Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Morality binds and blinds

I was talking about Jonathan Haidt's analysis on Monday. What now, he asks in the NYT this morning. Shared fear and common threats can help overcome partisan blindness, he argues.

A basic principle of moral psychology is that “morality binds and blinds.” In many pre-agricultural societies, groups achieved trust and unity by circling around sacred objects. In modern societies, much larger groups bind themselves together by treating certain books, flags, leaders or ideals as sacred and by symbolically circling around them. But if your team circles too fast, you lose the ability to see clearly or think for yourself. You go blind to evidence that contradicts your group’s moral consensus, and you become enraged at teammates who suggest that the other side is not entirely bad (as New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie, is now finding out).

Unlike a foreign attack, a problem that threatens only one side’s sacred values can therefore divide us, rather than unite us.
Each side finds it difficult to see the other's sacred values, he says. So conservatives tend to deny climate change, for example. Liberals tend to deny potential problems with entitlement spending.

But there are so many "asteroids" about to hit us in coming years that necessity may force each side to recognize some merit in other views. That may mean more attention to economic inequality and the fact that the family has eroded - 40% of births are to unwed mothers, for example.

I think that is a civilized comment for the morning after the election. At least we can be thankful for the country's sake that there has been no hanging chad dramas and Obama won the popular vote as well as the electoral college.

More reaction from me when I'm a bit less tired and have time to absorb it.



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