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Harmless Taboos 
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Post Re: Harmless Taboos
I think you're missing the point if you try to explain why any given example is wrong. Any example can always be tweaked to become an example that is immune to most of the reasons people give. The point is to find out whether people react first and explain ad hoc, or whether they assess and analyse first and then react. The finding is that most people studied reacted first and then gave justifications that were not coherent given the scenario. That's what I think is so impressive about Haidt's research, even though I disagree somewhat with his explanation and interpretation of the results.



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Sat Jul 07, 2012 6:13 pm
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Post Re: Harmless Taboos
Not having read the book, I still find this a fascinating topic. My view is that liberals do not understand the 'slippery slope' theory that supports conservative moral principles. If you hold strongly to the view that stealing is morally wrong on principle, and you encounter an opportunity to steal, you will not do it. But if your thinking is framed in a rational liberal perspective, of whether anyone will find out, and whether you will do any harm that you can tell, you are more likely to steal.

Conservatives say that this initial succumbing to temptation corrupts your personal attitudes, making it more likely that you will do and allow steadily worse things in future, sliding down the slippery slope of the wide and easy path to hell, paved with good intentions. The harm is to your personal attitudes, morally corrupting your sense of principle.


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Post Re: Harmless Taboos
Robert Tulip wrote:
Not having read the book, I still find this a fascinating topic. My view is that liberals do not understand the 'slippery slope' theory that supports conservative moral principles. If you hold strongly to the view that stealing is morally wrong on principle, and you encounter an opportunity to steal, you will not do it. But if your thinking is framed in a rational liberal perspective, of whether anyone will find out, and whether you will do any harm that you can tell, you are more likely to steal.

Conservatives say that this initial succumbing to temptation corrupts your personal attitudes, making it more likely that you will do and allow steadily worse things in future, sliding down the slippery slope of the wide and easy path to hell, paved with good intentions. The harm is to your personal attitudes, morally corrupting your sense of principle.

I consider my self a liberal (American) and I find your post insulting. My morals are not based on whether anyone will find out. Harm is a little bit of different issue in that causing harm is part of the criteria for me of what makes something wrong. However, I can imagine actions that would still be wrong even if they did not per se cause harm.



Sun Jul 08, 2012 6:23 am
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Post Re: Harmless Taboos
Sorry Saffron, maybe I will leave this discussion. I read summaries of Haidt's ideas, and perhaps I misunderstand him. He seems to be saying that conservative morality is defective because conservatives cannot rationally explain their views, implying that a morality that is easy to understand and explain is superior to one that rests on intuition and tradition. I'm simply raising the possibility that this debate is a lot more complex.

The issue of 'finding out' is central to the examples Haidt provides, especially eating the dead.

Haidt has raised the emotionally offensive topics of incest and cannibalism, implying that a liberal will think these are okay if they cause no perceptible harm, while a conservative will be open to ridicule for their principled opposition. That is a very provocative argument, if you don't mind me saying so. He seems to be saying, from the very summary reading here, that liberalism is based on reason and conservatism is based on emotion, that the dogma of opposition to incest and cannibalism should be revised on the basis of whether people can get away with these practices without causing harm or being found out. Or am I misreading him?


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Sun Jul 08, 2012 6:52 am, edited 1 time in total.



Sun Jul 08, 2012 6:48 am
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Post Re: Harmless Taboos
Robert Tulip wrote:
Sorry Saffron, maybe I will leave this discussion. I read summaries of Haidt's ideas, and perhaps I misunderstand him. He seems to be saying that conservative morality is defective because conservatives cannot rationally explain their views, implying that a morality that is easy to understand and explain is superior to one that rests on intuition and tradition. I'm simply raising the possibility that this debate is a lot more complex.

The issue of 'finding out' is central to the examples Haidt provides, especially eating the dead.

Haidt has raised the emotionally offensive topics of incest and cannibalism, implying that a liberal will think these are okay if they cause no perceptible harm, while a conservative will be open to ridicule for their principled opposition. That is a very provocative argument, if you don't mind me saying so. He seems to be saying, from the very summary reading here, that liberalism is based on reason and conservatism is based on emotion, that the dogma of opposition to incest and cannibalism should be revised on the basis of whether people can get away with these practices without causing harm or being found out. Or am I misreading him?

Robert, I believe you have totally misread Haidt. I don't think he is making any judgement statements at all. I think he is looking at what science can tell us about the biological underpinnings of morality and the implications. He is making the argument that for everyone the basis of moratlity, regardless of there ideology, begins with the feeling or intuition that something is wrong.



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Post Re: Harmless Taboos
But the politics is central to his research:
At The American, AEI resident scholar Andrew Biggs wrote:
Haidt’s research asks individuals to answer questionnaires regarding their core moral beliefs—what sorts of values they consider sacred, which they would compromise on, and how much it would take to get them to make those compromises. By themselves, these exercises are interesting. But Haidt’s research went one step further, asking self-identified conservatives to answer those questionnaires as if they were liberals and for liberals to do the opposite. What Haidt found is that conservatives understand liberals’ moral values better than liberals understand where conservatives are coming from. Worse yet, liberals don’t know what they don’t know; they don’t understand how limited their knowledge of conservative values is.

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Post Re: Harmless Taboos
I hope Robert will at least check in with the discussion, even if he doesn't have time for the book. I really haven't read ahead or looked at much of Haidt's other stuff on the web (the guy's an industry), so I can't comment on how the material in the book so far relates to liberal/conservative. Haidt hasn't said that political liberals are more likely to say "okay" to the incest scenario than conservatives. That isn't what interests him. As saffron said, he only wanted to devise moral dilemmas that would show whether people answer moral questions from intuition or from moral reasoning. I do know that, according to the interview article geo posted, conservatives have championed some of Haidt's conclusions. The writer did say that Haidt admitted to coming down harder on conservatives than liberals, because liberals are his people.

JH did offer the generalization that in America and Western Europe (also Australia, I'm sure), people are more likely to have the individualistic view of private practices being okay if they're consentual or don't harm anyone. In socio-centric cultures, non-harming practices are more likely to be moralized. To a large extent, the individualism of the West provides a common ground for both liberal and conservative factions within nations.



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