Jonathan Haidt on Morality & Politics
Jonathan Haidt is a psychologist who studies morality and emotion and how they vary from culture to culture. He has an excellent TED talk which I will post below and several other on-line interviews, including one by Stephen Colbert.
Haidt’s studies attempt to address the issue of the human tendency to isolate into groups which become very smug and very dismissive of others. I am particularly pleased to see him apply his theory to our particular political culture at present moment. He reports that, “Morality, by its very nature, makes it had to study morality. It binds people together into teams that seek victory, not truth. It closes hearts and minds to opponents even as it makes cooperation and decency possible within groups…To live virtuously as individuals and as societies, we must understand how our minds are built. We must find ways to overcome our natural self-righteousness. We must respect and even learn from those whose morality differs from our own.”
Now in his TED talk in particular, it is quite apparent that he is a liberal. But he reports that as a result of his research he was given pause and had to note at one point that the conservative view point has a whole lot to offer. What his research teaches is that we must be given pause, take a look at the other view point, and stop demonizing each other.
This election is not about winning! If we are so immature that we merely mindlessly want our pony to win the race, then we really need to do some growing up.