Moral Foundations: Why we may not see eye to eye with the faithful
During my most recent tour around the interwebs, I found an interesting idea that Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, has been working on. The idea is a new way of looking at the foundations of morality than the old economic idea of humans being rationally self-motivated or the traditional moralities that suggest morality is just a way to treat others (with emphasis on caring for others, on fairness or on rights). Instead, Haidt proposes that there are actually five foundations of morality, and while generally, the liberal and/or secular focus on two of these — care/harm and fairness/reciprocity — conservative and/or religious thinkers may value three other aspects as moral too — ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity. He’s written and linked a bit of his research on various parts of his page, and I’ve just begun combing through and trying to put my say on things at my blog.
The five-foundational theory seems to make sense to me, and the idea that certain groups of people emphasizing certain of the foundations over others seems to make more sense (after all, just reading through entries on the Bloggernacle can get you to sense that what believers continue to see in the church is something you might never have considered to be a moral end.) Religions, particular those like the LDS church, become understandably more enchanting when you take into consideration how they can uphold the purity/sanctity motivation with things like the Word of Wisdom or the Law of Chastity (which might seem inexplicably restrictive or downright abhorent if one’s view of morality only puts a premium on fairness). It’s easier to understand how religion in general persists when one ceases trying to fully rationalize it away and recognizes that some people want authority and to pay respect to that authority, for the sake of loyalty to an ingroup. As I discovered in my first article at Mormon Matters, it seems that one thing I had discounted but which many other commenters brought up was that the importance of something as central as a mission has a lot more to do with loyalty to the promptings of the Spirit or of church leaders than I had suspected.
Of course, even if I can see these things academically, I can’t say I see these things personally. I know that every time I find something that in my gut rings well about the church or about religion, it is from a position of care/harm or fairness/reciprocity. Rather than looking at the benefits of the Word of Wisdom in purity terms (my body is a temple) or loyalty terms (The Prophet said so), I see it in a sense of providing care for people (protection or defense from addiction). When aspects of religion fail (or at least, fail in my eyes), it is because they fail in the two dimensions I see. Proposition 8 is so infamous for many, I suspect, because it wantonly fails fairness/reciprocity…but for the millions who support traditional marriage (who cannot be ignored or rationalized away), it’s clear from some of their arguments, for example, that they, at least in part, are concerned about some kind of purity or sanctity. And, whether they are justified or not, they feel they are protecting the ingroup of society, which they feel could be weakened if a tradition like the family were destabilized.
It seems clear we as liberal, cultural, ex, post, disaffected, atheist, agnostic, sketical Mormons…cannot afford to brush off the actions of conservative members or the faithful of any religion as being simply illogical and irrational. Although by our moral standards we may view some of their actions or beliefs as disagreeable or downright immoral, we cannot ignore that by other moral foundations, people genuinely do support these actions and beliefs. If we do, we marginalize ourselves further and will not be able to see popular support or acceptance. Somehow, we must come to an understanding and appreciation of the moral foundations that others use and adapt them to our strategies to come up with a package that appeals to more people.
I’ve heard of this theory, and it sounds interesting. I’ll have to read the paper.
This may explain the frustrating “piety show” in American politics. By that I mean that GWB basically demonstrated that wearing your faith on your sleeve may not be a demonstration of virtue — quite the opposite, it can be used as a distraction to pretend that your behavior is honest and ethical when it’s not. But then the Democrats can’t bring themselves to say “Okay, we’ll leave the prayers at home (in private, as Jesus recommended)” — they have to try to beat the Republicans at the piety show. I imagine that this is because many people feel that piety is inherently virtuous (under the “authority/respect” category), even if it’s not clear that it produces any measurable good result.
I have one more question (which maybe you can answer, but maybe I’ll just figure it out myself from the paper):
Where do honesty and integrity fit in? That is, the idea that you should try not to hold mutually contradictory views, try to act on your own convictions, try not to lie to yourself about your own motives, try to stay open to ideas that might be uncomfortable to you. It’s not obvious that this virtue fits into the first two (the only ones that godless liberals supposedly care about), yet I consider this an important moral value.
This is interesting, Andrew. What do you mean by ‘something as central as a mission,’ please? A full time mission or the mission of the LDS Church?
I was admittedly thinking of something like a full-time mission. Regardless of what the church’s official position is, it does seem that many members view it as something that everyone (or at least, every young man) *should* do?
The mission of the church seems to be pretty tied into missionary work in general.
pretty much. And even when Democrats don’t play the piety show, all that happens is they alienate the people. Or, even discounting the piety show in general, the Republicans seem able to pull up more Presidential candidates who can drum up ingroup/loyalty (which explains to an extent why they have won so many of the most recent presidential elections even as Democrats win Congressional races).
The interesting thing, Chanson, is that the hypothesis is getting more work, and Haidt has a room for challenges to be submitted to offer suggestions on if there should be more virtues (or if some should be collapsed in with each other). Two people have already suggested to an extent ideas that wisdom (vs. ignorance) and truth (vs. false belief…but I admit that the author of this one seems to write it in a way that characterizes the opposition of truth as “heresy”), but the ideas of honesty and integrity are still nascent, if present at all.
I think that even if there isn’t a 6th foundation found, that the outlook that Normal Doering suggests is more accurate (e.g. the five-foundation model is one-sided…it ignores the possibility that each foundation has two sides, so at the other end of ingroup/loyalty *should* be inclusiveness/expansiveness (which would fit with your idea of staying open to ideas that might be uncomfortable to you), and at the other end of authority/respect should be question authority (which would fit in with not lying to yourself about your own motives, not holding mutually contradictory views, acting on your own convictions).
I think that these dual-sided morals (which would make both groups have 5-ended moralities instead of one having 5 and the other having 2) would still represent both sides — if I were a social scientist, I probably could take the time to comb through the research to try to demonstrate, for example, the liberal views of morality value openmindedness and questioning of authority/self for internal consistency as much as care and fairness.
Excellent post! Thank you for exposing me to Haidt’s theory.
No problem, Hueffenhardt…I had just found out about it recently (along with another idea that Haidt has been working on that I have to read a little bit more about…)
Wow, that is an excellent point. You should consider writing it up carefully and submitting it, if you haven’t already.
I don’t know if the two-sidedness angle fits–conservatives exhibit inclusiveness/expansiveness and ingroup/loyalty. Looked at logically, these two moralities may seem to be opposites; if only people were logical! The moralities are descriptive of what people actually do, not whay they should do. Ingroup/loyalty may not be as releveant or useful in the modern, global world as it was in a primitive, tribal setting but a large number of people continue to value that morality.
I became familiar with Haidt during the election cycle; in one of his essays he suggested that the solution for liberal politcs/politicians is to appeal to the three morals in which they appear deficient; present liberal policy in a way that appeals to a sense of purity/ sanctity and so forth(e.g., link biblical teachings with welfare programs). That might seem to be pandering but that’s politics.
Regarding honesty and where it fits in the five morals, I would put in in purity/sanctity. Everyone thinks all politicians are dishonest, but the hardcore conservatives I know still think conservative politicians are more moral even when they have behave immorally. I agree with Haidt that conservative politicians feel more moral to conservative voters because they present a more complete moral image–and image is what gets people elected. I believe that liberal politicians can present a more complete moral image, can repackage their values in a way that addresses all five moralities.
This was my first instinct as well — that could be kin to “purity” even if it’s almost totally alien to physical purity, like freedom from germs and sexual purity. OTOH, the parallel or connection may well be superficial. More analysis needed…
re 7: good comment, tn trap, but I wonder…
how would it be that conservatives exhibit both of these things at the same time? I mean, we *do* see groups being less inclusive of outsiders (e.g., not christian? OMG! Gay? OMG!)
Really, when we see a lessening of this effect, it’s because people are becoming more moderate in general. It’s not like Focus on the Family or Westboro Baptist Church is becoming more expansive and more open to the “gay agenda” as they might call it — but that more and more people are rejecting those hyperconservative approaches.
I’ve seen a little bit of what Haidt said about the election cycle, and in one way, I think that that’s something that should be done (and indeed, liberal religious groups already tend to take the religion in that way — so you get kinda comical ideas like “Is Jesus Republican or Democrat” and…surprise surprise, each side can find evidence for themselves if they just look in different parts of scripture). So I’m not so concerned with that being pandering for people who legitimately believe that. My problem would be that I still would feel like religion is the crutch that we’re still standing on…and I guess it’s true that, at least for now, America is an incorrigibly Christian nation.
well, lemme see…
So, this definition definitely plays up some physical notions (body is a temple is explicitly raised), but I could see how trying to be internally (and externally) consistent in a pursuit of truth (and being disgusted at inconsistencies might also fit into this category. It would just require a retooling of the language
I think Haidt is wrong. I think “care/harm” and “fairness/reciprocity” are sufficient for all morality. His three “conservative” foundations are merely aspects of the two “liberal” ones. Anyone who is deeply concerned with care and fairness is highly likely to be loyal, respectful, and pure.
kuri: so then, how do we align that with the idea that care and fairness can and do practically get in the way of ingroup loyalties, respect to authority, and ideas about purity and sanctity?
Or how do we align that with the idea that sometimes the latter three ideas can take precedence over the former two (care and fairness).
From chanson’s first comment, I would perhaps add sanctity/purity to the first two. While honesty towards others would appear to be a matter of care or fairness, personal intellectual honesty seems to be a matter of sanctity.
When do — or more importantly why do the latter three ever take precedence over the first two? When ingroup loyalty or respect for authority conflict with fairness or care, why should we view them as “foundations of morality” rather than as “excuses to deviate from foundations of morality”?
kuri, referring to your second paragraph…even if you disagree, it’s important to realize that at least half of this country (and not just for this country, because there are elements of such a view in all nations) view ingroup loyalty and respect for authority and “traditional values” to have more importance than fairness or care and repeatedly work to have this represented politically (fighting for things like traditional marriage, possibly “America first” [or at the very least, to defend America at the expense of anything else, even potential globalism]). The Republican party isn’t running on fumes, exactly. Neither is Religion isn’t running on fumes, and particularly not the stricter ones that you might expect people would realize are “excuses to deviate from foundations of morality.”
Even if you discount these things, you come to several stark conclusions that you practically cannot get away from even though you’ve made an ideological stance. 1) Why don’t American Democrats win the presidency as often as they could? Why are secular groups massively distrusted? It seems compelling that Republican candidates, even if their moral foundation is an “excuse,” are at least better at pulling an ingroup around traditional values together (the “base”) and getting them to believe whatever that foundation may be.
But, even if you don’t accept these examples, Haidt would point out that it’s not like ingroup/loyalty, respect/authority, or purity/sanctity are worthless. From a pragmatic aspect, societies pose a strange dilemma. We don’t know how they have formed where other species only have had much, much smaller groups. All of a sudden, we can explain and account for the development of cohesive, large societies due to moral foundations other than mere care and fairness. So while we argue if the traditional values of the past have value now, it’s not as if they never had value.
When people are liberated throughout the world, it’s interesting to see that care and fairness cannot predict alone who will succeed and who will fail. But on the other hand, we can see that nationstates with less ingroup/loyalty and respect/authority actually *are* more often unstable.
The Republican party isnâ€™t running on fumes, exactly.
As of the last election, one might say that it is. One could argue that it has become essentially a regional or rural party (not that it will necessarily stay that way).
Neither is Religion isnâ€™t running on fumes, and particularly not the stricter ones that you might expect people would realize are â€œexcuses to deviate from foundations of morality.â€
That’s not true in most wealthy societies. It’s important to remember how much of an outlier the US is in terms of being both a developed country and very religious. There aren’t many other countries like that.
1) Why donâ€™t American Democrats win the presidency as often as they could? Why are secular groups massively distrusted? It seems compelling that Republican candidates, even if their moral foundation is an â€œexcuse,â€ are at least better at pulling an ingroup around traditional values together (the â€œbaseâ€) and getting them to believe whatever that foundation may be.
I question what appears to be one of your and/or Haidt’s premises, namely that a deep-rooted source of belief/behavior is a “moral foundation.” Perhaps there is such a thing as an “immoral foundation.”
Haidt would point out that itâ€™s not like ingroup/loyalty, respect/authority, or purity/sanctity are worthless.
I can see purity/sanctity as a separate moral foundation. But I question whether ingroup/loyalty and respect/authority qualify as “moral foundations” beyond the extent that can be accounted for in care and fairness.
All of a sudden, we can explain and account for the development of cohesive, large societies due to moral foundations other than mere care and fairness. So while we argue if the traditional values of the past have value now, itâ€™s not as if they never had value.
What I question is whether values are necessarily moral values (and perhaps I am using the term “moral” differently from the way Haidt uses it.)
Take a value like “honor” (think machismo). It was once foundational to European society, and perhaps still is to certain American subcultures. The result has been things like dueling and murder to avenge perceived insults. Can we justifiably call this sometimes important social value a “moral” value?
But on the other hand, we can see that nationstates with less ingroup/loyalty and respect/authority actually *are* more often unstable.
Is there data on that? It seems counter-intuitive to me. It seems to me that the most unstable states are those with too many strong ingroups in conflict with each other.
And all genocides, it seems to me, stem from strong ingroup feelings at the expense of care and fairness. Are there any cases where excessive fairness and care have led to mass murder and genocide?
even in the last election, Republicans did get 47% of the popular vote…I don’t know how one can argue that it’s a “regionalist” party when it still generally takes the broad swath of America, with consistent blue states clinging to coastlines and northern regions (but then again, taking into account the very makeup of these areas, I guess you’d have a bit more success trying to say the GOP is a “ruralist” party. [and obama took many more electoral votes than usual anyway])
Regardless, even when you make such arguments, you are rationalizing away a voting bloc that still is immensely powerful. Discounting these groups is as disastrous as when the other side discounts who are “real Americans” — clearly, when we have around 50/50 identification, both sides are “real,” so we need to be able to deal with that.
(Even more interesting, Haidt suggests other reasons why Obama in particular is so popular…in relating to his theory about the emotion “elevation.”)
The thing is…we are not disagreed necessarily. Haidt (and me too) would agree that America is somewhat of an outlier in comparison with societies like those of Europe (and in fact, he would agree AGAIN that “contractual societies such as those of Western Europe offer the best hope for living peacefully together in our increasingly diverse modern nations,” — and I would agree too that that is a goal we should be moving for)…but also included in this outlier are that religious believers in the US, for whatever reason, are happier, healthier, longer-lived, and more generous to charity and when these effects are measured in Europe (even though religious communities are smaller/less visible), they hold there. See his comments about the supposed “misunderstanding of religion.”
These things give credence to the idea of religion regardless of if its truth claims (the beliefs) are wrong or there are excesses of religion. Haidt simply formulizes that these moral foundations (rather than truth claims and specific beliefs) can explain the value of religion.
Why these would be moral foundations are because, despite the excesses that do happen (because Haidt and certainly I recognize that there are excesses and deficiencies of ingroup/loyalty and respect/authority foundation), these foundations provide certain benefits that do not exist in pure concepts of care and fairness. That’s the entire problem…with all the theories of society or of morality that very well do try to account for behavior in terms of just care and fairness, they miss the mark in terms of all of these anomalies.
Also…precisely because of their deepseatedness, ingroup/loyalty and respect/authority are foundational…(so the question of whether they are moral or immoral is the more valid one, but it goes back to the consequences…which, even if one is skeptical of the positive consequences of these foundations, they still exist.)
What I question is whether values are necessarily moral values (and perhaps I am using the term â€œmoralâ€ differently from the way Haidt uses it.)
Take a value like â€œhonorâ€ (think machismo). It was once foundational to European society, and perhaps still is to certain American subcultures. The result has been things like dueling and murder to avenge perceived insults. Can we justifiably call this sometimes important social value a â€œmoralâ€ value?
It perhaps could be that there are different uses of morals here…haidt’s moral foundations can have excesses (so he acknowledges that ingroup/loyalty do have excesses and deficiencies that lead to horrendous effects in the other foundations), but 1) we’d only be able to see these horrendous effects from an evaluation of another foundation of morality and 2) these foundations still have benefits that make so many people (even if not you or me) about to see them as foundations.
The closest thing to an “immoral foundation,” I think Haidt would suggest, is a foundation that is incompatible or destructive to society. But these things would never intuitively or evolutionarily develop and flourish under a Haidt kind of theory, if I understand it correctly. So, if honor is a foundation (or part of an existing foundation — or one yet to be discovered), it must be moral precisely because it has protected and progressed society, even though we recognize (through the lens of our care and fairness spectacles) that it has some excesses and deficiencies that act against care or fairness.
Is there data on that? It seems counter-intuitive to me. It seems to me that the most unstable states are those with too many strong ingroups in conflict with each other.
And all genocides, it seems to me, stem from strong ingroup feelings at the expense of care and fairness. Are there any cases where excessive fairness and care have led to mass murder and genocide?
But that’s the thing…when we have diversity of any kind (which is actually a harrowing thought, when we consider how pro-diversity we are or *want* to be), we actually find that this raises the tension and paranoia of all people precisely because our ingroup feelings are splintered. We can’t just get rid of these feelings (it would be as difficult as trying to voluntarily get rid of our own foundations of finding care and fairness to be moral), so we naturally have several tendencies: to form us vs. them groups anyway, but in paranoid, insecure ways.
We are in a bind. It’s not that excessive care and fairness lead to mass murder and genocide. It’s that excesses of these foundations can break or weaken the bonds of coherent ingroup/loyalty, and when those bonds are broken, then we distrust each other (even our close friends) more and our social capital decreases. It’s just that we, because we don’t necessarily view ingroups and respect/authority as valid moral foundations, are less likely to view the weakening of these things as moral evils (like, for example, a conservative, religious person would). On the other hand, we are acutely more aware when we see care and fairness being abused by the excesses of the other foundations (which we may not even regard as foundations)
Thanks for the enjoyable post and discussion. I have to go now, but I’ll respond more tomorrow.
that reminds me that I *seriously* need to cut down my comment sizes though.
I’m downloading it right now, and I’ll be thinking about it.
I’m torn about the idea of two-sided morals. The ingroup loyalty vs. inclusion is clearly a case of two values or morals that are very much at odds with one another. Yet, some of the others don’t really have opposites in quite the same way. Fairness and equality is naturally in opposition to the typical human belief that “I and my group deserve special privileges,” and, yet, I’m hesitant to call that a moral (at least not one that people will admit to holding)…
So maybe they’re two-sided, and maybe he’s just bizarrely missed honesty/integrity as a core value.
My (before reading the whole paper) impression is that he started out with the idea that “Liberals are underestimating the conservatives’ morals!” and he ended up swinging too far to the other side and underestimating the “liberals”‘ morals instead. After all, honest Abe Lincoln wasn’t particularly religious…
I may be mistaken, but are we forgetting that Haidt isn’t arguing about what is moral but rather what unconscious emotional values that underlie our moral systems? In other words, he’s not investigating ethics but meta-ethics.
For examlpe, if someone values ingroup loyalty heavily whereas I value truth/integrity, then that person might have a negative reaction to my defection from LDS Inc. while I would tend to react positively. That someone might then label my defection “immoral” while I would label it as “moral”. The difference therefore isn’t based on an objective moral framework. It’s based on gut reactions that have been bestowed by nature and trained by culture.
OK, after reading the “misunderstanding of religion” article, I have a better idea of what Haidt is about. Jonathon summed it up nicely, and I think Haidt described something close to my point of view:
While I don’t think that the latter three are useless — even without the studies of religious people, I can see some value in them — I do think that they also underlie some very bad things (e.g., ingroup leading to genocide, authority leading to blind obedience to evil leaders, and purity leading to, well, Prop 8). I would therefore be more comfortable calling them “values” rather than “morals.”
Now that I understand that Haidt’s framework is based on emotion rather than reason, I also question its completeness. I don’t see how “honor” fits into any of the five categories, even though people have killed and died for this emotional reaction to perceived personal insult throughout history. I also don’t see where “honesty” would fit emotionally.
Yep, I think that is what Haidt was going for (and what I would agree with as well.) I’m not saying that we need accept these foundations as *our* morality, because looking at it in terms of the other three morality systems is still foreign to me.
but it is interesting that this kind of hypothesis could account for the fact that people do value such different things.
Environmentalists and Whole Foods shoppers are big on purity, too. 🙂
^That’s a good point. It’s one that Haidt also brings up to say that it’s not like these other foundations are completely absent or lost upon people…they can be directed in other ways.
Right, and this is why it’s weird to me that “truth/integrity” isn’t there in an obvious way. I’ve been asking myself the question “What if someone is fundamentally, consistently dishonest and/or hypocritical in a way that doesn’t really harm other people?” And my response is that (even if others are not harmed), it’s still wrong. Why? I’m not sure I can explain it…
And I’ve concluded that it doesn’t really fit under purity/sanctity. Purity by being free of dishonesty is like purity by being free of injustice or unkindness, and those valus got to be their own “foundations”. Purity/sanctity is more like the “shopping at whole foods” thing, or insistence on recycling (a comparison Eugene brought up on another thread).
oops jonathan, I had missed your comment completely until chanson quoted it. I think fundamentally, that’s what Haidt is doing, which is why I’m not saying necessarily that we need to somehow concede that TBMs or any “faithful” group is more moral…but that we can at the least recognize that their emotional wiring is different from ours.
but with chanson’s comment 25, that makes me think of something too:
Let’s think about what Hellmut discussed in A Converts’ Conscience. One thing I’ve been fighting with about “honesty” as a value is…everyone would want to claim honesty/integrity if it were a virtue. People of faith in good faith think that their religion is true. They are seeking the truth, and their experiences point them to believe that their religion is it. So, we can’t judge whether someone has an honesty moral just by if they are religious or not…any position we take is tainted by our own position (we might think the faithful are being dishonest/not searching for the truth, but the faithful might think the same of us.)
BUT…we can ask a number of people: “Would you think it’s ok to lie/mask the truth/fudge a few details/whatever in preaching the gospel if it doesn’t harm them (this is a big if: obviously, the TBM mindset is that the church doesn’t harm others…)” And this is a question that can even bisect the faithful and get a measure of “honesty/integrity” as a gut emotional moral foundation. I’ve seen many church members who say it’s perfectly acceptable to deemphasize, hide, or flat out lie about certain things. I’ve seen many other members who are disgusted with the very concept.
Right, I think everyone would claim truth/integrity as a value or virtue — which is my point that it’s weird that it’s not there. Everyone claims fairness/reciprocity as a virtue too, and that was listed.
But lots of times these values can come into conflict. So instead of saying that some people don’t value moral foundation X, there’s the question of how they rank the foundation morals.
For example, I value honesty, but would not hesitate to lie in order to prevent an innocent person from being found and lynched by an angry mob. So maybe some researcher would say that I value care/harm over truth/integrity. But, as you point out, some are willing to fudge a little for the Lord (and some aren’t) which would indicate (to me) that they have an inclination to place in-group loyalty and/or respect for authority above truth/integrity, which I wouldn’t be willing to do.
Here’s another interesting example of how integrity stacks up against other virtues (expressed in terms of the virtues you think it’s important for your kids to learn).
I don’t know if anyone is still following this–I’m going to ammend my earlier comment and catch up with the rest.
After thinking about this more, I think inclusiveness/expansiveness fits into fairness/reciprocity (with a nod to ingroup/loyalty). Including people is a part of being fair, it seems to me. But to some, part of ingroup/loyalty is sacrificing or conforming to be part of the group: fairness is including others and fairness also is expecting others to conform in order to be included. It isn’t really fair, in my mind, because some have to conform more that others, but I see where other people would find this a fair situation. These moralities play out differently for different people.
One of Haidt’s examples is with patriotism (an aspect of ingroup/loyalty). Some people say it is patriotic to not question the President, especially in a time of war. Other people say it is patriotic and loyal to question the President. So two people could equally value ingroup/loyalty, and yet, to each other they would seem immoral (I believe someone already suggested an analagous scenario).
Totally correct me if I have the wrong impression, but it seems to me that Haidt is basing the moralities on what people actually do; some of the discussion here seems to be on what should be valued–I’m primarily thinking of the honesty/integrity suggestion. Mentally, people say they value integrity but emotionally, or, in practice, I am doubtful. Some people feel more honest than others; with investigation, I don’t know how much those feelings are based in reality. At the least, I would place honesty/integrity as how well someone fits into your overall particlar moral scheme: a person who fits your overall morality is perceived as being honest and having integrity.
My reason for thinking this way, in part: I’ve had people tell me that one candidate had more integrity, or was more moral than the other, but they were unable to tell me why and in fact, would end up saying that the more moral candidate told the right lies! We might want honesty to matter, but does it?
I suppose some of what I’m talking about could be explained by the notion of brand, image: once someone has been convinced that a person or party has an image of morality or integrity, the image sticks almost regardless of future events. Does any of this make sense?
^Haidt’s moralities are based on emotional or practical realities, as you got at.
The thing is, can honesty/integrity sometimes be something that people *emotionally* value? I mean, it’s so cynical to say that in practice, it doesn’t happen. You can easily imagine some people who get sick to their stomachs telling what they know even to be a little white lie.
as you kinda get at, it’s that the very idea of ‘truth’ *is* slippery. Obviously, believers are going to, in good faith, believe that the religion is true. Nonbelievers are going to, in good faith, believe that the religion is not true. So both parties could, in good faith, claim to have an emotional response for integrity or truth. The distinction isn’t necessarily in objective truths (e.g., this candidate or that, this belief or that one), but in…when the held belief is compromised, which people still rationalize and “accept” these compromises and which people have a problem with it.
So, we see some people who will say, “Well, this candidate lied, but they were good lies.” On the other hand, others will say, “My candidate lied; I am betrayed.”
I’m kind of leaning towards this impression as well.
Call me crazy, but I think that many people really do value honesty, and aren’t just thinking “whoever says what I want to believe must be the most honest.” Even if the truth is slippery and things can always be presented in more than one way, there’s a difference between having the intention of presenting things clearly and accurately vs. trying to dissemble. You perceive that some people seem more honest than others, maybe they are.
If everyone says they value honesty, and some seem to do it, it would make sense for Haight to consider it. It’s almost kind of ironic to dismiss it by saying “Sure everyone claims to value integrity, but I’m sure they’re all just lying to themselves…”
I think I’m talking about something a little different… by “the right lies” I mean this: people who said, “My candidate lied. I am betrayed. But they told me what I wanted to hear. They are more moral/honest/have more integrity than the other person.” Mentally, I think people want to value honesty. In practice, it often takes the back seat.
I think you have a point in an individual person having a gut response to lying themselves–but how does that same person respond to the [white] lies told by another? I won’t comment on that further because I’d just be retreading the discussion above. If honesty/integrity had a place on the moral spectrum, I would place in with purity/sanctity (a non-physical dimension of that morality). In general, I don’t think it plays out quite that way, especially when judging others. We seem to be agreed that the heart and the head are not always in accord.
Right, but with all of the values, there are conflicts and people have to decide among them. For example, a whistle-blower may value honesty over group loyalty, whereas his colleague who said nothing may have chosen loyalty over honesty.
I missed your previous comment. You almost have me convinced… but I’ve seen too many instances, in politics, business dealings, etc. where judgements regarding honesty are not applied equally and logically–one person gets a pass and another doesn’t. I like your whistleblower example, but I don’t know if it is that clearcut.
Re 32: tn trap, I would classify that in my first thing though. “well my candidate lied, but they were good lies.”
When people say, “My candidate lies, and I am betrayed” in the sense I’m thinking of, they don’t then go on to say, “but they told me what I wanted to hear so they are more moral/honest/whatever.” These people become disillusioned…they feel NAIVE for having listened to what they wanted to hear and actually thought it could happen. They become disaffected from the process.
I think that is the honesty value popping up over loyalty.
Now, they might say that one candidate is more moral than the other, but then it’s from a “lesser of two evils” effect. I see a LOT of that in politics nowadays…so I don’t think it necessarily goes against an honesty moral foundation. It’s just that people are coming to terms with an idea that everything is rotten out there.
Re 33: chanson, I think the whistleblower is a good representative of what an integrity moral value would represent. When you listen to people who *didn’t* blow the whistle or were apprehensive, they will often say things like, “But I didn’t want to start trouble…” or “I wanted things to go smoothly…” which seems more of a preference for the loyalty foundation as well