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Ch. 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively? 
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 Ch. 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?
Ch. 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?



Fri Jun 22, 2012 12:19 am
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Post Re: Ch. 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?
It may be that people have have moved on from the book, but I wanted to finish it out anyway. The final chapter is the longest and has several different topics. Haidt starts out by remarking on the height of political rigidity and hostility in our public discourse today, then tries to apply some of his theory to understanding how we got this way and what we might do to emerge from it.

He has a nice section on nature/nurture which features the example of siblings who end up on opposite sides politically, through a combination of their different genetics and their unique experiences. Haidt again uses his definition of innate: "organized in advance of experience," meaning, of course, that genes play a central role in our development, but it is development--experience--that makes us finally what we are. Another way of saying this is that nature/genes gives us the first draft of ourselves, and this draft becomes revised successively through our childhood experience (until, presumably, sometime near adulthood we become stuck with what we are).

The genetic differences between people who end up as liberals vs. those who become conservatives can be reduced to two main traits controlled by our brains: threat sensitivity, which conservatives have to a greater extent than liberals do; and openness to new experiences, seen more in liberals than in conservatives. This orientation influences the moral matrix of each class, making liberals attuned mainly to the Care and Fairness foundations, conservatives to the Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity foundations. However, as he stated earlier, conservatives operate from a broader base morally than do liberals. They partake to some extent of all the moral foundations, while liberals often consider the three other foundations mentioned to be examples of immorality rather than morality. He tells of a study he conducted which shows that conservatives have a better understanding or what liberals are all about morally than liberals have of conservatives. Liberals tend towards more blatant stereotyping of the other side. I think he's probably right about that.

I suppose it's true that Haidt gives liberals a harder time and gives conservatives a partial pass. He almost reverses the normal judgment that conservatives are narrow while liberals are broad thinkers. He also asks whether conservatives "might have a better formula for how to create a healthy, happy, society." His reason comes down to his emerging realization, narrated in the book, that Authority, Loyalty, and Sanctity are more necessary to a social fabric than liberals, sometimes bent on radical change, have been able to appreciate. In particular, liberals have a blind spot in regard to moral capital, the preservation of which depends on the moral foundations favored by conservatives. Moral capital, equating roughly to degree of social trust, can be taken for granted in our society but is precious and can be more easily lost than we think (and indeed it has dwindled just in the last ten years). One of his reasons for caution in moving toward a post-religious society is that religion at his time in the U.S. appears to be adding to the general moral capital. This is not always true of religion, though, and it is not always true, either, that moral capital is something to be thankful for. "High moral capital can be obtained within a cult or a fascist nation, as long as most people truly accept the prevailing moral matrix." He continues: "However, if you are trying to change an organization or a society and you do not consider the effects of your changes on moral capital, you're asking for trouble. This, I believe, is the fundamental blind spot of the left" (his emphasis).

Haidt then launches into a yin/yang on liberalism and conservatism, left and right, that gives each its due place in a functioning, balanced society. He gives us his view of a couple of enduring truths that each of these variants of human nature hold up for us and that we should make sure we don't lose sight of. That's probably matter for a second post.



Last edited by DWill on Wed Sep 05, 2012 9:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?
DWill wrote:
study he conducted which shows that conservatives have a better understanding or what liberals are all about morally than liberals have of conservatives. Liberals tend towards more blatant stereotyping of the other side. I think he's probably right about that.
Our new fiction selection, Atlas Shrugged, is like a Bible for this attitude. Rand presents conservatism as strong, dynamic and intelligent, and liberalism as weak, vacillating and stupid. No wonder Ronald Reagan had Ayn Rand as bedside reading, even if she disowned him. The conservative view is that conservatives actually do things, so have to understand all the constraints that prevent achievement, including liberal politics, while liberals just sit on the sidelines and criticise, so don't really understand what it takes to achieve an outcome. This is obviously a fairly crude stereotype, but it is an interesting inversion of the old Marxist canard that the slave understands the master better than vice versa.

Here is Huffington Post on Paul Ryan and his favourite author.
Quote:

I suppose it's true that Haidt gives liberals a harder time and gives conservatives a partial pass. He almost reverses the normal judgment that conservatives are narrow while liberals are broad thinkers. He also asks whether conservatives "might have a better formula for how to create a healthy, happy, society."
This depends on the value you ascribe to stability and continuity. Conservatives tend to say 'if it aint broke don't fix it', to justify current practice, whereas liberals advocate reforms that they think would make society fairer. Upheaval is disruptive and stressful, but if the existing system has major flaws then change is inevitable, and the question becomes whether change will be managed or disastrous. But the problem with change induced through political policy is that it often fails to see its unintended consequences, and in a polarised environment the advocates of change are blind to any truth in the ideas of those they condemn as reactionary.
Quote:
His reason comes down to his emerging realization, narrated in the book, that Authority, Loyalty, and Sanctity are more necessary to a social fabric than liberals, sometimes bent on radical change, have been able to appreciate.
This point is a big part of explaining why debate on creationism is so baffling. Conservatives see the Bible as a source of morality and social identity, so they assess any new ideas, such as evolution, against their tradional framework, rather than assessing the tradition in terms of the new findings. Many features of conservative social fabric are basic to social success, but if you pull at one thread then the fear is the whole weave will unravel.

It is mildly paradoxical that Rand's conservatism is so intensely individualistic, emphasising belief in yourself against the world, and criticising liberals for being sheep who go along with the crowd. Surely acceptance of authority, loyalty and sanctity are all about not thinking for your self?
Quote:
In particular, liberals have a blind spot in regard to moral capital, the preservation of which depends on the moral foundations favored by conservatives. Moral capital, equating roughly to degree of social trust, can be taken for granted in our society but is precious and can be more easily lost than we think (and indeed it has dwindled just in the last ten years).
It links to the question of whether education should focus on how to do things or how to build critical understanding, with conservatives supporting the former and liberals the latter. That famous long word, antidisestablishmentarianism, sees those who challenge established ways as ignorant and destructive, and as failing to see the values embedded in conventional ways.
Quote:
One of his reasons for caution in moving toward a post-religious society is that religion at his time in the U.S. appears to be adding to the general moral capital. This is not always true of religion, though,
The moral capital of religion has a shelf life. When there is a growing dissonance between claims of faith and the evidence of sense, religion starts to look hypocritical, and as having negative impacts that outweigh the good it does. Also, religious ideas gradually hollow out, with their superficial form coming to outweigh any meaningful content. If moral capital requires believing things that everyone sensible knows are untrue, it looks like the society is living a lie. That can't be healthy. I think of it as like an earthquake, with a long period of slow build of tension followed by a sudden destructive release. Moral capital builds while the social tectonic plates are gradually moving against each other, and collapses when the tension can no longer hold, unless there are prophetic voices who can speak to both sides.
Quote:
and it is not always true, either, that moral capital is something to be thankful for. "High moral capital can be obtained within a cult or a fascist nation, as long as most people truly accept the prevailing moral matrix."
Yes, it is about unity in conformity to a dominant paradigm. It is truly amazing that the German people allowed themselves to be beguiled by Hitler and his message of the moral capital of German tradition, even when they could see his hypocrisy but chose to ignore it.
Quote:
He continues: "However, if you are trying to change an organization or a society and you do not consider the effects of your changes on moral capital, you're asking for trouble. This, I believe, is the fundamental blind spot of the left" (his emphasis).
This is a big part of the debate over the creation and redistribution of wealth. Conservatives say that creating wealth is morally good, leading by example and generating social dynamism. Liberals see private accumulation as unfair, and advocate redistribution, to which conservatives counter that charity is morally corrosive, destructive of incentive and skill, and breeding dependency on the giver. Personal incentive and skill are a big part of moral capital.
Quote:

Haidt then launches into a yin/yang on liberalism and conservatism, left and right, that gives each its due place in a functioning, balanced society. He gives us his view of a couple of enduring truths that each of these variants of human nature hold up for us and that we should make sure we don't lose sight of. That's probably matter for a second post.

Perhaps the best 'yin/yang' account of this topic is Matthew 25, which contains the central Biblical texts routinely used to justify both capitalism and communism. Quite a dialectic to hold these contrasts in one chapter. Straight after saying "to those who have will be given and from those who have not will be taken away the little that they have" Jesus tells us "what you do to the least you do to me" as a justification for feeding the hungry, visiting prisoners, etc.


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Post Re: Ch. 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?
Robert, thanks for your stimulating comments. I didn't fit this in for fear of making the post too long, but Haidt finds a way to distinguish orthodoxy of the right from modern conservatism. I think your argument about conservative thought lumps conservatives in with the orthodox right, which would include such things as biblical inerrancy. Haidt cites Jerry Muller as the writer responsible for showing him that "modern conservatism...finds its origins within the main currents of Enlightenment thinking, when men such as David Hume and Edmund Burke tried to develop a reasoned, pragmatic, and essentially utilitarian critique of the Enlightenment project." This might seem to be merely convenient for Haidt's thesis, but if you think about the conservative thinkers and writers who have been most admired, such as Hayek, George Will, and Thomas Sowell, you don't find any craziness like creationism coming from them. Haidt quotes Muller: "What makes social and political arguments conservative as opposed to orthodox is that the critique of liberal or progressive arguments takes place on the enlightened grounds of the search for human happiness based on the use of reason."
Robert Tulip wrote:
.Our new fiction selection, Atlas Shrugged, is like a Bible for this attitude. Rand presents conservatism as strong, dynamic and intelligent, and liberalism as weak, vacillating and stupid. No wonder Ronald Reagan had Ayn Rand as bedside reading, even if she disowned him. The conservative view is that conservatives actually do things, so have to understand all the constraints that prevent achievement, including liberal politics, while liberals just sit on the sidelines and criticise, so don't really understand what it takes to achieve an outcome. This is obviously a fairly crude stereotype, but it is an interesting inversion of the old Marxist canard that the slave understands the master better than vice versa.

I wonder how J. Haidt would categorize the moral matrix of Ayn Rand. Does she even have one? If the individual is to be left alone to achieve whatever he can through his own power, by definition that would be extolling amorality.

I think that over on this side of the world, liberals are the ones attacked for doing too much, though it's through the power of government that they want to do it.
Quote:
This depends on the value you ascribe to stability and continuity. Conservatives tend to say 'if it aint broke don't fix it', to justify current practice, whereas liberals advocate reforms that they think would make society fairer. Upheaval is disruptive and stressful, but if the existing system has major flaws then change is inevitable, and the question becomes whether change will be managed or disastrous. But the problem with change induced through political policy is that it often fails to see its unintended consequences, and in a polarised environment the advocates of change are blind to any truth in the ideas of those they condemn as reactionary.

Well put.
Quote:
This point is a big part of explaining why debate on creationism is so baffling. Conservatives see the Bible as a source of morality and social identity, so they assess any new ideas, such as evolution, against their tradional framework, rather than assessing the tradition in terms of the new findings. Many features of conservative social fabric are basic to social success, but if you pull at one thread then the fear is the whole weave will unravel.

For all its supposed prevalence, at least in terms of polling in the U.S., creationism remains a marginalized attitude. In political terms, we can say the support for it is broad but soft. And again, I don't think that serious conservatives flirt with that stuff.
Quote:
It is mildly paradoxical that Rand's conservatism is so intensely individualistic, emphasising belief in yourself against the world, and criticising liberals for being sheep who go along with the crowd. Surely acceptance of authority, loyalty and sanctity are all about not thinking for your self?

But here's the thing, Robert: Ayn Rand is no conservative. Radical individualism of this kind is precisely what conservatives of the classical type fear will destroy social capital, and you can easily see why. With cutthroat as the philosophy du jour, bonds of trust cannot exist. We come into that zone where Rand shares ground at least etymologically with the liberals she hates. She's a libertarian, no?
Quote:
The moral capital of religion has a shelf life. When there is a growing dissonance between claims of faith and the evidence of sense, religion starts to look hypocritical, and as having negative impacts that outweigh the good it does. Also, religious ideas gradually hollow out, with their superficial form coming to outweigh any meaningful content. If moral capital requires believing things that everyone sensible knows are untrue, it looks like the society is living a lie. That can't be healthy. I think of it as like an earthquake, with a long period of slow build of tension followed by a sudden destructive release. Moral capital builds while the social tectonic plates are gradually moving against each other, and collapses when the tension can no longer hold, unless there are prophetic voices who can speak to both sides.

Haidt is a social psychologist whose views radically de-emphasize the importance of religious ideas in favor of the social bonding for which those ideas provide only the pretext. To rationalists or atheists, sanctities involving the supernatural are not to be tolerated, are the worst kind of sinning. But since even atheists must have those things they hold sacred, for Haidt (and I agree with him), whether or not gods and spirits are invoked is not such a big deal.
Quote:
Yes, it is about unity in conformity to a dominant paradigm. It is truly amazing that the German people allowed themselves to be beguiled by Hitler and his message of the moral capital of German tradition, even when they could see his hypocrisy but chose to ignore it.

We've discussed American Exceptionalism--which is not to be confused with Nazism, but isn't there in that belief the germ of something not very healthy, which most Americans accept uncritically?
Quote:
This is a big part of the debate over the creation and redistribution of wealth. Conservatives say that creating wealth is morally good, leading by example and generating social dynamism. Liberals see private accumulation as unfair, and advocate redistribution, to which conservatives counter that charity is morally corrosive, destructive of incentive and skill, and breeding dependency on the giver. Personal incentive and skill are a big part of moral capital.

I do have to disagree with the conservative view of charity you've given. Maybe for Ayn Rand, but conservatives actually see private giving, however unrealistic the view might be, as the alternative to government largesse. Maybe by "charity" you mean such things as our AFDC (welfare), food stamps, and disability benefits, in which case you'd be right about this as a conservative attitude.



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Post Re: Ch. 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?
Thanks for these interesting musings David and DWill. Hope you both are still up for more discussion about:
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DWill wrote:
But here's the thing, Robert: Ayn Rand is no conservative. Radical individualism of this kind is precisely what conservatives of the classical type fear will destroy social capital, and you can easily see why. With cutthroat as the philosophy du jour, bonds of trust cannot exist. We come into that zone where Rand shares ground at least etymologically with the liberals she hates. She's a libertarian, no?
Ayn Rand blended in with classical conservatives despite her strongly voiced libertarian ethics. Similarly, Steve Jobs blended in with 60's liberals despite his strongly voiced libertarian ethics. What blindness allows this type of phenomena? And what purpose does it serve?
It would be interesting to see a chart of how Jonathan Haidt's 6 moral foundations vary over time for the USA. Perhaps moderates were the bridge from the political right to the left spanning the 50's to the 70's, and libertarians were the bridge from the left to the right spanning the 80's to the 00's?
"Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?" I think the current increase in strife in the USA and globally makes it more challenging. But more functional political dynamics is still within the realm of human possibility. Towards that end, I thank Jonathan Haidt for this book and all his work.



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Post Re: Ch. 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?
learning2smile wrote:
Thanks for these interesting musings David and DWill. Hope you both are still up for more discussion about:
Quote:
DWill wrote:
But here's the thing, Robert: Ayn Rand is no conservative. Radical individualism of this kind is precisely what conservatives of the classical type fear will destroy social capital, and you can easily see why. With cutthroat as the philosophy du jour, bonds of trust cannot exist. We come into that zone where Rand shares ground at least etymologically with the liberals she hates. She's a libertarian, no?
Ayn Rand blended in with classical conservatives despite her strongly voiced libertarian ethics. Similarly, Steve Jobs blended in with 60's liberals despite his strongly voiced libertarian ethics. What blindness allows this type of phenomena? And what purpose does it serve?
It would be interesting to see a chart of how Jonathan Haidt's 6 moral foundations vary over time for the USA. Perhaps moderates were the bridge from the political right to the left spanning the 50's to the 70's, and libertarians were the bridge from the left to the right spanning the 80's to the 00's?
"Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?" I think the current increase in strife in the USA and globally makes it more challenging. But more functional political dynamics is still within the realm of human possibility. Towards that end, I thank Jonathan Haidt for this book and all his work.

I sometimes think it's completely irrelevant whether we continue to use liberal and conservative. We could use Hekyl and Jekyl and do about as well, because the only important thing is to label the opposing camps. Around the time of the Civil War, 'Republican' would make citizens think of radical Abolitionists, whereas 'Democrat' was the status quo party favoring doing nothing about slavery. Then over time the words flipped.

There's an event I'm going to in DC Friday and Saturday called TedX Midatlantic, where Jonathan Haidt is going to be one of the speakers. I really enjoyed his last book, but I hope he's got something new to talk about. He's been spending time at the NYU School of Business, so maybe he'll tell us something about his work there.



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Post Re: Ch. 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?
Quote:
Quote:
DWill wrote:
I sometimes think it's completely irrelevant whether we continue to use liberal and conservative. We could use Hekyl and Jekyl and do about as well, because the only important thing is to label the opposing camps. Around the time of the Civil War, 'Republican' would make citizens think of radical Abolitionists, whereas 'Democrat' was the status quo party favoring doing nothing about slavery. Then over time the words flipped.

Yes, and through time, in many other countries, the names of political parties are often very confusing/misleading. It would be useful to have standardized political science terms for political positions.
Quote:
DWill wrote:
There's an event I'm going to in DC Friday and Saturday called TedX Midatlantic, where Jonathan Haidt is going to be one of the speakers. I really enjoyed his last book, but I hope he's got something new to talk about. He's been spending time at the NYU School of Business, so maybe he'll tell us something about his work there.

Sounds very interesting! Curiosity Has got the better of me. I hope, afterwards, you will be willing to give us here an small overview of his talk.



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Post Re: Ch. 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?
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Yes, and through time, in many other countries, the names of political parties are often very confusing/misleading. It would be useful to have standardized political science terms for political positions.

I wonder if this project wouldn't just be endlessly frustrating to all!
Quote:
There's an event I'm going to in DC Friday and Saturday called TedX Midatlantic, where Jonathan Haidt is going to be one of the speakers. I really enjoyed his last book, but I hope he's got something new to talk about. He's been spending time at the NYU School of Business, so maybe he'll tell us something about his work there.

Quote:
Sounds very interesting! Curiosity Has got the better of me. I hope, afterwards, you will be willing to give us here an small overview of his talk.

The talk tried to bridge the right/left divide by proposing that each side can recognize, if it will lay down its ideological arms, the legitimacy of four threats to the nation that require action in order to avoid disaster or profound changes to our way of life. The threats are climate change, income inequality, political polarization, and the national debt. Haidt asked us to conceive of these dangers as an asteroid that is on course to destroy the earth. Of course in such a situation, we would band together and forget our petty divisions, working for a common goal. He thinks we can do this with the four main threats and we certainly need to.

TEDX Midatlantic was a pretty wonderful event, by the way. I particularly liked the absence of a political or ideological agenda. The range and quality of the speakers was very impressive.



Last edited by DWill on Sat Oct 27, 2012 9:24 pm, edited 2 times in total.



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Post Re: Ch. 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?
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The talk tried to bridge the right/left divide by proposing that each side can recognize, if it will lay down its ideological arms, the legitimacy of four threats to the nation that require action in order to avoid disaster or profound changes to our way of life. The threats are climate change, income inequality, political polarization, and the national debt. Haidt asked us to conceive of these dangers as an asteroid that is on course to destroy the earth. Of course in such a situation, we would band together and forget our petty divisions, working for a common goal. He thinks we can do this with the four main threats and we certainly need to.

TEDX Midatlantic was a pretty wonderful event, by the way. I particularly liked the absence of a political or ideological agenda. The range and quality of the speakers was very impressive.

Thanks for this report DWill! I am glad you enjoyed TEDX Midatlantic. Hope Haidt's four threats approach catches on across the political spectrum. That would be quite an achievement! What incentives did he offer for both the left and right to lay down their ideological arms?



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Post Re: Ch. 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?
learning2smile wrote:
Quote:
The talk tried to bridge the right/left divide by proposing that each side can recognize, if it will lay down its ideological arms, the legitimacy of four threats to the nation that require action in order to avoid disaster or profound changes to our way of life. The threats are climate change, income inequality, political polarization, and the national debt. Haidt asked us to conceive of these dangers as an asteroid that is on course to destroy the earth. Of course in such a situation, we would band together and forget our petty divisions, working for a common goal. He thinks we can do this with the four main threats and we certainly need to.

TEDX Midatlantic was a pretty wonderful event, by the way. I particularly liked the absence of a political or ideological agenda. The range and quality of the speakers was very impressive.

Thanks for this report DWill! I am glad you enjoyed TEDX Midatlantic. Hope Haidt's four threats approach catches on across the political spectrum. That would be quite an achievement! What incentives did he offer for both the left and right to lay down their ideological arms?

You're welcome. Thinking back on his talk, I remember that the prevalence of single-parent families was another threat to be faced. I think there were four threats in all, with two being the traditional issues of the left and two being the territory of the right. I've got an extra issue in there. At any rate, the incentive is simply the avoidance of serious harm. Haidt is thinking of the ability of common threats to make us band together for action. He's relying on group self-interest as the fuel for this.

An interesting idea he spoke about was changing the schedule of Congress to three weeks on and one week off. This, he thinks, would contribute to members of Congress getting to know each other better, which would be a natural deterrent to partisanship. Currently, many members don't maintain a home near DC. They spend 3-4 days in DC and then fly back home for the weekend. They need to party more together, I guess.

Within a few weeks, the sessions from TEDX MidAtlantic will be up on the internet, so you can see Haidt's presentation for yourself. I really wanted to talk to him, and saw him at the reception talking to somebody, but I didn't use the fine art of interruption and then when I looked for him later on he had already left.



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Post Re: Ch. 12: Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?
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Within a few weeks, the sessions from TEDX MidAtlantic will be up on the internet, so you can see Haidt's presentation for yourself. I really wanted to talk to him, and saw him at the reception talking to somebody, but I didn't use the fine art of interruption and then when I looked for him later on he had already left
Thanks for filling in more details and letting me know about online availability. Hope you have another opportunity to speak with Haidt.



Mon Oct 29, 2012 10:11 am
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