Philosophy, Society

When morality gets in the way of justice

This TED Talk tries to explain the different views that political conservatives and liberals have on issues of justice and morality. Jonathan Haidt thinks that humans have five innate psychological systems that are the foundations of their moral views.

  1. Harm/care
  2. Fairness/reciprocity
  3. Ingroup/loyalty
  4. Authority/respect
  5. Purity/sanctity

Liberals have moral intuitions primarily based upon the first two foundations, and therefore misunderstand the moral motivations of conservatives, who generally rely upon all five foundations.

This explains why conservatives emphasize stability and order (and thus promote tradition and institutions like the state, family, and church) while liberals are usually more progressive and promote individual freedom even if this means radical change and may threaten society as we know it.

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4 thoughts on “When morality gets in the way of justice

  1. mb2100 says:

    Wow, the first comment on my blog! 🙂

    Well, the guy in the TED talk said we need them both, conservatives and liberals, like yin and yang. And I tend to agree with him.
    When being progressive, you risk breaking what’s working. When being conservative you risk standing still. So we should just always evaluate our decisions carefully before we make them. If the risk is estimated reasonably low, let’s be progressive! If the risk is too high, better stick with the old way until we know more about it. But let always reason rule, not just fear of change. Because of that and because I’m an optimist, I tend to be on the liberal side. 😉

  2. ophalm says:

    I guess I agree 🙂

    I guess, legislated morality is a concept your theory doesn’t cover. What’s the “risk” of homosexual marriage for example? People’s emotions?

    I like to simplify my understandings of liberals and conservatives like this: Liberals want the best for everyone, conservatives want the best for themselves.
    It’s highly simplistic of course.

  3. mb2100 says:

    Well, in the view of those conservatives that oppose it,
    – homosexual marriage endangers the current concept of marriage as a loyalty bond between man and woman
    – disrespects god’s will and
    – is impure and dirty.
    That’s to cover the last three points in the list in my original post.

    This thinking, relying on intuitive morals, doesn’t make much sense when you start to reason and look at analysis that show that homosexual couples can raise children just as well, but it is a way of thinking.

    So, I don’t think conservatives always only want the best for themselves (although it often appears to us liberals like that), but they just take different morals into account.
    Like tax reductions for the rich: conservatives may think that the rich are smarter (otherwise they wouldn’t be rich) and thus are better fit to spend the money wisely and get the economy going in the process. This is not selfish thinking, although I think it is a totally flawed logic.

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