Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Foundational" Moral Impulses

End of a long week. I preached at both services today. Seemed well-received, but oh, boy, I'm exhausted. (I don't preach regularly anymore. When I preached every week, or even every six weeks on a schedule, it didn't take this much out of me. Whew.)

A friend sent an interesting article from AlterNet this afternoon concerning the moral reasoning of liberals and conservatives. According to this article, Jonathan Haidt has come up with five foundational moral impulses:
1. Harm/care. It's wrong to hurt people; it's good to relieve suffering.
2. Fairness/reciprocity. Justice and fairness are good. People have certain rights that need to be upheld in social interactions.
3. In-group loyalty. People should be true to their group and be wary of threats from the outside. Allegiance, loyalty are virtues. Betrayal is bad.
4. Authority/respect. People should respect social hierarchy. Social order is necessary for human life.
5. Purity/sanctity. The body and certain aspects of life are sacred. Cleanliness and health, as well as their derivatives of chastity and piety, are all good. Pollution, contamination and the associated character traits of lust and greed are all bad.

Liberals feels strongly about the first two--preventing harm and ensuring fairness--but often feel little, or even negatively, about the other three. Conservatives generally rank loyalty, authority, and purity over harm prevention and fairness (which they do acknowledge are important, but not as important, in their view.)

That pretty much squares with me, a die-hard liberal. I'm always supporting stands that relieve suffering, that see everyone as valuable with an inherent dignity, that support basic fairness (I often bitterly rail against ridiculously high corporate executive salaries, for instance, and would support a law limiting those kinds of salaries).

My faith helps me see some things are sacred, though (#5).

Yes, authority is necessary (#4)--without some order life would be unbearable. But the regular questioning of authority also seems like a pretty good idea to me.

And loyalty? Well yes, but blind loyalty is such a problem that I tend to hold #3 rather lightly.

What about you?


mompriest said...

Yeah, pretty much squares with me too....

INTPanentheist said...

1. This is the highest tenet of my religion.
2. I believe in a completely level playing field. I know that is not possible.
3. I am loyal to individuals, but never to groups for their own sake. Ever.
4. I think hierarchy is inherently evil. I am not sure where this squares with my views on parenting.
5. This gives me the strongest negative feeling, because the words are so twisted and screwed up by most of the people who use them. When I hold things sacred, I think they should be celebrated.

Gannet Girl said...

Me, too.
An interesting take on the language we use and how we talk right past one another.

Rev SS said...

yep, I'm right with you!

Sophia said...

I am very liberal myself but love and respect some conservatives and find this schema biased against them. Many are passionate about their values primarily because of avoiding harm and fostering care and not simply out of hierarchical purity motives--though they may have different priorities and beliefs about how that is concretely lived out than liberals. And if we honor that I think we have more capacity for finding common ground and working together where possible, for instance in fighting poverty and sexism to ensure no woman chooses abortion out of pressure or despair.