Jonathan Haidt answers a seemingly unanswerable question: why are good, morally upstanding people divided by political and religious vitriol? Dr. Haidt’s answer isn’t simple, and it’s not easy to swallow.
1. We make snap judgments in moral dilemmas, and then justify those decisions with reason later.
2. We all have at least 6 moral “taste buds” (Care vs. Harm, Liberty vs. Oppression, Fairness vs. Cheating, Loyalty vs. Betrayal, Authority vs. Subversion, and Sanctity vs. Degradation), and of course conservatives and liberals have completely different flavor palettes–combinations of active moral foundations.
3. Lastly, we all are motivated by our tribe, or “hive”, who we cooperate with to compete morally against other tribes; we are more fiercely loyal to our tribe than we often realize, motivated by addiction-level pleasure from seeing our tribe win.
I said it wasn’t easy to swallow. But Dr. Haidt excels at proving these findings with evidence. He also writes humorously, more like a happy-go-lucky tour guide than a dry professor.
This is a book of moral psychology, not moral philosophy. I was frustrated to read Dr. Haidt backing away from saying certain moral decisions actually were right or wrong. But to be fair, he never claims to explore those questions; Haidt is only interested in how and why people make the choices they do. We, Christian or otherwise, would all do well to understand how and why people make moral decisions.