Haidt’s “Righteous Mind”

I see this cited frequently in cultural/political stuff.  This Jonathan Haidt* guy wrote a book arguing that politics is an expression of our morality, and our morality has several dimensions:

  • Care: cherishing and protecting others; opposite of harm
  • Fairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating
  • Loyalty or ingroup: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal
  • Authority or respect: submitting to tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion
  • Sanctity or purity: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions; opposite of degradation

Liberals, according to this, mainly concern themselves with the first two, while conservatives are equally attentive to all five.

Which is horse hockey.  Well, either that, or “liberal” and “conservative” don’t mean what “common usage” suggests they mean.  In fact, in modern political debate, Haidt’s argument is almost exactly bassackward.

Start from the top.  Care?  Liberals very ostentatiously don’t give a shit if their policies actually help or not.  How’s gay marriage going, for instance?  Anyone bother to follow up on that?  Did that loving gay couple ever get those hospital visitation rights that we were told, in story after heart-wrenching story, was the whole reason for gay marriage in the first place?  As I’ve pointed out before, you’d think the Left would at least be doing some victory laps at this point — “haha silly wingnutz, you said the sky would fall if the gays got married, and look!”  But…. nope.  Obergefell might as well have happened in the 17th century, for all the Left cares about it now.  Ditto the Great Society, the War on Poverty, Head Start, and all the other great Liberal crusades of the past 50 years.  They very obviously did the opposite of what they were supposed to, but if Liberals bother to think about them at all — which they only do if you hold their feet to the fire — they just mutter “needs more funding” and change the subject.

Liberals believe, with all their hearts and souls, that they care more deeply than other men.  But they don’t.  Ditto with “fairness.”  Affirmative action is fair?  How about slavery reparations, i.e. punishing people in the here-and-now for something unrelated people did a century and a half ago.  Pick your major that ends in “Studies;” being unfair to entire classes of people is pretty much the entire point.  Here again, Liberals believe, with all their hearts and souls, that they’re all about fairness, but their actions are exactly opposite.

Loyalty.  Haidt says Liberals don’t care much about this.  In reality, it’s pretty much the only thing they care about.  “Argue” with a Liberal on the internet for five minutes, and you’ll have spent five minutes watching your interlocutor trying desperately to outgroup you.  “Point-and-shriek” is the whole of Liberal political discourse; they have no other.  Conservatives care about loyalty, yes, but only to groups in which they have a personal stake.  The Left is always going to the mattresses on behalf of some group they’ve never seen, over “injustices” that exist only in their minds.

What about authority?  This has been a Leftist chestnut since Adorno, but like I always say, you can’t spell “Liberal” without P-R-O-J-E-C-T-I-O-N.  Here are the traits of the “authoritarian personality” on Adorno’s famous F-Scale.  (F stands for “Fascist”).  Any of these sound familiar?

  • Conventionalism: Adherence to conventional values.
  • Authoritarian Submission: Towards ingroup authority figures.
  • Authoritarian Aggression: Against people who violate conventional values.
  • Anti-Intraception: Opposition to subjectivity and imagination.
  • Superstition and Stereotypy: Belief in individual fate; thinking in rigid categories.
  • Power and Toughness: Concerned with submission and domination; assertion of strength.
  • Destructiveness and Cynicism: hostility against human nature.
  • Projectivity: Perception of the world as dangerous; tendency to project unconscious impulses.
  • Sex: Overly concerned with modern sexual practices.

Admittedly I’m so reactionary I make Joseph de Maistre look like a Wymyn’s Studies professor, but that list looks like “How to be an SJW in 9 Easy Steps” to me.

Saving the best for last: Purity.  Remind me: Who is it that’s always passing new rules on what you can eat, watch, hear, say, and think?  I’m pretty sure that, weirdo status whores like Rod Dreher aside, elaborate ritual purity rules are entirely a Leftist thing.  Show of hands: When was the last time you threw, attended, or even heard about a backyard barbecue where someone had to make sure to get soy dogs and gluten-free veggieburgers?  The Left is so all-in on Brahminical purity that they take positive pride in never having read things they disagree with.  They know with metaphysical certainty, for instance, that the “Sad Puppies” are bad writers… and they know this, according to their own words, because they’ve never read the writers in question.

See what I mean?  If I had to adapt Haidt’s theory to the real world, I’d say something like “Liberal morality is based on endlessly congratulating oneself for believing one only cares about care and fairness, using the other three to prop up this entirely unwarranted self-regard.  Conservative morality, on the other hand, pays attention to all five equally.”

Either that, or I’d say “Left” and “Right” are all but meaningless these days…. but that’s a rant for another time.



*How’s this for an unintentionally revealing statement?  Wiki on Haidt: “Haidt himself acknowledges that while he has been a liberal all his life, he is now more open to other points of view.”  Well, better late than never, right?  Though one wishes it took less than earning a PhD, teaching several generations of students, and writing a big book of psychological theory to get liberals to finally open up to other points of view.

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3 thoughts on “Haidt’s “Righteous Mind”

  1. Frip

    “Fairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating.”

    “Loyalty or ingroup: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal”

    “Authority or respect: submitting to tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion”

    One of the first instances of communism I saw was in 6th grade. I remember it because it struck me a queer and wrong. The strongest traits of it on display were Fairness, Loyalty and Authority, in descending order.

    On recess there were about 4 games of foursquare going on at once. You batted a big red ball with your hand, into another person’s square. If the person couldn’t handle the ball, they were “out” and had to go wait in line again. If you were good you made it to the king square.

    Mrs. Roth, a fun but batty teacher decided to play too. She saw that the girls were being spiked out almost all the time. (Even the weak boys couldn’t do very well.) None of the kids ever complained though. The options were to take your loss in stride (everyone did), or do something else during recess. Most girls walked and talked.

    She saw girls being totally dominated. Usually with a forceful spike of the ball from a boy. After seeing this 2 or 3 times. She grabbed the ball and angrily made new rules. “No more spiking!”(pretty much no more smacking the ball with adequate force to easily “out” a girl). This turned into Mrs. Roth revoking “outs” any time she wanted to. “No, Melissa, you stay put. You’re not out.” Everyone was afraid of Mrs. Roth so we didn’t revolt. But all us boys looked at each other like this was the weirdest, wrongest thing ever.

    Fairness I think liberals really want to make things fair. Like Mrs. Roth. But it’s all based in sympathy. And sympathy is not necessarily a virtue. Is it? I could be wrong. I’m a bear of very little brains.

    Loyalty: She was very loyal to her fellow females. Us guys just saw the game as some kids being good at it, and some kids aren’t. The few tomboys did ok. We didn’t care if you were a boy or girl. If you can’t handle the spike, you lose.

    Authority: Not sure if this fits. But she sure used her authority. She just changed the rules that had been in place since Foursquare was invented. Didn’t ask anyone’s opinion first. Didn’t even care that the girls didn’t care. She made it an issue for them to care about.

    I really do think that liberals care more than conservatives. There’s a reason they’ve been called bleeding hearts for about a hundred years. At a school dance I didn’t have anyone asking me to dance. I just stood along the wall feeling bad and embarrassed. Of all the teachers Mrs. Roth (the big liberal) bothered to notice (care) and called out from the dance floor, “I’m coming for you Frip! You’re not getting off THAT easy!” This was the pleasing, human, and helpful version of her Foursquare freak out.

    Caring is good. Leftist just apply it unthinkingly at best, and with great prejudice at worst.

    1. Frip

      Serverian: “How’s gay marriage going, for instance? Anyone bother to follow up on that?”

      I don’t know. There’s probably been surveys or something. You’re going to judge it by hospital visitation? How’s marriage being going in general? Like, in forever?

      I found this to be pretty silly.

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