Jonathan Haidt’s book Righteous Mind is a must read for anyone troubled by constant political angst whether it be differences in the family or news of political clashes. It’s an attempt in understanding the other side, what shapes their morality and why there isn’t necessarily one right answer when it comes to many moral issues. It’s been a few years since I read the book myself , but I never got around to doing the moral foundations questionnaire on your morals that the book cites, until now. Here’s what my results show
|my score on the moral foundations questionnaire|
The Righteous Mind finds that your average liberal is moved by a morality based on care/compassion (do no harm) more than your average conservative. In this respect I resemble the average liberal, no surprise there, everything from animal cruelty videos to the sight of everyday poverty pains me. The importance of this principle has played a role in every major career choice I have made in the last decade.
The second moral principle of fairness is viewed by liberals as equality of outcome - everyone should get an equal slice of the pie. Liberals are therefore less likely to scrutinize whether rewards are earned or unfairly taken. Conservatives in contrast view fairness as you reap what you sow and that just rewards shouldn’t be denied to those who earned it. In this respect the questionnaire says I resemble the average conservative. I notice how true this is in my impatience with colleagues who might not be motivated to put in the same effort into work as I do. In this respect I’m realizing how taking a more liberal, understanding approach to others may serve me well, it definitely calms my own mind and that’s a positive.
One of the most hot button issues on fairness debated frequently is affirmative action. I don’t know where my stance lies on that one, but I’ll save that contemplation for another piece.
loyalty , the Righteous Mind says is more of a conservative virtue, this is the principle I’ve found hardest to understand. I can’t see why loyalty to peers/ to a group isn’t a human virtue, equally for liberals as much as conservatives. While the questionnaire finds me to resemble conservatives in this regard, I can certainly think of enough times when selfishness has prevailed.. enough so that I question how loyal I am on the average day.
authority is a principle where I believe I have shifted over time. Given the rebel I was, the 20 year old me would not have understood how I can now think having authority figures in any form is a good thing. Contemplating how this change has come about, I think it’s probably a recognition of how difficult it can be to lead and therefore giving the benefit of the doubt to legitimately earned authority. In my context, I’m speaking most to the authority of family , but also somewhat to the authority of religious institutions and government.
sanctity is the idea that some things (symbols/ideas) are to be respected because they exist for a reason that serves society well. Liberals tend to care less about the sanctity of things, conservatives more so. My score on sanctity is the biggest outlier compared to any of the other principles, indicating that I care very little for the sanctity of ideas. This one is a mixed bag. I find that these questions uncover my affinity for the idea of free speech. That no norm is so holy that one cannot speak out against it. I also find my score here correlates with how slapstick humour makes me laugh and doesn’t repulse me whatsoever. Having said this, there is a line where sanctity matters to me too, probably where an attack crosses over from attacking ideas to individual human beings.
My biggest takeaway from reading Righteous Mind was that conservatism is heavily misunderstood. When is the last time you saw someone with ‘conservative’ in their bio. That is a rare occurrence, even though a fair number of us have conservative principles ourselves, which once we understand might help us see eye to eye with our foes in the political sphere. If you want to take the questionnaire yourself, visit your morals and search for the ‘Moral Foundations’ questionnaire.