I listened to Haidt being interviewed on Rationally Speaking, another podcast I will be discontinuing after one try. I have been a big fan of his over the years, but was quite disappointed in his comments today. Analyzing what it was that irritated me has been instructive, as it usually is. I am crediting him with targeting his audience, and so his more deeply liberal slant as a product of trimming his sails in order to convince a different group of his ideas. But to I who have been accustomed to his talks with audiences with more conservatives. it was jarring. He started off his examples with the conflicting views about the Capitol Riots and attempting to explain the differing impressions of groups about that. I'm sorry, have their been any other riots in the past year? This is one of my new markers for a person who is being led by the elite media rather than objective thought. Mention both or you are just out, in my book. I am very willing to condemn Trump's actions and the dangerousness of a few protestors in DC. Except when you ignore the context of twenty other riots with many more deaths in the previous year -then I'm just not listening quite so intently anymore. His account was one-sided. Still, I can stretch a bit. His interviewer was clearly liberal who admitted she could not even fathom the moral reasoning of others. I am guessing her podcast audience is similar. So he is tailoring, and maybe doing the work of angels, getting her to at least consider things she was unable to ten minutes before.
Yet his choices of words suggested he really doesn't get it either.
I was also entirely with him as he described the additional moral foundations of liberty/oppression and something related to property and ownership. I had heard about the former a few years ago, but not the latter, that being in possession of something in the moment (without especial regard to how that occurred) confers some legitimacy. We see this in discussions of Native American rights. It is not fully logical, but there is this value that we all apply of well, they were here first, and they were right there on the James/Charles/St Lawrence River. It is an extension based on the Fairness foundation to say but they sorta stole it from other tribes about twenty years before. Competing values, which is central to Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory. Possession means something, just as loyalty means something or purity means something, even if they don't mean everything. As an aside, he dispels the myth !Kung tribesmen having no ownership, sharing everything. What they have is a highly cooperative society based on gift-giving. But part of their picture is that you can only give things you own. They recognise ownership.
I pointed out years ago a major weakness in his interpretation that liberals use only two foundations Care vs Harm, and Fairness vs Cheating, while conservatives tend to use them all. Authority/Subversion, Sanctity/degradation, Loyalty/betrayal. As he added in Liberty/oppression he saw that in both groups (unequally, and most prominent in Libertarians.) I don't know how what he has measured about the new property rights value.
But he's just wrong about that. His original test included sanctity questions such as whether you would use an American flag to clean the toilet if you had nothing else. But it included no examples of liberal sanctity, such as if you would use a newspaper with MLK's photo on for toilet paper if you had nothing else. Environmentalism is framed in terms of care vs harm and I agree that is part of it, but if you listen to them, read them, or argue with them you see that sanctity/degradation is not far beneath the surface. I would say similar things about vegetarians and vegans. While not all are motivated by disgust, it certainly comes up all the time. As for authority, Haidt spent a few minutes trying to explain that "trusting science and experts" was not the same thing at all. We just spent a year arguing about this, and it was the conservatives more often rejecting and subverting authority. Liberal acceptance of authority was framed as an objective decision based on the science and trusting experts. But few of us do science, so we are left with trusting scientists, or more often, people who claim they are speaking for scientists. And the foundation of that is accepting the credentialing from universities plus their employment for organisations that are highly politicised. One can conclude that they were spot on and we should do what they recommend, but at heart this is accepting authority.
Haidt is stuck on the old paradigms of conservatives going to churches that tell them what to do - yeah, we see a lot of that in America, huh? - or loving the military because of feeling secure in hierarchy, or obeying all laws. So...masks? Or are we seeing some pattern of progressives speeding, ignoring gun laws, or breaking and entering at much higher rates than conservatives? Obeying social conventions is also a form of accepting authority.
Objectivity, evenhandedness is a type of fairness. Thus, when any of us ceases to be objective, we revert to some other value. In the case above, Haidt ceased to be objective and resorted to...loyalty to his tribe. One of the supposed mostly-conservative values. He just knows without thinking that those riots were different things, somehow. They don't count. He is stuck in the old stereotype of framing loyalty/betrayal as loyalty to family, loyalty to country - yet loyalty to a worldview even when the facts are against it can only mean loyalty to those who share that view. The mainstream denominations who have become so liberal, are they not mostly made up of cradle Lutherans, cradle Episcopalians, etc, remaining to the formal institution? All the coalition of identity groups that make up the Democratic Party - Are those not just tribal loyalties? Does he think liberals aren't prominent in rage over betrayal?
For the record, I think his theory is sound, but his interpretation of how it is playing out in the American landscape is skewed.