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Ch. 8 - The Felicity of Virtue
https://www.booktalk.org/ch-8-the-felicity-of-virtue-t16832-15.html
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Author:  DWill [ Wed Apr 23, 2014 4:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ch. 8 - The Felicity of Virtue

The book contains a number of provocative topics, and sometimes Haidt puts an unexpected spin on them. An example here was the boost he gives to a generally conservative outlook on morality. He comes out for character education and for a generally less diverse palette of morals in our society. Diversity in morality equals anomie, he says; we need to have moral agreement on virtues to be cultivated, rather than just saying don't harm others and do some good deeds, but otherwise don't be concerned about morality. The Enlightenment, which turned morality into a scientific project on moral reasoning and essentially reduced morality to one element, ended up impoverishing morality somewhat in Haidt's opinion. At the end of the chapter he is of two minds about the moral stance of today, valuing the inclusiveness we've achieved through moral liberalism, yet feeling that in the civic sphere we need to again emphasize the "good old-fashioned values." Value-free has been a mistake. This reminds me of arguments for education that emphasize a frankly pro-American attitude, which in terms of teaching history would mean slanting it in the direction of American exceptionalism, even promoting the myths over what might be the objective truth.

I can see the benefit of Haidt's broader view of morality as the catalog of moral virtues a la Ben Franklin. Today we tend to divide along lines of one or a few moral positions, such as the ones that currently define liberals and conservatives. This causes bad feelings and demonization. But what if we didn't get so caught up on, say, religious fundamentalists and instead tried to look at positive character traits of such people that we're missing? Maybe it doesn't matter so much that one is a creationist; he or she can have "excellences" that overshadows that one moral trait. This would amount to admiring people based on their strengths of character, something Haidt says was the norm until fairly recently in history.

Author:  geo [ Thu Apr 24, 2014 10:14 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ch. 8 - The Felicity of Virtue

DWill wrote:
. . . Today we tend to divide along lines of one or a few moral positions, such as the ones that currently define liberals and conservatives. This causes bad feelings and demonization. But what if we didn't get so caught up on, say, religious fundamentalists and instead tried to look at positive character traits of such people that we're missing? Maybe it doesn't matter so much that one is a creationist; he or she can have "excellences" that overshadows that one moral trait. This would amount to admiring people based on their strengths of character, something Haidt says was the norm until fairly recently in history.

Really good point. I plead guilty for occasionally hyper-focusing on religious beliefs. :chatsmilies_com_92: This is an issue of self control, but these are polarized times, perhaps an aspect of superficiality in a society that has stopped worrying about more meaningful things?

Haidt seems to articulate conservative ideas better than conservatives do. Of course, the media usually plays up the extreme elements in politics, so the more moderate messages on both sides tend to get lost.

I have always thought conservatives were on to something with their focus on family values, although the world is rapidly changing and there doesn't seem to be much we can do about it. Haidt says: "we can’t go back, either to a pre-consumer society or to ethnically homogeneous enclaves."

I like Haidt's discussion of "anomie," a word coined by Durkehim, the sociologist. At the risk of sounding like an old fogey, it seems to me that our culture glorifies youth and superficiality over family and tradition, and it's this inversion of values that has led to the rise of the individual which has perhaps contributed to the decline of the family unit.

I read a book a few years ago (The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism by Andrew J. Bacevich ) which discussed America's shift from being producers to consumers. The author identified that time period as the start of our decline. And I have to agree. I just can't see how this is a sustainable path, as Wendell Berry has argued as well.

Anyway, this passage by Haidt says it all.

Quote:
Before the Industrial Revolution, Americans honored the virtues of “producers”—hard work, self-restraint, sacrifice for the future, and sacrifice for the common good. But during the twentieth century, as people became wealthier and the producer society turned gradually into the mass consumption society, an alternative vision of the self arose—a vision centered on the idea of individual preferences and personal fulfillment. The intrinsically moral term “character” fell out of favor and was replaced by the amoral term “personality.

Author:  geo [ Thu Apr 24, 2014 10:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Ch. 8 - The Felicity of Virtue

Why do something that doesn't benefit our genes?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=632CHpeHYZE

Author:  DWill [ Thu Apr 24, 2014 7:42 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ch. 8 - The Felicity of Virtue

That was a great little film. Somebody said that the feeling of "vastness" also applies not just to experiences of nature but also to situations where we really feel the connection with other people and that we are not just isolated egos. I think that's right.

True about Haidt, a middle-of-the-roader at this point, representing conservatism better than conservatives--although David Brooks does well, and George Will, too, in a more intellectual vein.

Author:  geo [ Fri Apr 25, 2014 2:54 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Ch. 8 - The Felicity of Virtue

Saw this on the WhoWhatWhy web site today. This is Haidt's TED talk from a couple of years ago that changed the way I look at the political spectrum.

http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/04/14/guy-stupid/

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