Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Righteous Mind . . .should we judge what you do with a chicken?

Haidt starts Part 2 with a story about an experiment in which he exposes a subject to a novel moral dilemma and makes them justify their moral judgement. One story involves a man who buys a chicken from the supermarket (already dead) and has sex with it before he cooks and eats it.

As no-one is harmed, someone rationalizing the story under the scrutiny of an interviewer might ultimately decide that there was no moral transgression. When Haidt moved beyond his usual WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialised, rich and democratic) experimental subjects to people entering a suburban McDonald’s, he found that there was astonishment at the interviewer’s questions as to whether the action was wrong. Why do you even need to ask?

From this picture, Haidt argues that there is more to morality than fairness and harm, the staples of liberal morality (liberal in the sense it is used in the United States – and how I will use it for the rest of this post). There are six foundations to morality – care/harm, liberty/oppression, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. An extra wrinkle is that fairness contains equality and proportionality elements.

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