and political obstacles that I think are very very great obstacles which will lead us back, ultimately, to a discussion of some other psychological obstacles that I think would be helpful to consider.
The structure of my talk is this. First I’ll talk about what morality is and the importance of binding groups together around shared ideas of sacredness. Then I’ll talk about how liberal morality is built mostly around one of these psychological foundations, and that is the issue of care and harm. Third, I’ll show that to relieve the suffering of victims, who are the core sacrelized objects in the liberal moral order, um, in the pursuit of that liberals violate the other five foundations and commit five kinds of sacrilege. If you violate sacred values you are committing sacrilege for anyone who holds those values. And last, I will end by praising constrained parochialism which sounds like a very conservative concept, and is, but I’ll argue that it is perhaps the best way to advance the CCARE agenda and the liberal values of increasing care and altruism.
OK, here we go. Here’s Part 1.
Many animals are social. Sociality is a very good feature for animals to reap all kinds of benefits from group living, so sociality is very very common but only a few animals on earth, a few species on earth, are what we could call ultrasocial. Way beyond social. They live together in groups of hundreds of thousands, even millions in a few cases. Massive division of labor, even a willingness to die for the group.
The hymenoptera were the first species on earth to discover this, this evolutionary trick, and they did it by concentrating breeding in a queen so that they’re all sisters, or brothers and sisters. So that’s the hymenoptera.
And then some other animals discovered it totally independently. Some cockroaches, figured out this trick of having a queen and they changed body type and we now know them as termites. Also naked mole rates which, it’s been discovered, there are some shrimp and aphids. Ultrasociology it turns out to have been, to have evolved, ten, twenty, thirty times in the history of life. But in all cases everybody is a very close relative, typically a first degree sibling.
There’s only one species on earth that do this without being kin. These people are all working together, dividing labor, in some cases volunteering to kill themselves for the cause. And in some cases volunteering to gross out the rest of us .[referring to picture on screen of college students with no shirts at a football game] Some of these may be sisters and brothers, but basically all of this gets done without kinship.
How? How can there be a creature on earth that is so good at ultrasociality without any need of kinship? How can that be? Well the answer is that we have this special trick, you see. We evolved this incredible trick unlike anything else in the history of life of being able to circle around sacred objects. And when we circle around sacred objects together we then trust each other and function together as a team. So these are Muslims bowing down at Mecca. You don’t have to physically move in a circle. His holiness the Pope, his holiness the Dali Lama. As long as people share ideas about what is holy, what is sacred, what is untouchable, then they will be bound together into a community that can work and achieve some degree of ultrasociality. This ability is absolutely crucial for war. We wouldn’t have war without this. We wouldn’t have civilization. And we wouldn’t have politics. War, politics, religion, all of these things, are manifestations of this incredible ability we have to bind ourselves together in large groups that are not blood relatives and often risk our lives or give our lives.
So the psychology of sacredness requires that something be elevated , we circle around it either metaphorically or physically. And then once something is sacrelized, no jokes, no trade-offs, you have an irrational commitment to it. And to protecting it. Everybody shares that commitment, and that makes a group.
So when you circle around something it’s as though – I hesitate to say this because I’m sure there are some engineers in the audience, or physicists – but as I understand it when you move metal particles or move metal lines through an electrical field it generates a current. In the same way, when people circle around a sacred object it’s as though it creates an electric field that makes everybody line up [picture of iron filings around a magnet projected on screen] and you see this certainly in academic disciplines, I’ve argued, people line up along the invisible lines of flux and those are the sorts of opinions that are permitted, and others that violate that are not permitted and are not expressed.
That’s all I’ll say about the first point. That morality is about binding groups together around sacred objects/leaders/principles.
This is not, generally, the way you approach morality probably. You probably think it has something to do with not hurting people, with being fair, with keeping promises. But I’m telling you from an evolutionary point of view, this, I think, is a better way to understand this incredible ability of our species.
Elapsed time on video: about 19 minutes.
Liberal morality is built mostly on one foundation. That’ll be my assertion. I’ll show you some evidence of that.
In graduate school I had two sort of epiphanies while I was reading about morality. One was that evolutionary psychology was true. least that we are products of evolution. Another is that cultural psychology is true. That is, that we live in matrices that are constructed before we ever got here, we live on these threads, and that you have to look both at our evolutionary history and at our cultural development to understand anything interesting about us.And what I tried to do is to say OK, what are the psychological foundations that evolution has put in our minds. Modules, if you will, in a certain way. What are these psychological foundations, and how do they develop within a cultural context to give us the vast variety of our moral matrices, and our moral world that we find?
From a review of the anthropological and of the evolutionary literature, my colleagues and I came to the conclusion that there are six best candidates.
The first one is care and harm. We’re all mammals here right? Everyone in this room is a mammal. Well if you’re a mammal, that you are the product of a long history of evolution for caring for children. Your bodies are designed for it, your hormones, oxytocin, have been pushed and pulled into new services to change our behavior. We are all mammals, we are designed to care and protect.
Now, everybody has this. Everybody cares about suffering, cruelty, violence, harm. But, is it equally distributed across the political spectrum? Here’s a car I photographed on my way to work in Charlottesville, you can see the bumper stickers say “Stop the Genocide, Save Darfur,” “HumaneEating.com” Any guesses? Liberal or conservative? It’s pretty obvious, because this person has a one foundation decorating scheme. This person shows exclusively stickers about stopping cruelty to innocent victims. So we know this person must be liberal.
Here’s a coffee shop I was in in New Palz, New York. The signs say no one is free when others are oppressed, how to end violence against women and children, and then there’s an American flag, where the stars are replace by logos of corporations. Any guesses? Liberal or conservative coffee shop? You know it’s liberal because they have a one foundation decorating scheme. Their decorations are all about protecting innocent victims.
OK? So, um, social justice, I believe, basically means we circle around certain victim groups, and we demonize the powerful; corporations, it can be the government in some cases, but in general the government is necessary to protect those innocent victims. At least in terms of the American situation.
Um, so, a little quantitative evidence. So my colleagues and I have a web site called yourmorals.org where we had about two hundred thousand people come from all over the world, mostly America, and take, we have about sixty surveys so far, I’ll just show you little bits of data, but bear in mind that for each of the basic claims I’m making we’ve got a lot of studies showing this in multiple ways. The way to read these graphs, I’ll show you, is that, when people come to the web site they register and they’re asked to self-describe as are you, you know, very liberal, liberal, slightly liberal, neutral, uh, well, centrist, slightly conservative, or conservative. I’ve collapsed the very liberal and the liberal together, and the very conservative and the conservative, but so I’ve reduced it to a five point scale, left right. That’s what they say when they register. Then they take whatever survey they want and we can look at their responses graphed by their politics.
In this case, this is the moral foundations questionnaire asks questions about all the different moral foundations. And there are six items in each foundation, so here’s one item for the care foundation:“Compassion for those who are suffering is the most crucial virtue.”Do you strongly agree with it, agree with it, neither agree or disagree? So people respond to all these survey questions and we average them together and give them a score.
What you see here is just for this single item, but the whole, all the items work the same way. For this single item the scale actually goes to 5 for the highest possible value. Everyone, left, right, and center, cares about…everybody things that compassion is good, on average, liberals are more likely over here, liberals give a higher grade to this question than conservatives. The midpoint of the scale is actually two point five, so conservatives are, just slightly, very conservative people are just slightly positive, people who say they’re liberal or very liberal are substantially positive, so liberals agree with this item more than conservatives, but everybody cares about care. That’s the basic finding about the care foundation.
More data, I’ll just show you very briefly. One survey we use is the Interpersonal Reactivity Index. It is a very widely used measure of people’s sympathy, empathy, how they respond to the suffering of others. Of the four subscales, the white bars show the responses from all liberals, the black bars from all conservatives, and the hatched bars in the middle from all self-described libertarians. What you can see is that for all four kinds of empathy here liberals score the highest, and libertarians are – this is the one that most matters, right here. That is empathic concern. This is the one that is closest to the concerns of CCARE. Just how much does it bother you when you see other people suffering? What we see is that liberals have the highest responses on these items, libertarians by far the lowest – basically what we find is that libertarians are more like liberals than they are like conservatives in their personality, except that they are pretty lacking in empathy. So liberals are the highest, libertarians the lowest, and conservatives are in between.
So liberals score higher on every measure of empathy that we’ve ever used and liberals often define their morality in terms of this one foundation. Here’s a definition from Sam Harris, he’s a New Atheist, “If, as I believe, morality is a system of thinking about (and maximizing) the well being of conscious creatures like ourselves, many people’s moral concerns are frankly immoral.”And he says that Muslims, Jews, Chris(tians), all those, everybody, all those religious (people), they’re all immoral. What’s moral is a morality based on reducing suffering. And who offers that? What is the one religion that offers that?
That’s right, so when you look at the Dalai Lama, obviously there are many branches of Hinduism, care and compassion is of course important to all of them but the Dalai Lama I think puts it quite clearly when he says “We all naturally desire happiness and not to suffer… these are rights, from which in my opinion we can infer that an ethical act is one which does not harm others’ experience or expectation of happiness.”
Elapsed time on video: 26 Minutes.
If you read this book will find that it is, I found, that there is no gap, no daylight, between the Dalai Lama and standard American politically liberal secular morality. It’s as though it was written by any liberal philosopher. Well, I was about to say as though it was written by Sam Harris except the emotional tone is night and day. You can do this with either love in your heart or you can do it with anger, this is with love in his heart. But the point is in terms of the moral foundations it’s a one foundation morality. It is reducing harm.
So that’s all I’ll say about the second part. I hope that you’ll agree with me that liberal morality builds primarily on this one foundation. There are other issues. There are issues of rights in liberal theory, in liberal tradition, which I’ll come back to but the core of it, I believe, is concerns about care and harm and suffering and compassion.
Alright this sets us up for what I hope will be the most important part, the part that you really take away, from this lecture, which is that if you have this sort of morality, and you sacrilize victim groups, and you don’t think that there’s more to morality than harm, then you are pretty much guaranteed to trample on all the other moral values that other people in this country hold sacred.
So here we go.
The second foundation is proportionality or cheating. We used to call it fairness, but what we’ve now realized is that there are so many different kinds of fairness. The real core of fairness is not equality, I’ll come back to equality later, the real core of fairness is proportionality or equity. Are you taking out in proportion to what you put in, or are you a free rider, a slacker trying to take without giving? Are you trying to cheat us? Are you trying to rip us off?
And this psychological system guards groups against free riders, cheaters, and slackers. It’s crucial for cooperation. If any of you have ever lived in a group home, a group house, lived with friends, you know that if there’s one or especially if there’s two other people in the house, pretty quickly it’s going to descend into accusations of who is turn it is supposed to be to do the dishes etcetera etcetera.
Now quality matters, of course, but quality matters primarily in the special case in which all inputs were the same. So if everybody contributed the same then yes, everyone should get equal return. But if not, then not.
So here’s another car I saw in Charlottesville. Any guesses about whether it’s liberal or conservative? It’s not just the Namaste, or the Gandhi, but the idea that an eye for an eye – that is, proportionality, with reciprocity on the negative side. You know, if somebody does something bad something bad should be done to them, well, that seems to endorse a kind of violence. Moralistic violence. Reciprocal violence. Well that’s bad, because that’s violence. So no. We shouldn’t do an eye for an eye, that’s a very bad way to run things. So this person, we can be quite confident, is politically liberal.
Here’s a conservative bumper sticker. Conservatives are sick and tired of liberal “compassion” in part, or primarily, because it violates proportionality. It violates fairness. A liberal is one that believes in compassion with everyone else’s money. Take from people who, take from, take from, uh, others and give to the slackers and free riders.
The conservative idea, this is a sign from a Tea Party rally, is “Spread my work ethic, not my wealth.”It’s not just an American thing. Here’s one from one of the election posters for Cameron in the UK, “Let’s cut benefits for those who refuse to work.”So this is an electoral slogan. You can rally people behind such a slogan. This is a call for fairness. But it’s not equality. It is proportionality.
So here’s the data. It’s sort of the same sort of data I was showing you before. So this is the same, the same. No I’m sorry it’s three different kinds of equality. We have a whole bunch of different items we test out, and here are three of the items. One item is “A fair society would be one in which everyone’s needs were met to the same degree. ”Would that be a fair society? And liberals say yes. Conservatives are right at the midline. They’re not sure. And [unintelligible] But the point is this idea of meeting everyone’s needs equally is a liberal idea of what a fair society is.
But, “employees who work the hardest should be paid the most.“Do you agree with that? A little bit? A lot? Well everybody agrees with, on average, across the spectrum people agree with it but note that liberals agree with it, you know, pretty, moderately strongly, but it gets stronger for conservatives, so conservatives strongly agree with that item.
But now you’ve got a conflict. What if you believe both? Well, ok, so what do we do when some people work harder than others? Shouldn’t they get paid the most? And their needs get met the most. And there are some who aren’t working very hard, their needs aren’t. Well what do we do? We’ve got a conflict if you’re a liberal. If you’re a conservative, there’s no conflict.
Here’s another item: “A criminal should be made to suffer in the same way that his victims suffered. “That sounds rather harsh. And liberals give it a very very low, they substantially disagree with it, strongly disagree with it, and conservatives actually slightly agree with it. So my point is overall liberals value equality but all other kinds of fairness, those related to proportionality, are valued more by conservatives.
Elapsed time on video: 31:37
OK, so, with that as the background now you can see how it is that the right, especially for example the Tea Party right, is furious at liberals, how liberalism became a dirty word in the nineteen eighties all the way up to the present time, um, in this way. If, if you sacrilize victim groups, you say we must protect certain groups that have been historically victimized or are currently being victimized, and if that’s your top priority, then you’re going to define fairness as the pursuit of group-based equality, or social justice. And then you’re going to pursue policies like race-based affirmative action which is a wildly unpopular policy, in this country. I was on a conference call with some liberal pollsters around the time of the Michigan Supreme Court decision and they were all trying to figure, nobody’s found a, why can’t we find the wording, we need, what’s the messaging, how can we get Americans to vote on all these state referenda that were going to do away with race-based affirmative action? And I had to say you can’t find one because there, it’s not there. There is no way to argue that race-based affirmative action is fair. Now, class based, that’s wildly, everybody sees that. But what you hear on conservative talk radio a lot is they quote Martin Luther King. They’re always quoting him. I have a dream that someday, you know, that my children will be judged by the content of their character not the color of their skin.
So liberals end up pursuing policies that end up very strongly violating basic notions of proportionality. Liberal social policies ignore the Protestant work ethic, they channel benefits to the poor, unconditionally. In fact you could describe many liberal social programs, especially those from the sixties, they’ve been refined a bit, essentially as let’s tax the ants to bail out the grasshoppers. For those of you who know the Aesop’s Fables. And on crime and punishment liberals tend to side with the accuse because the accused are often thought to be members of victimized and so if you habitually favor the accused and think the police are lying and the DA is lying and the laws are racist or prejudicial, ah if you, so on conservative talk radio they’re always saying, talking about how liberal judges want to release all the child rapists to come to your neighborhood, so anyway, you can see how the pursuit of liberal values gives conservatives quite a lot of fodder to raise moral outrage against liberals.
Elapsed time on video: 33:44
I wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal titled “What the Tea Partiers Really Want,” and I summarized by the basic idea that what they want is to maintain the law of Karma. Not in all its respects, but the basic idea is in the law of Karma, is , like the law of gravity, things hap, if you do something it will come back and affect you. If you do good something good will happen to you. And so the liberal perspective is to say “Look, he’s about to be hit by this domino, somebody save him.”(showing a cartoon of a person who tipped over the first of many dominoes arranged in a circle and is about to be hit by the last one.) and the conservative answer is “Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare interfere with the law of Karma.”Now obviously the law of Karma was actually created to explain why it is that terrible things happen to obviously innocent people. So I’m not I’m not saying that the Tea Partiers are right to say we’ve got to inhibit bailing people out. Obviously bad things happen. People get diseases, people get cancer. It has nothing to do with anything they did. So I’m not saying it’s right overall, but I think there is an element of truth here. That in protecting people you often end up degrading the system to encourage more bad behavior. I think that is pretty straightforward. Anybody who’s had a child has probably noticed that at many times. And so what the Tea Partiers really want. What the Tea Party is really about. It’s not really about liberty. That’s what some of the original leadership of it. But what really, the main issue that they’re about is Karma.
So here’s the rant that launched the Tea Party. Rick Santelli about the Obama, the Bush and the Obama bailouts, “The government is promoting bad behavior…. How many of you people want to pay for your neighbors’ mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can’t pay their bills?”How many of you ants want to bail out the grasshoppers? Raise your hands. And that is the line that launched the Tea Party.
So that’s the second foundation. It’s the same sort of story, I can do it much more simply because they’re simpler for the other foundations.
The third foundation of morality, remember we had, care was the first, proportionality was the second, now we’re on loyalty, loyalty and betrayal. So again many animals are social, but only when you can get groups that organize in this way, organize by norms, rules, punishments, shared intentions, shared goals, then you can get, you get not just war and the military but you get sports, which is, sports is to war what pornography is to sex. It’s we like this stuff, we like this group-ish tribal stuff so much that we spend massive amounts of time just watching men form artificial tribes and then rooting for them and then, ah, I never really understood that myself but I’m told that sports is immensely enjoyable. As, once again, there you go.
So, again, if you have a one-foundation morality vs. if you have this loyalty foundation then you have very different ideas about what it means to support our troops. And for anybody who understands the loyalty foundation it means you give them everything you can so that they win. That’s what it means to support them. But if you if you don’t get that. If you don’t think about loyal groups, if you think about individuals that might suffer, you think “Support our troops. Bring them home alive. I support them. I want them to survive.”And for most of the country, who cares about loyalty and national patriotism issues that is at very worst, at very best, is sort of a tin ear. You’re missing, you missed it. You don’t get what this is really about.
Here’s a little stronger example. Two photographs I took near my house in Charlottesville. One person paid extra money to get a license plate that says “OGlory,” Old Glory, and “United We Stand.” So they paid thirty dollars extra a year to the Virginia Department of Transit to get the bumper sti, license plate celebrating the American Flag, the Virginia Cavaliers sticker which is our sports team so they’re tribal groupish, you know, yay UVA, yay America.
Conversely, here’s a Stop sign where someday says Stop Americanism. Now, it could of course be an Al Queada operative in Charlottesville, Virginia but my guess is it was a far left, possibly anarchist youth spray painting vandalism about how much he hates America, especially American foreign policy which is oppressive.
Here, this one really sort of hurts to even see, but I’m not saying it is a common sentiment, I think it is a very rare sentiment. But this is at the extreme left, the anarchist fringe of the left, you get hostility to anything related remotely to the military or authority.
And it just makes it so easy, I mean liberals are just, you know they hand ammunition to Ann Coulter by the shovel full for her to write books like “Treason: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War To The War On Terrorism.”
So I’ll show you just the data here for the next three foundations. It’s all the same story. Here is the exact same blue line I showed you before about Care. Remember, liberals value it, most everybody values it, but liberals value most. Now these are the foundation scores, not the individual items, this is the average of all the items on that foundation. So liberals value care more. Oh no I’m sorry, these are individual items. That’s the line I should be pointing at. The green line. The green line says “It is more important to be a team player than to express oneself.” Totally non-political question. We try to not ask like “what do you think of gun control?” or abortion. We don’t ask that. It is more important to be a team player than to express oneself. Liberals disagree, conservatives agree. That’s an example of the loyalty foundation. You value groups as things that command you to submit your individuality and your goals to the group, to what the group is trying to achieve.
“Respect for authority is something all children need to learn.”Liberals disagree, conservatives agree. That’s the authority foundation.
And “People should not do things that are disgusting, even if no one is harmed.” Liberals strongly disagree, and conservatives agree.
So these are the next three foundations I’m talking about. The loyalty, authority, and sanctity foundations. Bottom line, liberals value care but not loyalty, authority, and sacredness, sorry sanctity. I’m sorry sacre, sanctity. Conservatives value them equally. Now I’m not saying that liberals don’t ever value it. Liberals can do teams. They can do teams sports and of course they can be a team to fight the Republi, the conservative team. It’s not that they don’t have it .I’m just saying relatively speaking, conservative moral matrices are built on all of the foundations, and liberals are focused on care and harm. That’s our finding.
And so, if you don’t value the loyalty foundation, if you sacrilize victim groups, then you’re going to blame America for harming victims. And you see this on the far left. The constant, of course they hated George Bush, but they even hate Obama, the wars, America is still killing people. Therefore America is bad. Um, oh, and ah also the Founding Fathers are bad because they had slaves, they were all sort, so America is bad, the Founding Fathers are bad, American history is bad.I believe that liberals basically, the most serious error that liberals have made, which has made it so hard for them to win presidential elections is that they don’t really get the national motto, which is E Pluribus Unum. Liberals since the sixties have especially, basically celebrated Pluribus and not really been concerned about Unum at all. So diversity and multiculturalism, let’s, you know, pluribus pluribus pluribus. No unum. And those things have actually been shown to decrease trust, decrease social capital, um, they backfire, actually.
Liberals often block efforts to increase unum. So English is the national language. This is a contentious issue because one of the few things uniting America is our language. Liberals often end up being unpatriotic Universalists. The flag is not sacred and they often call themselves citizens of the world as Obama famously did in Berlin.
Here’s one of our survey items.“I identify more closely with the people of the world at large than with the people in my own country.”Liberals agree, conservatives disagree.
That’s the third foundation.
The fourth foundation is authority. Here are signs of respect and deference in two very closely related species (photo of humans and chimps in similar poses).Not that it feels the same, but the ethology, the bodily displays of submissiveness are the same, or similar. We expect shows of respect for our leaders. Conservatives seem to care a lot more about this, but liberals basically can certainly understand that respect should be shown, and the Joe Wilson moment, when Joe Wilson said “You lie,” very disrespectful. Liberals can get that, especially if it’s their guy being disprespected, although when it was Bush in the office, presumably that would’ve, many would’ve thought it was quite appropriate to disrespect the president.
But in general if you look at, ah ah, well if you see images such as this, this one down here says “God’s in charge so shut up.”Whataya think? Unitarian, or Baptist? Whereas if you see signs like this, this was in, I used to subscribe to The Nation, you can buy a coffee cup that says “Insubordi(Nation).”Celebrate insubordination. That’s good. Authorities are bad so insubordination is good. Um “Annoy a Republican, question authority,” because they’re just authoritarian ignoramuses. So we liberals, we think for ourselves, but they don’t.
And once again here, I’d like to concentrate on the top, the top one, ‘No Gods, No Country, No Masters.’ There’s a very strong anti-authoritarian streak in liberal, most liberal morality.
So here’s the kind of sacrilege that you’ll commit based on this foundation. Um, Once again, if you start by sacrilizing victim groups then you will demonize powerful groups. Um Yeah, well, capitalists I don’t think it’s so much, say it’s sacrilege when the left opposes capitalism, but you know, police, teachers, signs of authority, symbols of authority, conservatives get very upset at the liberal efforts to subvert their authority. You’ll side with the underdogs to weaken the powerful. You’ll do things like pushing strongly for laws that allow teenage girls to get abortions without telling their parents. I forget where I heard some woman say this, she said, “I would never let my thirteen year old daughter pick her own dentist, but I’m supposed to let her pick her own abortionist?”I mean, that’s pretty outrageous. And if you felt there was a political party pushing to let your daughter get an abortion without your knowledge, how would you feel about that?
Liberals, then, tend to heap contempt on traditions and bourgeois virtues. Hollywood almost never celebrates any sort of authority or tradition; it’s usually shown as just racist, corrupt, suburban, idiocy.
And the net effect is that liberals are seen as subverting order, and promoting chaos.I think this is why the ah the Obama, you what is was modified to look like Heath Ledger in the, as the joker in Batman as who is the sym, you know, as representative of chaos, um, I think it works for a lot of conservatives. They see liberals as the force of chaos. They seem them basically as Satan.
The last foundation, I’m sorry, the fifth foundation, there’s one more to go. I’ll do this quickly. Issues of sanctity and degradation. Purity, what does that mean? Sexual purity. Well, this is a painting from, called The Allegory of Chastity. So, alright, purity is about guarding women’s sexuality, and patriarchal oppression to keep to keep it for the man. Right? Well, um, ah, liberals are certainly opposed to that view of sexuality. They celebrate sexuality, deviant sexuality, unusual sexuality, this is from Madonna’s album, Sex I think it was called, um, or a book called Sex.Drug use, basically the, the I, there are two ideas out there. One is that the body is a temple, the other is that the body is a playground. There’s a bumper sticker I saw in Charlottesville, “Your body may be a temple, but mine’s an amusement park.”So let me go on my ride. Again, you’re not hurting anyone, what, what interest, what business is it of yours what I do in the bedroom or in a crack den.
To really illustrate this, to give you the feel for this, I think, a good way to think about it is this: So I googled “Family,” or “American Family” and I deliberately picked a seemingly white middle class suburban family with two daughters, obviously I did that one deliberately. I’d like you to put yourself in their place, raising two daughters in this day and age, some of you have daughters. It works for sons too but not quite as well. And just imagine all the threats that you have to fend off as a parent. Um you’ve got Madonna, um, you’ve got people saying “Oh, split your tongue,” you know, pierce your nose. I don’t even know what those things are in his nose. Um, but, you know, modify your body. It’s cool. Take drugs, it doesn’t hurt anyone. Burn the flag it’s free speech. Abortion, it’s choice. Ah, Kevorkian, if you want to end your life, everyone should be able to. Yeah, so is anything sacred on the left? Yes. Victim groups. You don’t make jokes about victim groups.
So, if you, again as I’ve said if this is your morality, then you end up supporting practices that disturb most Americans. Abortion is really disturbing. Um, ah, well I don’t, ah well, especially when we get into say the fifth, fourth fifth sixth month. I think, ah, liberals are on very tenuous ground in pushing for unrestricted access there. By tenuous ground I just mean they are really asking for it in terms of activating people’s care foundations. Ah, people’s concern about innocent victims. Ah, as well as many other concerns. See you must support out of wedlock births because sex is good and marriage is not necessary, so you must support gay sex, um, again, I’m very pro gay rights but I’m just saying, you, the left is identified with all of these positions that end up really offending a lot of people. You end up seeming to support libertinism, not liberalism, but libertinism, and you’re fostering social decay and you always end up adopting utilitarian bioethics, cloning, stem cells, assisted suicide, whatever. You just have a harm-based analysis, if it reduces total suffering do it. Life is not sacred. Life is up to people to choose what to do with their own lives.
So that’s the fifth foundation.
The very last foundation, the very newest one that we’ve been really forced by the data to add is that there are very strong deep concerns about liberty. But it took us a while to understand this.The key was coming upon this work by the anthropologist Chris Boehm called Hierarchy in the Forest, and his point is that chimpanzees and most other primates are really despotic, hierarchical, the ones that are closest to us generally, bonobos less but even still they’re hierarchical. Yet hunter-gatherers are always egalitarian. Yet as soon as agriculture comes in they’re all really hierarchical. So what’s human nature? And his answer is; hierarchical. Absolutely, hierarchical.
But, we also hate alpha males. So, we hate being dominated by abusive alpha males. So we have this ability to gang up to take down bullies. We hate bullies. We are hierarchical, even despotic creatures, Boehm’s is that it’s not that we all want equality. There’s not a deep human desire to live equal. There’s a deep human desire to not be dominated, bullied, or oppressed.And we get together to take down those bullies.
And it’s so obvious once you see it. I couldn’t believe this was in front of my face every day of my life. Here is the flag of my state. It has a murder on it. My flag has a murder. Here is virtue standing on the chest of a tyrant. You can see his crown has fall, has been knocked off, “Sic Semper Tyrannis,” Thus Always to Tyrants, who else said that?(pause) John Wilkes Booth, Sic Semper Tyrannis. Who else had that on his T-shirt, when he blew up the Murrah federal building? (pause) McVeigh. So, people who commit violence often believe they are taking down bullies. So murder, this kind of murder is ethical. My state flag celebrates moral murder because it’s in the service of liberty; fighting oppression.
A crucial distinction here is negative liberty, that is, well, the kind of American “Give me liberty or give me death.”This is “Don’t tread on me,” don’t hem me in, don’t tell me what to do, don’t force me to obey your rules. This is a very deep very powerful sentiment. But the trick here is to understand that there are two kinds of liberty at play in our political discourse. There’s negative liberty which is the absence of obstacles which block human action. This is the common sense understanding of liberty. And then there’s a new notion that developed in the twentieth century, especially in Europe called positive liberty, which is, well, it’s all well and good to say that people should have a right to do as the please but if you can’t get an education then you don’t really have a right to do as you please. And if you can’t get health care, well, you’re not healthy enough to take advantage of the opportunities of our society. Sooo, we have to give people, as rights, education, welfare, food, a right to a job, all these rights that they enshrine in Europe. And that is known as positive liberty. It’s really crucial to recognize that the top one [negative liberty] is deep, emotional, obvious, everyone gets it, the bottom one [positive liberty] is a cerebral concept developed by philosophers gradually, has very little emotional resonance. You probably understood my description but it doesn’t rankle. Violations of it don’t rankle in the way that violations of negative liberty do.
So what happens is the right, what we now call conservatives, we also can sometimes call classical liberals. They stand for liberty, that is, negative liberty. Give me liberty. Don’t tread on me. Just as they said in the 18th century, it’s the government which is the threat. Whereas liberals gave up liberty, basically. Liberals embraced positive liberty and now act in ways that actually violate negative liberty. So if, as I say, you sacrilize victim groups then you try to increase positive liberty for those sacrilized groups, you then push laws that will violate the negative liberty of others, such as the “nanny state.” Right wing literature is full of, of, anger at liberals trying to tell them what to eat, what to, you know, what to wear when they’re driving, what to smoke, what not to, you know, now what you, trans fatty acids, don’t, you know, so, the nanny state rules, restrictions on economic liberty, telling businessmen how to run their businesses, um, ah, the insurance mandate in the health care law. Um, its, it makes sense that liberals are, are the, opposed to big corporations. There’s really no other way that that could have played out. But it’s kind of shame that the small businessmen are overwhelmingly Republican. They hate the Democrats. And that’s a shame, because liberals stand up for the little guy. And small businessmen should be the little guys in this battle. They create an enormous amount of social capital. Enormous amount of wealth, and they hate the Democrats, and liberalism in general.
Also, along this line, you desanctify private property because it’s for the common good, and the Dalai Lama has some things that are a little bit along those lines. And here’s one of our survey items:“If a person really needed to visit a friend in the hospital, and so he borrowed a stranger’s bicycle for an hour, and the owner never found out, I would say this was OK.”Liberals agree, conservatives disagree. Again, private property isn’t very important to liberals because they have a one-foundation morality. And hey, if you’re going to visit a friend in the hospital you’re being compassionate, fine, take a bicycle.
All right, so, you get my point. That, ah, if you have a one-foundation morality you are going to commit five kinds of sacrilege. You’re going to really anger most Americans who are going to respond to right-wing appeals that have painted liberalism as a dirty word since the Reagan years, and you’re going to see a country such as ours in which, this sis from Gallup data, the percentage of people that describe themselves as liberal is down here, conservatives are here, the dark green moderates are the mid, this line here, this here, this is the surge in liberalism, from nineteen to twenty two percent, that’s the surge that brought Obama to power, and then it’s back down.
So this is, this is our nation. I think there are some very good reasons that moral psychology can help us understand why our nation is like this.
So that’s all I’ll say about this third point. That to relieve the suffering of victims, liberals violate the other five foundations and commit five kinds of sacrilege. That’s the main message of my talk in terms of moral psychology.
Now, to come back to CCARE, and to anybody who cares about how do we promote more altruism and compassion, what can we do?
Well, the first step is to realize that, that, if this is your, if you have a one foundation morality, and you think that that’s all of morality, well how could anyone oppose you? I mean, this is, moral.
So the first step is just recognize that that programs that are associated with this political view are also associated with sacrilege and outrage by many or most Americans.
Secondly, my general piece of advice, and this is the last part of my talk today, is that I think a much better way to go about promoting altruism and compassion, is rather than trying to change people to become more compassionate, change, well, I’m sorry, I’m giving away my little, I’m sorry, I’m giving away my, ach, I already gave the right answer.All right, pretend I didn’t say that.
All right, here we are.
So, you say you want more care and altruism, well you know, we all want to change the, what?
As Jim mentioned I wrote a book called The Happiness Hypothesis , the central metaphor there was that the mind was divided into parts that sometimes conflict, like a rider on an elephant. I could have picked horse and rider but I wanted an animal that was much much bigger, much much more powerful, and much smarter. The rider is our conscious, controlled, mental processes. We humans have the ability to reason, to work things out in a serial fashion, to reason propositionally, so that’s the rider.
But almost all of our psychology, almost all of our mind is automatic, intuitive processes. We have pretty much the same brains as other mammals. Structurally the same as chimpanzees, every part has grown somewhat, um, but our brains are very very similar.
It’s not likely that evolution rewired everything, and said, “Oh, now people have language, let’s get control of behavior away from all of those automatic processes that have been in development for four hundred million years, let’s give control of behavior to this conscious reasoning ability. OK let’s rewire all those huge neural circuits.”OK that can’t happen.
So we are basically animal brains. We are animals who have this additional ability to think rationally, reasonably, and linguistically. And so, given that setup, if you want to increase care and altruism what do you think? Do you think it’s more effective to train the rider; to give people arguments and reasons for why they should be compassionate and them give them the tools to do so? Do you think that’ll be effective? Or do you think it will be more effective to train the elephant; to change people’s habitual mental habits, habitual response styles, work on their moral emotions.
All right, raise your hands if you think we should invest most of our work in training the rider (pause, smile)Raise your hand if you think we should invest our work in training the elephant (pause).I think that’s a better answer than the rider, but actually, it was a trick question, there is a third option. And this was actually pointed out by Chip Heath, a professor here at Stanford in the Business School. I worked with Chip a bit. He called me up before he wrote this book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard , and said “Jon, we’d like to use your metaphor of the rider and the elephant, can we use it?”I said, “Take my metaphor, please.”And what they did with it was they said, how do you, this is how to change things when change is hard, especially in the business context, how do you, it’s so hard change yourself, how do you as a manager change people, other people who are working for you? That’s extremely hard. And what they basically said was, you can work on all three, but you get the get the best bang for the buck, you often get the biggest bang, the best bang for the buck by changing the path the elephant is on. I think this is right, and I wish I had thought of it. They’re absolutely right. They really improved the metaphor that I used.
So here’s the way I suggest that you think about it. If you are interested in improving the world, and if for you improving the world means that people are less violent, less cruel, more caring and compassionate, then I suggest you think about it this way.
Let’s create a three by three table about where you can intervene. As I said you can change the rider, the elephant, or the path. And then, what context you want people do be different in. Are you going to focus on close relationships where there already are bonds of love, and people have a common future, and there’s all sorts of stuff between them, is that where you want to work? Or how about people who are just members of the same school or company who know each other, they have a community, but they have no necessary affection for each other let’s say. Or do you want to focus on strangers, especially helping people far away who are suffering the most? And what I find is that in philosophy the general view is altruism means helping strangers, especially poor people in other countries, because a small sacrifice from you, five dollars could actually make a big difference to somebody else. In fact, if you’re sacrificing to help your family that’s not even altruism. You don’t get credit for that. So philosophers tend to focus on giving reasons why people should be altruistic toward strangers, especially strangers very very far away. Does that sound promising to you? Does it seem like a good way to go about making the world a better place? I don’t want to say it’s worthless. Peter Singer has changed many many people. Ah, just from reading his books Animal Liberation and Practical Ethics so it’s not that this has no effect. And it’s not expensive to do so of course philosophers should keep doing it. Good reasons do play a supporting role, I’ll argue.
But the approach taken by Buddhists is much better in two ways. The first is that Buddhists obviously are focused on changing the elephant. That’s what meditation practice is. That’s what the eightfold noble path is. It’s a rigorous, many year process of changing your automatic reactions to people so that you are more loving and less angry. So I think that’s very wise, and I think that’s a big step in the right direction. Secondly, the Dalai, again reading the Dalai Lama, the sec, the book on ethics, it’s very clear he’s talking about all human relationships, from strangers to spouses and parents, everything. So I think, ah that the Dalai Lama approach is much more likely to succeed, and much more likely to give you a payoff, than is focusing on convincing riders that they should help starving people elsewhere. Not that that’s, again, it’s a good thing to do, but it’s just, it just a bang for the buck, I think, this is a very promising approach.
But what I’d like to argue, and this is really the last major point I’m going to make today, is to return to the Sowell vision, the two visions, I think, especially in this country, the biggest bang for the buck will come from changing the path in ways guided by the insights of constrained visionaries.
OK what do I mean by that?
Um, so once again, here’s the unconstrained vision, that “human nature is malleable, etc., etc., and here’s the constrained vision, that “human beings need external structure, so we need laws and institutions, customs, traditions, we need all that as context in which we can engage with each other, treat each other honestly, decently, and with care. Um, again, Smith, I’m sorry, ah, Sowell makes it clear his role models here are people are from the English and Scottish Enlightenment, people like Adam Smith, Edmund Burke, David Hume. Um, one of Adam Smith’s most famous lines, “It’s not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”Now Smith wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments, he was very, he was a positive psychology guy. He said we have compassion, we feel for each other. But he also knew that, especially in interactions with strangers, self interest is a much, much more powerful spur to action than are these moral emotions. And especially the concern for reputation.
Edmund Burke, similarly, um, did not want to change human nature, his basic argument, especially after watching the French Revolution and the radical, the radical agenda pursued by the unconstrained folks in the French Revolution, he wrote, “We cannot change the nature of things and of men, but must act on them the best we can.”I think that’s an extremely wise line.We cannot change the nature of things and of men. All right, things I think, actu, all right, we can change the nature of some things, but we cannot change the nature of men, let me amend that, we must act on them the best we can.
Elapsed time on video: 1:01:45
So many of you have heard of these books, Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness , and Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions . These I think are examples of the way to think about social change. You can develop a moral education program, an empathy education program, you can make people do it for dozens and dozens of hours over the course of a semester, or on a web based, tutor, whatever, you can, people can put hundreds of hours in, and you can measure them at the end of the intervention, and you will usually find no effect, and sometime you’ll find a small effect.
Or, you can do simple little things. The classic example is the, you make something the default when you’re checking a form, and suddenly everybody’s an organ donor. Or you put the healthy food at eye level rather than below and suddenly people are buying more healthy food. Simple little changes have big changes on behavior.
To move into the moral domain, Dan Ariely’s book Predictably Irrational , he did all these amazing studies on cheating. He found that when people can get away with it, not just because they’re not being watched but then they have plausible deniability that they themselves can tell themselves that they didn’t cheat, they can make up an excuse, most people cheat. Most people, in his studies, cheat. At this math test that you get money for, for right ans, for answering the right questions. But, when you do simple little things, obviously if you do anything that makes you think you’re being watched, bang, cheating goes away. But even simple things like, they found a, they did a field study on insurance claims. People are supposed to, people can exaggerate what they lost, at the end they’re supposed to sign that they didn’t lie, so you can just con, he convinced an insurance company to put the pledge at the beginning. At the top, before you list your items, you sign that you’re not gonna lie, or that you’re going to do this honestly, and he just compared, when you sign at the beginning or end, I think it was a twenty percent reduction in the amount that people claimed on their losses. Simple little things activate certain concerns at a certain time, they make the elephant think “Oh let’s go this way instead of that way.”This is the way to get a huge bang for your buck if you want to change human behavior.
Elapsed time on video: 1:03:48
The unconstrained vision, I believe, has the worst track record in the history of ideas. This is a terrible and really dangerous idea, quite frankly. Um, in the French Revolution I’ve been stunned to read this, for the book that I’m writing, to read on the French Revolution. My beef with them is that they’re rationalists, they think that reason is a reliable way to find truth, it’s great in the natural sciences, but once you care about something, if you have passions, if it’s a moral issue, reasoning is the slave of the, uh, is the servant of the, wait what is it, David Hume said that “Reasoning is the slave of the passions and can pretend to no other office but to serve and obey them.”I think Hume was right. So I’m really concerned about rationalists, but what I discovered is that in one of the few places on earth where the rationalists got control of an entire country and were able to do with it what they wanted, they created a cult of reason, they banned the clergy, they killed the nobles, ah, and what we had wasn’t oh, let’s get rid of ah, let’s get rid of nations and religion and then people will be one, no what they had was most people didn’t, or a lot of people didn’t want to go along with the revolution, and of course they’re wrong because we know we’re right we have reason on our side, they called themselves the party of reason, also the party of humanity, the French Revolutionaries ended up murdering hundreds of thousands of people. They committed a genocide in the Vendee region lining people against the walls and shooting them, putting them out into boats and sinking the boats. The French Revolutionaries committed genocide. They committed, they would round people, anybody who was accused of anything, rounded up, pronounced guilty, guillotined. We don’t usually say, “Well yeah they committed genocide but other than that oh the French Revolution was great.”So the French Revolution was based on the ex, the most extreme unconstrained view, the philosophes, Condorcet, Sam Harris (gesture, admitting the joke), people like that.
Um, other research, on 19th century communes. Richard Sosis, anthropologist compared, he found the records of communes in the 19th century. Many were organized, were socialist communes based on equality and openness, many were religious communes. And he looked to see how long did they last. Answer, the religious ones tended to last two to three times longer than the liberal, than the secular ones. Because, if you bind people in, you, it turns out the active ingredient was demanding sacrifice. Making them change their names, wear funny clothes, cut all contact with the outside, give up certain foods. If you ask for sacrifice, if you constrain people, they form a community of trust, and they don’t cheat each other.
And if you say, “Welcome everyone. Constraints are bad.“ It quickly decays into a moral, into moral chaos. Again, the unconstrained vision, when it gets a chance to run things, screws it up.
Twentieth century communism, fascism, any any movement that tried to create a new man ends up committing atrocities, ends up committing mass murder. Um, if any, if there are any historians here, but as far as I understand it most left wing revolutions have ended with mass murder, because, you have this utopia, people don’t go along, because you got human nature incorrectly, they don’t go along, but you know you’re right because you have reason on your side, so you use force, and you use more force, and you use more force, and you end up like Cuba, or North Korea, or the other communist revolutions. It doesn’t work.
The unconstrained vision in the sciences and social sciences has denied that there’s human nature. They’re just wrong about that, it’s a really terrible idea scientifically. They’ve denied evolutionary psych. Evolutionary psych has some problems which I think are being fixed, but the idea that our behavior is not influenced by evolutionary history is bizarre.
Um, and, ah, to bring it really home, ah, to this group, altruism studies, um, there’s a lot of research on altruism, Dan Bathson is on your committee I know, so just one example of a famous altruism study. People come into the, these are seminary students at Princeton, they come in to a, there’s, to a, for a study. They’re supposed to go across campus, or a little ways on campus, to tape a radio show on the good Samaritan. They’re going to be asked about The Good Samaritan, for half of them. The other half it’s something else, I forget, nothing to do with religion. And on their way they encounter a man lying in an alley. What do they do? How many of them stop to help? Does it matter if they were supposed to lecture on the good Samaritan or not? No. It doesn’t. That doesn’t make a difference. But crossed with that manipulation, half of them were told, ok now so you should go over and give the radio address and ah Oh, gosh, I’m sorry you’re kinda late so you need to hurry. And the other half were told, well you should need to go over in, well you got like twenty minutes but you might as well go over now just to make sure you’re there on time. Huge difference. People who are in a rush don’t stop to help. People who have time stop to help. People are lecturing on the good Samaritan don’t doesn’t make a dif, my point is, these little things, if you think you’re, if people are busy, if they have time pressure, they’re very uncompassionate. And if they have more time they’re compassionate. I was talking with CCARE staff at lunch. We were talking about nurses.“Oh, how, you know, many nurses feel that they lack compassion. You know, what, what if they meditate, can we have them meditate?”These women are so overburdened. They have no time for meditation. If you could give them five percent less work to do they could be more compassionate. And of course they told me the ah, unfortunately, we’ve been told, that’s never gonna happen. But my pont is, ah, don’t try to change people, try to change the path.
OK, um, and so, ah, again, as I said, don’t train people. Rather, put most of your effort into changing paths. Focus on changes that help the moral emotions to work as designed. And that means primarily two avenues for intervention. One is harness our massive concern for reputation. This is probably the most important spur to moral behavior. If you think other people are watching, if you think it’s gonna redound well to your reputation boy does that make people ethical, caring, compassionate, nice, honest. And if you think nobody’s watching moral behavior plummets. So concern for reputation, ah, um, Hume, Darwin, Smith, all of the great, many of the greatest thinkers in the social sciences and philosophy, ah, earlier philosophy, understood this.
And the second one, um, “Yes, we have ah, compassion, and sympathy, these are part of our nature as the Dalai Lama says. But set things up to allow those emotions to work as they were designed to do. Um, in other words, help them to work in their parochial way. So, um, what does it mean to be parochial, well, if you’re a Universalist, and you think that you shouldn’t favor you in group, you’re going to favor increasing compassion among strangers, but if you’re a parochialist you think that the spear of action should be mostly in groups that you’re already in. And, ah, the Dalai Lama is a Universalist, here’s an amazing quote from him, ah, “Buddhism remains the most precious path to me. It corresponds best with my personality. But that doesn’t mean that I believe it to be the best religion for everyone, any more than I believe it necessary for everyone to be a religious believer.”So, no, Buddhism’s not better than other religions. And here’s Barack Obama, “Oh I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect the Brits believe in British exceptionalism, and the Greeks believe in Greek exep”, no who, who could possibly say one nation, or one religion, was better than another, that is so parochial, so primitive, so exclusionary.
Um, but, um, ah, so if you are a Universalist, ah, you tend either, you tend to demand impartiali, well, skip this slide, my point is just that utilitarians and deontologist philosophers tend to discount parochial actions, that is actions that favor your ingroup. You don’t get credit for those. m, ah, and this kind of morality feels cold and inhuman, it’s really live up to the morality of Emanuel Kant or Jeremy Bentham, ah, skip this data, there’s all these new findings on parochial altruism. It’s really a hot topic in social psychology. If you set things up so people can cooperate with people that they have some tie to, some sense of shared future, if they have similarity, if they, you tell them they have the same birth date, anything that makes people feel more similar, or that they’re connected into the future makes them cooperative, helpful, altruistic. Parochial altruism is really hot, really powerful.
And, here’s the really cool thing. I came across this book from Adam Smith. This just blew my mind. Adam Smith, in The Theory of Moral Sentiments, is talking about this movement in the 18th century, people, the French Revolution, the French philosophes calling themselves the party of humanity, universalism, and Smith says, “Well yes, it’s true that if you are patriotic that can actually encourage people to do some things that might be harmful to people in other places. Parochialism, patriotism, groupishness, this can have some negative effects. He doesn’t dispute that. But then look what he says. He suggests that actually a parochial world is a better world. From a straight utilitarian point of view. Look what he says, “That wisdom which contrived the system of human affections…seems to have been judged that the interest of the great society of mankind would be best promoted by directing the principal attention of each individual to that particular portion of it, which was most within the sphere both of his abilities and of his understanding.”
In other words, think local, act local. If your slogan is think global act local it’s not going to produce as much local action. And this is why studies, the data is a little bit, sometimes contested, but I think there’s a lot of data suggesting that conservatives are more charitable, they give more blood, they basically do more for others than do liberals. Liberals support policies of welfare, government policies to help people, but when given chances to help conservatives end up giving more. Is that because they as people are better people? Is it that their elephants are more habitually generous? Maybe, a little bit, maybe not. I don’t know. But what I’m confident in is because conservatives set themselves up in parochial communities, they join churches. They’re more likely to join their neighborhood associations. They’re more local, they’re less cosmopolitan, they travel less, they’re more rooted. You put yourself into groups, you’re gonna be more compassionate.
So again, if you set up your environment, your situation, your society, to encourage this kind of Adam Smith parochialism, that might well be a better society than one in which we try to get everybody to give to save Darfur.
In conclusion, if we return to this puzzle, “If compassion is so good for us, why doesn’t everyone pursue it?” Well, yes, there are psychological obstacles but I believe much more powerful are the moral and political obstacles. And if, so as I said, I made these points, if morality is broader than most liberals think then you’re gonna have to broaden your moral thinking, your moral appeals. You might consider some conservative ideas such as constrained parochialism. I suggested that the, ah, bet, the most productive avenue of intervention is especially down here, not up here (pointing at the three by three table). And so if we return to the mission of CCARE, of searching for methods for cultivating compassion and promoting altruism within individuals and society-wide, my closing recommendation is this: Yes, draw on Eastern wisdom. There is a great deal of Eastern wisdom. But specifically, it is, use indirect methods rather than direct, and I think this is an area where I think the East is wiser than the West, use indirect methods, that is changing the path not the people. And secondly, recognize that the whole community of people doing this research, probably funding this research, ah, um, advocating for these programs politically, is generally speaking members of a single moral community with a care based morality. So if your whole community is Yin, you’d better consult some Yang. That’s my closing words to you. Thank you.
No comments yet.