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Thursday, September 11, 2008

understanding American moral psychology

Jonathan Haidt thinks he knows why Democrats often fail to persuade the average American. His article is a good exploration of moral psychology, which Haidt sums up with these two rules--
  1. "feelings come first and tilt the mental playing field on which reasons and arguments compete"
  2. "morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way"
I'm not sure all his recommendations are on target but I thought this one was especially insightful--
The purity/sanctity foundation is used heavily by the Christian right to condemn hedonism and sexual "deviance," but it can also be harnessed for progressive causes. Sanctity does not have to come from God; the psychology of this system is about overcoming our lower, grasping, carnal selves in order to live in a way that is higher, nobler, and more spiritual. Many liberals criticize the crassness and ugliness that our unrestrained free-market society has created. There is a long tradition of liberal anti-materialism often linked to a reverence for nature. Environmental and animal welfare issues are easily promoted using the language of harm/care, but such appeals might be more effective when supplemented with hints of purity/sanctity.

What Makes People Vote Republican? by Jonathan Haidt
While "liberals" might not know these things, Nietzsche provides some clues.

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