Jonathan Haidt on the real difference between liberals and conservatives

•October 4, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Jonathan Haidt, a Professor in the Social Psychology area of the  Department of Psychology at theUniversity of Virginia, talks about the five foundations of morality.

  1. Harm/Care
  2. Fairness
  3. Loyalty
  4. Authority
  5. Purity

He and a colleague have setup a website where we can explore our morality. It has interesting questionnaires and I found that it’s worth spending time answering a few. His studies show that within the human society there is less debate about what Fairness than there is about Authority or Purity. Also, a study published in Nature shows that ‘altruistic punishment’ is a good way to make people co-operate. Altruistic punishment means that individuals punish, although the punishment is costly for them and yields no material gain.

He talks about religion as power that developed out of the purpose to make people cohere and calls it a wonder that people co-operate to do great things. They make use of all the tools of morality to achieve this. He quotes examples from Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism which show that our minds are ‘designed’ to unite us into teams and blind us from ‘the truth’. He asks us to question our self-righteous opinions, step back and consider the other opinion. He concludes by saying that if we have a responsibility to change the world for the better then we also have the responsibility towards knowing the truth.