Difference between revisions of "2008-09-09 What Makes People Vote Republican/woozle"

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(→‎Haidt concludes: addendum - the elephant Haidt smuggled in)
 
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What, you say, that's not a civilized retort? ''Exactly my point.'' We can't use "gut" reactions and emotional arguments that fly under the radar of rationality to settle our differences. You try to distract us at every turn from making the rational connections that might help to find common ground and untangle the mess, while arguing in favor of an intolerant and willfully ignorant ideology whose lack of fundamental integrity is at the root of it.
 
What, you say, that's not a civilized retort? ''Exactly my point.'' We can't use "gut" reactions and emotional arguments that fly under the radar of rationality to settle our differences. You try to distract us at every turn from making the rational connections that might help to find common ground and untangle the mess, while arguing in favor of an intolerant and willfully ignorant ideology whose lack of fundamental integrity is at the root of it.
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===Stop the Presses===
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I realized belatedly (nearly a month later) that I missed what may have been the biggest con of all in this piece. It kept nagging at me, but I couldn't parse it out clearly until now.
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Haidt makes the argument that most people can't explain the moral choices they make when there is no obvious harm involved in the "wrong" choice, supposedly undermining the (supposedly liberal) idea that morality should be decided on the basis of whether a given action is harmful or not. He goes on to make the implicit argument (without actually saying it up front, of course) that <s>we</s> Democrats and liberals must respect these moral choices because are somehow necessary to support various institutions which are somehow necessary for our society. I took issue with those two "somehow"s (because he doesn't explain the connection in either case), but missed the elephant he had smuggled into the room.
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Haidt is basically saying "We don't understand our morals, so we should just follow them."
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The first problem with this is that what we're talking about, when we argue over morals versus rational discussion as a means of deciding things, is not relatively harmless trivia like whether it's okay to flush a flag down the toilet or eat a recently-deceased pet, but decisions over rules which affect people's lives and which ''can cause great harm'' if decided badly -- like:
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* Should I have the right to marry based on love even if my preferences violate someone else's idea of morality? ([[gay marriage]], interracial marriage)
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* Should public school teachers be allowed to teach their beliefs as fact when those beliefs contradict understandings determined by rational investigation? ([[creationism vs. science]], [[separation of church and state]])
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Recognizing that you can't argue morality, liberals have long tried to look ''behind'' the feelings that go into it to find the real goals each side is trying to meet through the morals they have arrived at &ndash; while conservatives cling proudly to their moral codes as if they were absolute and determined since the beginning of the universe (something which, indeed, many of them profess to believe, evidence notwithstanding).
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This then sets up the "conservative morality vs. liberal rationalism" dichotomy Haidt uses throughout &ndash; but the fact of the matter is, '''liberals have morals too''', and those morals are sharply at odds with conservative morals on these and many other issues. The difference is that '''liberals don't try to use their morals as arguments'''.
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To further rephrase Haidt, then: We don't understand ''conservative'' morals, so we should just follow them &ndash; even when they violate ''liberal'' morals.
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True, Haidt isn't explicitly arguing that conservative mores should ''trump'' liberal ones; he says we need to "close the sacredness gap", find arguments that appeal to the other "pillars" (besides "harm/care" and "fairness/reciprocity") which he claims are the distinguishing (and even ennobling) characteristics of conservative morality.
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The fact he carefully shuffles off the table when you're not looking, as I have mentioned, is that all the other pillars (even "fairness", the other "liberal" pillar) ''must derive from "harm/care"''. (If some particular "impurity" &ndash; say, putting ice and sugar in your tea &ndash; harms no one in any way, then why would anyone worry about it?) He tries to hide this very important connection behind a curtain of "morality" and pretend that the 3 "conservative pillars" are moral law unto themselves.
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So maybe what he is actually saying is "We won't convince conservatives of anything unless we can explain our morals in terms of theirs", which is rather ludicrous -- especially since we're not supposed to make use of rationality, which is the one tool anyone has identified for resolving this sort of disagreement... other than physical force, which conservatives seem to favor.
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Were liberals to try arguing on this basis, with this essential connection declared "off limits" as evidence, they could not even begin to make a case for many of their most strongly-held positions &ndash; especially where those positions question the value  of conservative institutions, customs, and authority. The liberal position ''depends'' on this connection, which it can certainly defend -- but Haidt wants us to not only leave it undefended but to ''pretend it doesn't exist''. Haidt wants us to to hobble our horses so that conservatives will let us into their race.
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Questioning assumptions and requiring that major decisions be backed by rational arguments is one of the main tenets of modern liberalism &ndash; and indeed, of any sane society. Haidt says we shouldn't try to analyze morals because they aren't rational, but this is backwards; where it affects the well-being (harm/care) of others, that which is not rational is the ''first'' thing we should be questioning.
  
 
==Appendix: Catalogue of Irrationalities==
 
==Appendix: Catalogue of Irrationalities==

Latest revision as of 13:38, 18 August 2009