What should I ask Jonathan Haidt?

by on March 7, 2016 at 2:39 am in Education, Philosophy, Political Science, Religion, Science | Permalink

I will be doing a Conversations with Tyler with Jonathan Haidt, but with no public event and no video, transcript and podcast only.

What should I ask him?

1 Ray Lopez March 7, 2016 at 2:48 am

My ignorant first question would be: “Who are you?”

2 Ray Lopez March 7, 2016 at 3:08 am

Haidt’s college dissertation: “Are disgusting or disrespectful actions considered to be moral violations, even when they are harmless? Stories about victimless yet offensive actions (such as eating one’s dead pet dog) were presented to Brazilian and U.S. adults and children, of high and low socio-economic status. Results show that college students at elite universities judged these stories to be matters of social convention, or of personal preference.” – well, here in the Philippines, our pet dog got run over, a poor person asked for the carcass as we were in the street surveying the corpse, and I gave it away to be eaten. Don’t know if that supports Haidt’s thesis or not, as the poor person was a bit insane (I hope, for moral purposes, the anti-flea medication Frontline is not harmful to human health, as I had given this dog that drug before his untimely death).

3 Peter Schaeffer March 7, 2016 at 1:07 pm


“well, here in the Philippines, our pet dog got run over, a poor person asked for the carcass as we were in the street surveying the corpse, and I gave it away to be eaten.”

The new Utopia in the Philippines and Greece. Coming to the United States very soon.

4 dearieme March 7, 2016 at 6:04 am

A good second question would be “Why don’t you fuck off?” How he interprets that would shed considerable light on his character.

5 Justin Kelly March 7, 2016 at 9:44 am

This guy: https://www.ted.com/talks/jonathan_haidt_on_the_moral_mind?language=en

And his book “The Righteous Mind” is pretty disruptive to orthodox psychology.

6 kimock March 7, 2016 at 2:53 am

What would his advice be to those with left-of-center and right-of-center political orientation in order to improve their skills of critical (self) reflection?

7 Rimfax March 7, 2016 at 2:54 am

Please ask him if he’s done any research on moral layers. That is, morals that you apply generally to force upon others with a threat of violence by way of the government, versus morals that you apply to others with social pressure, versus morals that you apply to just those in your social circle with social pressure, versus morals that you apply to your family with resource punishment, versus morals that you hold for yourself alone. For example, libertarians are lopsided on the liberty foundation per his research, but does that only hold for global morals or does it also hold for when they are talking about morals for their family? If it does not, how well do the scores at the general level apply to scores at the other levels?

8 Pat March 7, 2016 at 2:59 am

Why is awe important? How does awe change in an increasingly digital world?

9 SeanL March 7, 2016 at 3:08 am

Is the answer to achieving a ‘radical centre’ that balances the right & left a form of libertarian socialism*?

*non-Marxist libertarian socialism
– closer to European existential individualism and Japanese collective socialism
– instinctively co-operative, deliberatively self-interested
– not to be confused with social democrats (who favour big gov’t)
– idea of ‘thin’ gov’t not small gov’t (‘thin’ ->IT system wide architecture -> simplicity but highly effective complexity in design = elegance)
– not to be confused with bleeding heart libertarianism (being ‘softer’ doesn’t make sense)

10 So Much For Subtlety March 7, 2016 at 3:11 am

It is rare for someone to break so completely with their “tribe”. He is a liberal who says nice things about conservatives. Even working class social conservatives.

So I would ask him how many friends he has lost and how he copes.

11 Rimfax March 7, 2016 at 3:51 am


Have he and Alice Dreger formed a support group, yet?

12 Thor March 7, 2016 at 11:47 am

Excellent question.

Personally, I veered away from the left when to my disappointment and chagrin too many of my (historian) colleagues were utterly blind to the craziness — let alone the spectacular economic ineffectiveness — of Marxism and communism. It cost me some friends. (I also went to Church and discovered that not all Church-goers are mouth breathing fundamentalists.) Now I have a fine large circle of friends who are largely social democrats and classical liberals. It’s the best I can hope for, I guess. Oh and some pot smokers who are libertarian.

13 MKBARCH March 7, 2016 at 5:41 pm

Nice going. The wisdom of realistic goals.

14 stan March 7, 2016 at 12:51 pm


I find that Haidt still has a tendency to stereotype and mischaracterize conservatives at time. Does he have any real conservatives that he checks his own biases with? And no, an academic libertarian doesn’t count.

Has he ever touched base with Glenn Reynolds?[instapundit] Reynolds considers himself a libertarian, but he seems to have a good sense of where conservatives are. Probably because he actively reads and interacts with them and lives in a generally conservative area.

I suspect that Reynolds could teach Haidt quite a bit.

15 tjamesjones March 7, 2016 at 4:09 am

You could tell him I really liked his book (the righteous mind) and in fact it has pride of place on the bookshelf above my computer, and I even refer to it from time to time.

16 dearieme March 7, 2016 at 6:05 am

But does your computer refer to it?

17 tjamesjones March 7, 2016 at 9:13 am

no it just uses google

18 Artir March 7, 2016 at 4:12 am

I can think of one:

His Social Intuitionist Model is something like Emotion->Judgement->Reason as rationalisation. Yet, there are plenty of studies that show both IQ and CRT affect moral judgement, in a specific direction.

19 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 1:15 pm

Do a correlation with IQ mean that people are being more rational overall, or simply that IQ correlates with a certain thinking style?

20 Mat March 7, 2016 at 4:37 am

I would be interested in his view on the current elections and the moral dimensions involved. And also how he views the migration discussion, in the US and elsewhere. What dimensions are involved? Care/harm obviously, but also loyalty? How? etc.

21 Jari Mustonen March 7, 2016 at 4:52 am

Dear Tyler,

First, thanks for having a discussion with Jonathan Haidt.

Could you ask him to elaborate on limits what can and can’t be a sacred thing.

I have had this idea that modern victim groups (“the sacred objects” of modern left) are such that they are visually easily identifiable (the color of skin, sex, cultures with clearly identifiable garments). They are more object-like than concepts like poor in a sense that they can be drawn or put in an image.

So how complex ideas can become sacred? Is there a limit on complexity and universality of sacred groups? For example, why it seems easier to oppose “violence against women” or “gun violence” than just “violence”? Is it because “violence” is too abstract and can’t be condensed to an image of something good (woman) or bad (gun).

22 tjamesjones March 7, 2016 at 9:16 am

well this is a good question / line of questioning. in some ways the answer to the final paragraph is that a call against ‘gun violence’ is a political call to laws relating to gun violence (ie there is some implied specific action for government). But the violence against women meme doesn’t really have this benefit, it’s not like we need it to be made illegal again.

23 John March 7, 2016 at 10:10 am


I loved the Righteous Mind, and think it a really significant new way of looking at reality and incompatible worldviews.

My big criticism of it is that I feel there is a misclassification (or a blindspot) to the left’s ideas of ‘sacredness’. The theory needs to be amended in order to incorporate those feelings of sanctity, disgust and outrage that are felt when the left’s own shibboleths are questioned.

Apart from that the moral foundations theory is very very good.

24 Hazel Meade March 7, 2016 at 12:48 pm

Agree. The left has all sorts of “sacred cows” which come out as political correctness. And it also has major disgust reactions to things like money and commerce. And on issues related to food, healthcare, and the environment. Major disgust issues when it comes to GMOs, and purity/degradation issues with respect to organic food and the environment. And don’t even talk about organ markets or paid surrogacy.

25 Peter Schaeffer March 7, 2016 at 1:16 pm


The left obsession with GMOs is European. The U.S., Canada, and the ROW don’t appear to care much (I refer to the left in each country or region). The GMO thing is Europe is a pure disgust thing. Like not eating cockroaches in the U.S. Rationality has nothing to do with it.

Of course, evolution (human) is a taboo subject almost everywhere.

26 Hazel Meade March 8, 2016 at 11:12 am

I’m not sure how a pure disgust reaction has nothing to do with rationality, unless you mean that disgust reactions are totally irrational, which is my point, and I think also something Haidt would concur with with regards to the purity/degradation axis. “Sacredness” is irrational in general.

27 asdf March 7, 2016 at 10:33 am

+1 on leftist sacredness


1) In recent interviews dealing with political correctness Haidt has mentioned a new found value for the conservative moral axis as a balancing force. This is a bit of a departure from The Righteous Mind where he implied that the additional conservative moral axis where evolutionary leftovers of little use. Could he elaborate on this?

2) Haidt is against PC, but I can’t really find a consistent reason for it beyond appeals to procedure. The quid pro quo of “they could do it to us” doesn’t ring true because everyone knows the left has the power and will continue to have it for the foreseeable future. Liberal speech codes are to be adhered to for their own sake (like they were handed down as values by God), but that’s not really consistent with Haidt’s materialism.

There exists on the left a cottage industry using leftist sacred principals (minorities are oppressed) to justify PC witch hunts. Statistics and narratives are generated to make the sacred principles take on the form of “objective materialist facts”. I’ve never found these persuasive, but people who want to find them persuasive can easily do so by accepting a few popular first principles. There are certainly all sorts of papers and studies being used to justify the existence of micro-aggressions and the like.

Haidt and others won’t even really deny this, “of course there are micro aggressions”, but after admitting their opponents are right on all substantive matters basically argue that there should be some “unprincipled exception” to adhere to liberal speech norms or some argument over what degree of action should be taken. From what I can tell, this leftist cottage industry already has ready made answers to Haidt’s objections, so long as Haidt accepts their first principles about oppression and disparate impact.

Given all this, are we surprised that people like Haidt have been completely unsuccessful at stopping the PC juggernaut? If Haidt can’t effectively stop PC from claiming careers, are his objections in any way meaningful to anyone? Won’t they turn to other potential defenders that won’t accept the left’s first principles, if only to protect themselves.

28 stan March 7, 2016 at 1:08 pm

” There are certainly all sorts of papers and studies being used to justify the existence of micro-aggressions and the like.”

The academic left are eager volunteers in using the authority of academia to harass their enemies. In every area of research from climate science to economics we see shoddy research being hailed and promoted to buttress political talking points. Of course, anyone who points out how shoddy and ridiculous the studies are is labelled a denier.

As more and more people realize that academia is corrupt, their reduced opinion of academics and their dismissal of the claims of authority are characterized as ‘anti-intellectual’ and the like. We see “studies” by fools like Dan Kahan trying to understand the psychological problems of people who dispute ‘science’.

It’s kind of interesting that people who embrace the notion that there is no truth are so judgmental about other people who refuse bow down in obedience to the findings of biased research.

29 asdf March 7, 2016 at 10:35 am

3) Haidt focuses a lot on the “harm principle”. Asserting that a wide variety of activities don’t “harm anyone” and therefore can’t be morally wrong.

As he’s delved into morality more deeply, are there any examples of something he considered “harmless” before that he now thinks may actually be “harmful” once second, third, etc social effects are taken into account?

30 asdf March 7, 2016 at 12:42 pm

Relevant statement on maintaining liberal values on college campuses:

“Fundamentally it’s pretty hard to convince women to enroll in and stay in CS programs. You have to convince them that it will both make them hotter and that it’ll help them produce pretty things. Most of the time software is number-language gibberish that is constantly breaking. It also involves arguing a lot with computermen about the best way to structure the imaginary machine, which probably takes up more time in most offices than the actual code writing does.

In the Sailerverse, the Solution would be to let exams do all the decision-making so that we could all enjoy 1955 dork utopia for all time in which well-compensated whitebreads could tinker with their ham radios and muscle cars in their off-hours. This was tried, and the dorks were easily intimidated into rigging exams by a motley crew of immigrants supported by dark-colored auxiliaries. It was so easy and cheap to run the campus revolutions that you would have to be obnoxiously stupid not to do it.

The same crew endlessly whines about how those nasty, nasty people cheat on all the precious exams and get positions to which their objective, Scientific intellectual quotient score says that they are unqualified for.

The thing is that the women don’t really want the work, but they want the incomes that go with the work. They want someone else to do the work and someone else to provide the income. This requires convincing some group of people to provide the muscle to force some people to do the work and others to receive the incomes for that work. The state is happy to do the forcing, but there are ever diminishing groups of people willing to do that work for reduced incomes which are supposed to be embezzled to various client populations. You can’t give golden eggs to your clients if you keep killing all the golden geese or selling them to Chinese farmers in order to pay down your debts.

But the problem doesn’t derive from all those mean people who cheat on the exams, but the brittleness that comes from an honorless culture in which no one has a terribly strong incentive to preserve the sacred Objective Scientific Testing Structure over the long term. There seems to be an implicit idea that the law is a self-maintaining robotic autonomous apparatus, and that when people use force to pervert the law, they are somehow cheating at it. Instead we should acknowledge that law can’t be separated from the people making and enforcing those laws — that Constitutions are not like eternal holy spirits, and that the people using the force are the ones who are deciding what the law is.

From the democratic-citizenist perspective, that’s troublesome. People with that perspective like to believe that the constitution is a free lunch and that they just have to proclaim their belief in it in order for it to be served to them. Instead there is no constitution, there is no government of laws, and the notion that scattered, uncoordinated men can preserve such a government of laws independent of their own interests is totally delusional.

Among animals, we can see that pecking orders are decided by force. It’s basically the same among people — when positions are granted on other grounds, such as excellence in accountancy opening up better accounting jobs, it’s only when the sovereign decides to permit it to happen naturally. In most cases, in most societies, the plush jobs get assigned fecklessly based on the whims of the powerful.”

31 anon March 7, 2016 at 4:28 pm

Not to Jari so much as follow-ons: When you demand “abstract” thinking to reinforce your biases, perhaps you aren’t really asking for something so abstract after all.

32 anon March 7, 2016 at 4:58 am

How damaged are we by the “two kinds of people” reduction? Why can’t outlier groups, like communists or libertarians, see themselves that way? Why instead do they see themselves as “correct?”

Is it simply that tinking of large groups with diverse views is hard? Or is there something more self-serving going on?

33 tjamesjones March 7, 2016 at 9:17 am

yet another suggestion much better than my suggestion to tell him how good his book was.

34 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 6:00 am

If someone says something that another person finds offensive, but the speaker had no offensive intent, to what extent might/should the speaker feel obliged to revise their communications preferences in order to respect the offended person, and to what extent should the burden be on the offended person to just accept that people speak the way they do, and accept that no offense was intended?

(Context: should we get rid of native mascots and team names? No offense is intended, but apparently some native people are offended by them. But a more generalized approach to this sort of “no offense intended” but “offense taken” sort of thing is really what I’m interested in.)

35 rayward March 7, 2016 at 6:01 am

The rise of populism seems a departure from the left/right/libertarian political division Haidt describes in The Righteous Mind. Populists don’t seem to adhere to a particular ideology, but rather share a sense of anger and outrage. Indeed, populists aren’t attracted to a particular political candidate because of his ideology or policies but by the belief that the candidate shares the anger and outrage. Do populists constitute a fourth category, neither left, right, nor libertarian? Has Fox News contributed to this fourth category? Does the rise of this fourth category undermine Haidt’s optimistic conclusion in The Righteous Mind (that left, right, and libertarian each has useful insights that together can make for a better nation)?

36 tjamesjones March 7, 2016 at 9:19 am

and yet, I think, isn’t it incredibly easy to assign any particular populist very quickly to a “left” or “right” wing? Is anybody really unsure which side of centre Donald sits, or Bernie sanders, or Nigel Farage?

37 asdf March 7, 2016 at 10:15 am

It’s not hard if you associate them with interest groups, but even there its a departure from traditional “ideology”. Trump criticizes hedge funders and says their taxes should go up. Could you imagine the Wall Street Journal editorial board running with that.

Populism is about cutting the ideological consistency and straight up representing the interests of a certain group. In Trumps case its middle and working class white people, whatever you think he might actually do when elected that’s what he is running on.

In the left’s case its clear that its a high/low elite/underclass team up against the white middle and working classes. The “right” in this case is adopting the tribal primacy of the left, because trying to channel their interest through the ideological sense of the WSJ hasn’t worked.

38 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 12:47 pm

Personally, I think the view of democratic governance as a means of negotiation between groups which unabashedly advocate for group interests (nicer, perhaps, in the class sense, but it seems to be going the way of racial identification these days) is far superior to the sort of strict and often irrational ideological identification that seems to permeate an awful lot of politics these days.

I mean, enough with the fancy language, sloganeering and excuses. If your group wants something, why not just come out and say so, defending what benefit it might bring to others? It’s like, in personal stuff, when people come up with all sorts of fancy excuses for things, and I find myself just saying “look, cut with the bullshit, if you just don’t like/want it, say so, and that’s all I need to know.”

39 asdf March 7, 2016 at 2:50 pm

If you can act effectively as a group, while denying the other guy the ability to act effectively as a group, that’s good for your group.

By calling non-elite whites RACIST you can deny them their ability to organize as a group and exploit them.

One of the best examples of this came in Hillary’s campaign this year. Bernie was talking about breaking up the big banks, and Hillary’s reply at a rally was, “how will breaking up the banks solve racism?”

How indeed? Hillary is relying on blacks to give her the nomination, and in exchange for their support she will give them free cell phones while the big banks funding her campaign get to run things business as usual. If white people notice the scam and try to do something about it shouting, “RACIST”, is all that is needed to silence these cowards.

Accusations of racism, combined with importing compliant third world peasant clients to act as vote banks, is the elites way of keeping non-elite whites down. You are a participant in this system of exploitation, BTW.

The best thing that could happen to white people is to break the spell of RACIST! so that they can stand up to the powerful and protect their way of life. Trump is doing a lot to shatter RACIST as a weapon that can be used against whites by the powerful.

40 Justin Kelly March 7, 2016 at 1:02 pm

Left v Right is an overly simplistic paradigm, but this isn’t a problem for Haidt. His model has 5, and possibly six dimensions. Archetypal conservatives tend to weight heavily on all six, liberals on three, libertarians just two. This was a matter of observation, not design. This ambiguity you see in terms of populists and others is more of a problem of our common lexicon, not his model.

41 tjamesjones March 8, 2016 at 4:33 am

I don’t think Left v Right is overly simplistic, or even simplistic. It’s an incredibly powerful summary of a range of views and interest groups, and is the basis on which most democracies group into two parties. On the other hand, once you go beyond 2, there is no obvious reason why 5, 6 or any other number gives you a better set of categories (why not 10, 15, 20).

42 Josh March 7, 2016 at 6:05 am

If your work is correct, and morality is merely physiological response mechanism, how should we feel about this?

Since at least the authoritarian personality, there has been a widespread attempt by the power elite to pathologize dissent. Do you agree with this assessment and are you worried you work may be funded for the same reason?

43 Dain March 7, 2016 at 8:52 pm


44 nel!s March 7, 2016 at 6:26 am

Is pursuit of positive social impact by business signal or noise? If signal, who are the change agents – internal leaders, institutional investors? What did he think of Phishing for Phools? Can he comment on the ethics of some high-profile potentially disruptive businesses: Thiel’s Palladium and emerging business models in biotech, nanotech etc? What’s the balance that regulators need to strike in that space?

45 Doug T March 7, 2016 at 7:08 am

I would love to ask Dr. Haidt where he gets his moral categories from? Did he derive them from classical source–like Aristotle, or Augustine, or even Dante? Or did they spring fully formed from his mind? And since that’s not likely, has he reflected on his own priors, as to where the categories are from and what that might imply.

When I read Haidt, it he seems to assume that his categories are “just obvious.” Of course, that’s not an argument. One could come up with numerous continua other than the ones he has chosen.

Thanks for the bleg.

46 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 11:48 am

They use factor analysis to find out which moral statements correlate with others. This leads to a bunch of clumps around certain concepts. Then they look at what those clumps have in common.

47 Jason March 7, 2016 at 7:10 am

Is Haidt’s concern with moral homogeneity in the academy more an epistemic or moral worry? If it’s an epistemic worry, wouldn’t the usual methods of science correct for this? If it’s a moral worry, who really cares? After all, academics are a tribe like any other, and any tribe’s morality is usually quite homogenous. Why bother artificially activating moral foundations that are mostly dead for a certain group?

48 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 12:41 pm

If it’s an epistemic worry, wouldn’t the usual methods of science correct for this?

Eventually, I suppose. Intelligence research is an example of where liberal scientists eventually came around to some very inegalitarian conclusions. But that took many decades and there are still a lot of IQ deniers out there.

So, I believe his point is that a morally homogeneous group won’t even think to ask the certain questions, so the science will waste a lot of time looking at dead ends. Currently psychologists seem stumped as to why racism can’t account for all the things is supposedly accounts for, for example.

49 Nathan W March 8, 2016 at 6:56 am

Being skeptical about a particular method of evaluating intelligence is not the same as denying that genetics will play some role in performance on standardized measures of “intelligence”. Among other things, quite a lot of questions on IQ tests are absolutely similar to skills/abilities picked up during the course of a high quality education which is accompanied by effort.

50 Thursday March 9, 2016 at 3:55 am

The resident creationist emerges.

51 zby March 7, 2016 at 7:40 am
52 Bill March 7, 2016 at 7:46 am

What explains the following observation:

Trump positioned himself to be ideologically close to Cruz in the early debates so that the positions of both candidates were very similar, with Trump being a bit more extreme than Cruz, but not by much.

Yet, the Republican party claims that Trumps nomination will split the party, but, doesn’t that also imply that Cruz’s will as well, since they are so close.

Or, is it that the Party doesn’t like the messenger, although it likes the message, in which case the Party is splitting over style rather than substance.

Or, in other words, how does Haidt place the candidates on the dimensions he has created in his books.

53 Bjartur March 7, 2016 at 11:40 am

Trump has taken many sides of most issues. Cruz is consistent and principled. If you look at everything Trump has said, and not just what he’s said recently, he is positioned closer to Hillary than to Cruz. But getting Haidt to try to categorize Trump would be interesting.

54 Hazel Meade March 7, 2016 at 12:59 pm

This. AFAIK, Cruz is not promising to boost infrastructure spending (a handout to working class labor), or impose tarriffs on US companies that move factories to Mexico.

55 Bill March 7, 2016 at 2:07 pm

Hazel, He wants to increase military spending, a handout to southern labor. I guess you dont consider that infrastructure. He wants a gold standard, which is a handout to Russia and South Africa.

56 Bill March 7, 2016 at 2:06 pm

If Cruz is consistent, and what is dividing the Republican party is what Trump espouses, then it is Cruz which is dividing the party as well.

That Trump is inconsistent would not be a source of division; only if there is consistency would there be a source of division. A soft breadstick does not cut a steak; a sharp knife does.

Inconsistency means you hear what you want to hear, which is not a basis for dividing a group. How could a non-principled person “DIVIDE” a group. Think about it.

57 Paul Ralley March 7, 2016 at 7:53 am

Tyler – please could you ask him how our instincts about provenance may develop in an increasingly digital age – The pen that Churchill signed X document with is worth $x000 – but what is an original artwork if created digitally?

Please can you also ask him why attending a live event (such as this interview, which I sadly can’t) seems so much more attractive than the high quality recording I will use?

58 kimock March 7, 2016 at 7:55 am

What policies would he recommend to address the left-of-center skewing of academics? See his work (with others) on this at http://heterodoxacademy.org/problems/

59 Bill March 7, 2016 at 11:05 am

The one way to reduce the left of center skewing of academics

Is to hire

The less educated.

“I really like the less educated.”

60 Hopaulius March 7, 2016 at 3:49 pm

This is precisely the sort of bias in the social sciences that Haidt debunks.

61 Bill March 7, 2016 at 4:23 pm

One person’s bias is another person’s reality.

Ask yourself:

How many left of center academics are in Jerry Falwell’s University.

62 Bill March 7, 2016 at 5:07 pm

Hop, I understand Haidt’s work and those who are members of the Heterodox group. I think every biology department needs someone who doesn’t believe that Darwin’s theory of evolution could be better explained by the Bible, or that every Econ Department needs a Marxist. To me, Heterodoxy can be met by reading and engaging others whose views you do not understand, or need to understand. Second, I question the premise of left of center as being the focal point of measure. What is left of center for a biologist, computer scientist, English prof, etc. It may simply measure the age of the prof (baby boomer v. Eisenhower Republican) where political views are not even relevant. Heterodoxy should measure differences of relevance: having a middle east historian who is a Palestinian in a department with a fair number of Jewish historians; having a black english prof who is a specialist in rap music and rhyme; having a feminist in the cheerleading department, etc.

When you see the world in left or right terms, you are missing up and down, and sideways.

63 Thomas March 9, 2016 at 3:59 am

Watch bill deny science. Academics have admitted to Haidt that they would discriminate on the basis of their leftist politics, here bill provides intermediate cover for the discrimination he presumably takes part in. Here I am suggesting bill is morally unfit and prejudiced – I am arguing like a leftist.

64 Bill March 9, 2016 at 2:02 pm

Without citing any support for his claims Thomas engages in ad hominem.

65 Bill March 9, 2016 at 2:16 pm

Thomas, You should note that my comments focused on science and some non-science disciplines (history) regarding the left-right scale. Since you claim that you have knowledge of these left right studies you would have limited your comments to the sphere of psychology and social psychology, which is the scope of the study in question. Again, Thomas, neither you nor the authors gain much when you put things on left-right self identification continuums, since both the ruler is not defined, much less how the respondent responds to what someone calls left-right. If you asked a conservative what left is you would get a different answer than if you asked a moderate or liberal, so when studies do not define terms, you get, guess what, a poor and I would assert, a non-replicable study if you defined terms or otherwise corrected for bias in the choice of terms as well as bias in the choice of methodology.

66 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 12:57 pm

This is likely to be an unpopular view here, but I’m inclined to think the following. Since the right wing has an ideological predisposition against any fancy solutions to things, out of preference for the free market, you get the following situation. Right wingers will be inclined to solve problems where there is a profit in the solution, and where the free market does well. However, among the many people who go into academics and tackle big problems, there are many problems left which are not amenable to free market solutions. Hence, people who continue to dedicate themselves to further study of problems with no free market solutions will end up exploring interventionist approaches – perhaps they were not particularly anti-free market or pro-intervention to start with, but then the remaining pool of people who continue on in academia are those who end up working towards some sort of pro-interventionist outlook. Then, observing that the right wing is ideologically opposed to interventions, and that the left wing is amenable to them, their political alignments naturally fall into place – anywhere but the right wing.

Does this line of thinking make sense? Curious what holes there might be in the logic (and please, not assuming that radical leftists explicitly get into academics to force agendas onto society or some such thing – surely if such people exist they are a very small minority and would not really matter for the general observation of academics self identifying as more left wing.)

67 Thomas March 9, 2016 at 4:02 am

Yes academics are motivated to reason against freedom because it justifies their existence as solution-makers. You’ve cracked the code that countless conservatives have been saying for decades. Go read Sowell or Hayek.

68 8 March 7, 2016 at 7:56 am

What does he think of the idea of holiness spirals? In the Catholic Church, If you want to be holiest, become a monk/priest. Protestants compete on holiness, since anyone can become a priest and remain in this world. If you want to be holiest among progressives, signal ever more extreme positions on social issues. This creates competition and an accelerating feedback loop. Is that a feature of liberal morality or a structural issue similar to the Catholic/Protestant split?

69 Alex Tabarrok March 7, 2016 at 8:09 am

Ask him whether the coddled kids that he rightly rails against, the ones who fall apart or lash out when their emotions are disturbed, ask him whether these kids are not the result of teaching that the passions rule over reason, i.e. the very lesson he elsewhere teaches.

70 josh March 7, 2016 at 11:04 am

well put.

71 Justin Kelly March 7, 2016 at 11:12 am

I would say it is ‘evidence’ that passion rules over reason. I don’t think Haidt argues that we should be ruled by passion, or that we should dispense with reason, so much as he is warning that we are fighting against an evolutionary current, and is trying to give us an instruction manual for how to do it.

72 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 12:44 pm

Right. We live in a very rich society, so people can afford to indulge their passions, including their passion for moral posturing.

73 Justin Kelly March 7, 2016 at 1:10 pm

I would actually go the other way with the conclusion. Moral reasoning is really a heuristic that we evolved living in an information scarce environment (and it worked, otherwise would never have evolved). Now that we have more information then ever before, we are getting better outcomes by dispensing with these moral heuristics, so we are. Keep in mind these are long term equilibrium’s I am talking about here, so I am comparing modern westerners to nomad or rain forrest tribesmen.

74 Oliver Sherouse March 7, 2016 at 8:37 am

If, as in Haidt’s view, our moral senses arise from mostly vestigial evolutionary impulses, why should we follow or respect any of them? Or is the idea just that other people are going to follow them, so if we’re going to get along with other people we should understand and respect them, and follow them when necessary?

75 P Burgos March 7, 2016 at 9:34 am

Maybe as a follow up, ask him his view of the role that moral philosophers should play in a society full of people whose passions rule over their reason? If it really is true that passions rule over reason, why bother with trying to think through what is just and unjust, excellent vs. shameful, high vs. low, etc. in the way that Aristotle, Plato, and Nietzsche do?

76 P Burgos March 7, 2016 at 11:50 am

More than any other guest, I would ask him his views on Leo Strauss.

77 Justin Kelly March 7, 2016 at 11:25 am

Because the fact that they evolved is proof that it works (just not for the reasons we may think). Its only the marginal utility of each “moral” in the context of a modern society that is becoming debatable.

78 Oliver Sherouse March 7, 2016 at 5:19 pm

But that begs the question. You say they “work,” but to what end? And why should a person actually care about that end? Evolution’s goal need not be mine.

79 Justin Kelly March 9, 2016 at 10:15 am

Well, it is evolution we are talking about. Not working in that context means not existing. I don’t know what goal you seek, but I hope human existence is a fundamental prerequisite. Then again, with the religious view of some on the left that mankind is some invasive, destructive virus tainting mother Gaia, I can’t even assume that anymore….

80 Conditions March 7, 2016 at 9:07 am

It would be great to hear what he sees as the future of Heterodox Academy ( http://heterodoxacademy.org/ ), his thoughts on best practices in promoting viewpoint diversity, and his thoughts on effective ways to confront and challenge one’s own priors and mindset. I’ve lent The Righteous Mind to several friends over the years and its been amazingly ironic how different people seem to find something in it to confirm their worst views of others who do not share their views. Has the book opened the dialog that he hoped it would?

81 Jacob March 7, 2016 at 9:48 am

Perhaps ask how far he’s willing to take his view on political diversity in academia. He has frequently decried (or at least pointed out) that there are far more liberals in academia than conservatives. But this, I think is incomplete. We don’t worry that there is a lack of representation of neo-nazis in academia. Even more concretely, we don’t worry that there is a lack of representation of creationists or flat-earthers in academia. An alternative hypothesis to systematic undue discrimination against conservatives is that conservatives are wrong on many issues and academics are better at not being wrong than the general public.

(I’m not taking a stand on this myself, but I’ve never heard him consider competing hypotheses.)

82 Justin Kelly March 7, 2016 at 11:05 am

Your premise is a bit of a “type mismatch” between morals and beleifs. Read his book and you will get a pretty solid, scientific definition of what a conservative or liberal is, but most of all what a moral is. By comparison, a “flat earther” or the contemporary neo-nazi hold beliefs either that the earth is flat or that their race is superior. Look at eugenics, that is a belief that was upheld by a lot of progressives (we would call them liberals today) in the early 20th century, we have people with essentially the same moral matrix in academia today, they just don’t push or believe in eugenics.

But basically “Morals are not beliefs”.

83 Jacob March 7, 2016 at 12:23 pm

It’s a bit of a mismatch with the creationism/flat earth thing. But I’d argue it’s still fuzzy. Creationism for example, is strongly associated with conservatism. I’d wager there are comparably very few liberal creationists. And I’d argue the neo-nazi example is even less of a mismatch. Neo-nazism could have much more to do with morals rather than scientific beliefs about race than your comment suggests. It would not be a bad thing to have them under-represented in academia, nonetheless.

84 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 12:46 pm

“I’d wager there are comparably very few liberal creationists.”

Depends what you mean by creationists? There are a lot of IQ deniers and ev psych deniers.

85 Justin Kelly March 7, 2016 at 1:22 pm

Unfortunately your association of creationism to conservatives would fall apart once you leave the US borders (unless you go to south Korea maybe). What Haidt notes is that most cultures in developing economies are relatively conservative, and that conservatism holds on his scale. Whether they believe in creationism or that widowed women eating fish is wrong, is something that goes on at a higher level. I don;t know much about “neo-nazism” but I would gather classic national socialists rested on four of his moral foundations, the three that liberals tend to like, and then the one for “loyalty” (hence nationalism) that conservatives like. The modern analogue would be lumped in with liberals today and are probably already in academia. That doesn’t mean they should be treated like or regarded, as 1940s german nazis.

All I can tell you at this point is to read his book, its real science, and its value is the foundation it lays for aproaching this subject.

86 Peter Schaeffer March 7, 2016 at 1:38 pm


“I’d wager there are comparably very few liberal creationists”

Essentially all liberals are creationists when it comes to human evolution. Exactly how many liberals rose to the defense of Larry Summers even though he had science (notably including human evolution) on his side? Close to none. Quote from Stuart Taylor Jr.

“Like religious fundamentalists seeking to stamp out the teaching of evolution, feminists stomped Harvard University President Lawrence Summers for mentioning at a January 14 academic conference the entirely reasonable theory that innate male-female differences might possibly help explain why so many mathematics, engineering, and hard-science faculties remain so heavily male.

Unlike most religious fundamentalists, these feminists were pursuing a careerist, self-serving agenda. This cause can put money in their pockets.

Summers’s suggestion—now ignominiously retracted, with groveling, Soviet-show-trial-style apologies—was that sex discrimination and the reluctance of mothers to work 80 hours a week are not the only possible explanations for gender imbalances in the math-science area. He noted that high school boys have many more of the highest math scores than girls, and suggested that this might reflect genetic differences. He also stressed the need for further research into all three possible explanations.”

87 Justin Kelly March 7, 2016 at 9:56 am

Ask him what he thinks our future political make-up will be, assuming continuous economic growth and improvement in living standard. Will it tend towards some equilibrium between conservatives, liberals and libertarians? Might the group with fewer moral foundation prevail the higher our living standards become? Is the world trending towards a more logical and less “political/tribal” one?

88 Vidur Kapur March 7, 2016 at 10:09 am

What does he think of Joshua Greene’s moral system of deep pragmatism, and what are the similarities and differences between his and Greene’s models of explaining why there are, to use the title of Greene’s book, moral tribes?

89 Urstoff March 7, 2016 at 10:12 am

I’d like to know his take on Arnold’s Three Languages of Politics

90 Larry March 7, 2016 at 10:35 am

I think he talks a little about it when he was on EconTalk, if you’re interested.

91 BV March 7, 2016 at 10:48 am

Two ideas:

1) What is the cause of the orthodox academy?

2) What’s the best, and what’s the worst about capitalism?

92 beferd March 7, 2016 at 11:09 am

Please ask him why is it rational — or is it rational — to engage in political persuasion or debate when [Haidt’s] evidence suggests much of our predilections are genetically hard-wired and not subject to be changed by facts, logic, reason, etc.? Many of us engage in this, but so few of us ever change our minds.

93 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 1:26 pm

It is unlikely to persuade people who are firmly set in their ways. But, one might prevent gullible people from being taken in if you make a good counterargument. E.g., show up for a couple key events at a Marxist conference, not to convince the pre-convinced speaker of anything, but to ask tough questions which effectively counter certain absurdities, to ensure that the gullible or poorly informed don’t fall prey to various forms of misleading propaganda, innuendo or misrepresentations of facts and history. Also, some people just like to hear themselves speak and feel good about enunciating what they stand for, out loud. In both senses, it can be highly rational.

Consider in the example of an election. Both parties already have 30-40% of the electorate basically sealed up before anyone even opens their mouths. There’s not point in trying to convince that 30-40% on either side of anything. But, there’s the other 20% on the fence, and the best way to reach them is to either defend the one perspective or attack the opposite. That 20% is the target audience.

94 Nick_L March 7, 2016 at 11:30 am

Ask him for his thoughts on the trolley problem, and if he’s been struck by any real life analogies. See if you can move from that into a more general discussion on his ideas in regards to incentives.

95 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 1:36 pm

There’s a sort of analogy in teaching.

Say, you’ve got 25 students. 2-3 are clearly behind and struggling with the material. You can sacrifice those 2-3 students and “save” the rest of them by motoring on and ignoring the struggling student. However, most teachers will dedicate significant extra time to pulling up the worst students, rather than spending time to enrich the experience of the top students. Teachers have to make such teeny weeny trolley problem-esque decisions many times a day. Most typically, you teach to the middle, spend extra time on the worst students, and try to throw some extra crumbs at the top students to enrich their experience at least a bit. But, then, we aren’t talking about ki/culling the worst students, just considering the possibility of indifference to their prospective failure.

96 TMC March 7, 2016 at 3:00 pm

That’s a pretty good example.

97 Justin March 7, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Haidt’s ideas on happiness, religion, and politics were/are a big influence on me. In general, I find them provocative but also a bit irritating in their simplicity and reductionism. Some of the best reviews/criticisms I’ve heard come from Jules Evans. See, for example, here: http://www.philosophyforlife.org/category/psychic-phenomena/. I recommend searching the rest of his site for mentions of Haidt.

Although I’m not such a fan of Haidt’s work anymore he is no doubt one of the sharpest cats around and so I am thrilled to hear you two in conversation.

98 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 2:23 pm

Haidt gives us the big picture, and I think he gets it essentially right. But people are complex and there are lots of nuances that still need to be filled in.

99 Jordan March 7, 2016 at 12:15 pm

Ask him his thoughts on Europe vs. America in terms of the more multi-dimensional morality he lays out for conservatives in Righteous Mind. Do the other conservative axes like “authority” and “loyalty” have larger roles to play in societies that are more secular and have increasingly competitive cultural/sovereignty claims (assimilation, migration, E.U, euro).

Haidt has implied/said he thinks religion can play an important role in social cohesion and structure. Best replacements for that in secular societies? Where do you derive a concept of human dignity and sanctity more generally going forward?

Definitely ask about political polarization. What probability does he ascribe to a sustainable splintering of the 2-party American political system?

When & how does intuition turn to dogma? Political predispositions into rabid partisan politics?

100 Hazel Meade March 7, 2016 at 12:27 pm

Ask him his thoughts on whether “liberals” (in his terms) have a disgust reaction to money and commerce, and if that might represent a “liberal” version of the sanctity/degradation axis he broadly ascribes to conservative thought patterns.

Also ask him how “liberals” reactions on issues like GMOs, organic food, and the environment, relate to his moral axes.

101 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 12:48 pm


102 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 1:44 pm

I think most people who would self identify as “liberal” or “liberal-minded” would not tend to hold quite the extreme views on GMOs, organics or the environment that I’m suspecting you might attribute to them. I tend to find some conservatives grouping together all things/ideas they don’t like as “liberals”, whereas many of these perspectives are very anti-liberal. I’m quite sure you’re perfectly able to see the different between classical liberalism and, say, present day SJWdom which is utterly antithetical to classical liberalism, but wonder if you may not be fully aware of how these often false categorizations are often pushed by people who broadly dislike other aspects of liberal agendas (OK with gay marriage, not harsh on drugs) and then group together everything else they don’t like under the same category: “dumb liberals – look at their irrationally extremist views on GMOs and organics!” sort of thing …

103 Peter Schaeffer March 7, 2016 at 3:42 pm


“I think most people who would self identify as “liberal” or “liberal-minded” would not tend to hold quite the extreme views on GMOs, organics or the environment that I’m suspecting you might attribute to them”

In Europe they would. In the U.S. and Canada, not so much.

104 Hazel Meade March 8, 2016 at 11:25 am

There are definitely gradations in the left-liberal spectrum and the anti-GMO thing is (thankfully) more of an extreme-left phenomenon in the US.

However, you do take my point that there’s a disgust reaction to money and commerce in left-liberal thinking, right?

105 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 12:30 pm

Liberals activists online sure use a lot of shaming tactics. How widespread is liberal purity? Are your measures on liberal purity not picking up on something, or are there just a few loud voices out there who are really good at shaming liberals?

Is there a difference between wanting to shame others and being vulnerable to shaming tactics? Most liberals seem vulnerable on the latter, but most that I know aren’t interested in the former.

106 Hazel Meade March 7, 2016 at 1:07 pm

Another good point. Shouldn’t liberals be immune to shaming? Are liberals shaming each other, or are liberals cynically using shaming tactics against conservatives to corral them into compliance?

107 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 1:49 pm

There were a lot of liberals who hated what the students at Yale and Mizzou were doing, but were afraid to speak up.

There are a lot of liberals in the sciences who know a lot of claims that SJWs are making are untrue, but don’t speak up.

108 Derek March 8, 2016 at 9:55 am

Something like the people in Quebec were afraid of what the priest would say. Orthodoxy enforced from on high. And they go along with it.

I thought Liberals were supposed to be smart. It takes courage and determination to be a creationist or anti gay marriage. The prime credential for liberalism seems to be the ability to say yes-suh.

109 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 1:51 pm

I think, on this board many would consider me to be a liberal, of sorts. I identify with a lot of classical liberalism, but strongly favour a very moderate but easily accessible social safety net (hence, I like the idea of a guaranteed minimum income).

In other forums, for my failure to adhere strictly to victim narratives (e.g., yes yes yes, victims, I get it, now let’s discuss practical things to address real issues right now which don’t involve having to change the minds of millions of people) or to introduce economic cost/benefit thinking to environmental questions (yes, this is very important, but let’s get the best bang for our buck, and banning ABCDEFG is expending an awful lot of political capital on things which are basically irrelevant in the big picture), WOW, I get lynch mobs after me all the f’n time.

But really, those people in those lynch mobs aren’t liberals by any sort of classification except that there exist some conservatives who will group these people together into the same camp. Run of the mill progressives would also to well to distance themselves from such types to the maximum extent possible.

110 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 3:01 pm

Methinks you’re doing the “No True Scotsman” thing. Stop it.

111 Hazel Meade March 8, 2016 at 11:29 am

Yeah, I’m going by Haidt’s use of the term “liberal” here.
Perhaps a good question for Haidt is to ask if his “liberal” and “conservative” categories could use some more careful definition or even if it would be better to come up with some completely new terms so that they don’t get mixed up with the arbitrary groupings of the current US political spectrum.

112 Scott March 7, 2016 at 12:46 pm

Why does there seem to be such a strong correlation between “aptitude” (as captured by the SAT) and moral taste for equality over justice, or tolerance over purity? Are students and faculty at elite universities acquiring these moral tastes from the academic environment? Or is there a biological link? A logical link? Or something else? Or am I just imagining that such a correlation even exists?

113 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 1:19 pm


114 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 1:59 pm

Verrrry interesting. I disagree with the framing of “moral taste for equality over justice”, however, since this reflects different views on what is “just”, not a desire to undermine “justice” in order to reduce inequality. I do think, that in a “proper” academic setting, exposure to many competing perspectives in an environment where civil debate is the name of the game will presumably promote tolerance over purity.

115 Scott (Ogawa) March 7, 2016 at 3:07 pm

Nathan, thanks much for the comment. Yeah, I am not sure about the details of moral taste per se. My general point is just that there seems to be a clear correlation between certain moral preferences (i.e. New York values instead of Ted Cruz values) shared by boatloads of people with high SAT scores — yet the SAT is all about numbers and words, not morals. What is driving this?

Maybe it is exposure to competing perspectives, but by my reading of Haidt, such environmental factors are actually not that important. It might also be biological; a link within the gene pool. Or it might be logical; somehow purposeful deduction (that requires mental skill) leads to certain moral conclusions — though my hunch is that Haidt would reject this possibility.

116 Jeff R. March 7, 2016 at 12:52 pm

Here’s kind of a lengthy one: I’ve heard him describe humans as roughly 85% chimps and 15% bees. It seems pretty clear that there’s a distinct danger to letting the bee aspects of our behavior run wild, if you classify communism and fascism as bee-type collectivism, and various ethno-religious conflicts fit this as well, where people aren’t considered individuals but rather members of groups and judged accordingly. At the same time, I think people feel dissatisfied if they’re not part of some larger collection of self-identified individuals, whether it be ethnic or religious, ideological, or what have you. How can we do a better job of pushing our bee-like instincts in healthy directions to, say, encourage people to form book clubs rather than violent paramilitary gangs. How can we better mitigate conflicts between groups when they do arise?

117 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 12:55 pm

Some people I know like to differentiate between leftists and liberals. Has there been any investigation into political subtypes? Some people I know seem interested in equality almost for its own sake, not condiering overall welfare.

118 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 1:50 pm

What about conservative subtypes too?

119 R Richard Schweitzer March 7, 2016 at 1:21 pm

How are **initial** individual motivations formed; and are the disparate circumstances of their formation the source of the fissiparous tendencies of our social orders?

Would he comment on the earlier scholarship of Emmanuel Todd?

120 rageofthedogstar March 7, 2016 at 1:24 pm

Haidt seems to be an adherent to the “Free Range Kids” movement. He’s probably gotten an earful from people that he’s raising his kids the wrong way.

Given how viscerally people feel about the ‘correct’ way to raise kids, where does he think ‘parenting’ falls in the moral foundation categories? Does it possibly deserve it’s own?

121 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Who are the real collectivists, liberals or conservatives? Why are left liberals classified as collectivists when they have so little loyalty? Why do liberals talk so much about solidarity/community?

Conversely, why do conservatives vote for economically individualist policies? Is the Trump phenomenon evidence that conservatives are reverting to type and dumping economic individualism?

122 Nathan W March 7, 2016 at 2:13 pm

What do you mean by “have so little loyalty”? Anyways, I think the calls about solidarity/community are not “liberal” things at all, but rather are a callback to solidarity within workers movements (usually hypocritical calls, because they seek to exclude workers from other countries, and are in fact basically collective negotiation strategies). E.g., there is a long history of union violence against scabs, to promote solidarity and get the best deal they can get for the group – without solidarity, the collective negotiation falls apart. But, how is this “liberal” in ANY sense of the word, aside from the freedom for both capital holders and labour holders to both negotiate collectively?

123 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 2:53 pm

I mean liberals score low on the loyalty moral foundation, which they do.

124 Derek March 8, 2016 at 9:57 am

And they will dutifully vote for Clinton if Indicted.

125 Thursday March 8, 2016 at 4:07 pm

Clinton is heavily dependent on African Americans, who are something of a special case. Blacks in America tend to vote Democratic for black nationalist reasons. Liberal blacks vote for Democrats because they are liberal, but there are also plenty of loyal conservative blacks who vote Democrat because the Democrats are the black party.

126 Swami March 7, 2016 at 1:33 pm

Considering that many academic fields have recently shifted to being virtually 100% biased toward the extreme left, what does he think of processes which specifically create and promote a counterbalancing force from the right?

For example, could there be some kind of board or conservative and or libertarian anthropologists/sociologists/economists etc who weigh in or peer review on every academic article to attempt to apply balance?

I state this because otherwise these far left leaning groups will careen off into echo chamber land on certain subjects (I think even Haidt would argue they already are).

127 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 1:36 pm

What makes libertarianism right wing when it is based on a similar moral profile to liberalism?

It does have a high tolerance for outcome inequality (which would peg it as right wing), but a passion for procedural equality (which would peg it as left wing).

128 Jordan March 7, 2016 at 4:59 pm

Liberalism’s claims to belief in procedural equality are mostly a middle step or sloppy justification for its fixation on outcome equality in my opinion. Procedural equality is rarely their ends and often their means. Conservatism has a stronger claim to procedural equality in my view. See Sowell’s Conflict of Visions.

129 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 7:51 pm

Libertarianism and conservatism aren’t the same things, despite the arguments of fusionists in the U.S. That’s the crucial failure of Sowell’s CoV.

Libertarianism is more like liberalism in terms of morality, but does share a certain tragic vision with conservatism.

130 Bill Harshaw March 7, 2016 at 1:38 pm

Does the idea of conservative versus liberal temperaments conflict with the idea that people (except Hillary) are liberal when young and conservative when old?

131 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 1:41 pm

What has caused the shift to WEIRD morality in industrialized countries? How is this related to secularization? What has caused secularization?

132 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 1:43 pm

What is the relationship between purity and teleological morality? You attribute religious restrictions on sexuality to the purity foundation, yet religious people, when they rationally explain this, seem to rely on natural law (purpose based) explanations for them. What is the relationship between the two?

How does this relate to the more personal view of the cosmos that religious people seem to have?

133 Derek March 8, 2016 at 10:02 am

Without antibiotics and anti-retrovirals welfare the arguments would not be academic.

134 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 2:08 pm

What does he think of the latest research showing economic leftism correlated with being more agreeable and being more emotionally unstable? I’d note that these things don’t correlate with social liberalism per se. Libertarians tend to hold social liberal views too, but their more disagreeable and emotionally stable, and noticably don’t go in for a lot of the SJW antics on campus or elsewhere.

135 Thursday March 7, 2016 at 2:15 pm

A lot of the very best living writers (Knausgaard, Cormac McCarthy, Geoffrey Hill, Michel Houellebecq, V.S. Naipaul) tend to lean towards conservatism, while creative writers on a whole overwhelmingly lean to the left.

What is the optimal morality for an artist? You seem to need openness to experience to be a good artist, but the liberalism associated with openness seems to limit your range of moral themes to fairness/justice and harm/care. Conservatives seem to be more closed to experience, but have access to themes of purity/holiness, loyalty/ingroup, and respect for authority. God, king and country, basically.

136 Scott_E March 7, 2016 at 2:25 pm

In a follow-up article to his book ‘The Happiness Hypothesis’ entitled ‘How to Become Happier’, Mr. Haidt states that Cognitive Therapy is harder than Meditation. Why does he think this? What are his personal experiences with both practices?


137 Cee-Jay March 7, 2016 at 2:39 pm

1) How would you like your theory to change the world? What’s the one thing you most want people to take away from your work? If they did so, how would the world be different? What’s important about that to you?

2) The Golden Rule: “Treat others as you would have them treat you” is 1000’s of years old and appears in various forms in many religious and philosophical traditions. What’s the connection between your work and the Golden Rule?

[From my point of view, his work is useful for creating understanding, compassion and togetherness… for taking small steps towards loving one’s enemy. And isn’t “love your enemy” just a more aggressive form of the golden rule?]

3) Suppose a self-aware, open minded partisan wanted your advice on how to see her own political/moral bias in action more clearly. What single thing would you advise her to do if she were a) Conservative, b) Liberal, c) Libertarian or d) if you had no idea what here leaning was?

4) What would the Dalai Lama find most useful about your work? What about Joseph Goebbels?

138 Ano March 7, 2016 at 2:39 pm

How does Haidt’s work differ from Lakoff’s approach as a cognitive scientist (e.g. in his book “Moral Politics”)?

Have there always been the dynamics he lays out? How have they changed over time? Are things different now because the world is changing faster?

Can you please explain WTF is going on with Trump?

139 stan March 9, 2016 at 3:44 pm

As for Trump, most of the pundits have gotten it really, really wrong. I think Trump is a con man and would be a disaster as president, in part because his instincts are very liberal, in part because he’s incompetent, and in part because he is incredibly immature. But I know a large number of Trump supporters who are solid conservatives with degrees, successful business owners, smart, savvy, and not motivated by hatred, racism, or xenophobia. What they are is incredibly pissed off. So pissed off that they want to blow up the GOP. They have been lied to and screwed by the GOP inside the beltway so long that they want to smash it.

Victor Davis Hanson has a very good piece on the perspective from California where lawlessness and immigration failure have created massive social problems. I can’t add anything to that part of it, but would advise you read it. The one underlying factor would seem to be utter disgust and anger at a thoroughly corrupt establishment that has abandoned the rule of law and the Constitution. They all think that Hillary, Obama and the Democrats are serial felons and they will no longer tolerate cowards who won’t fight for America, the Constitution, and the rule of law.

140 jseliger March 7, 2016 at 3:02 pm

We rarely hear stories about colleges that handle seemingly minor but PC-related issues well. Instead, bizarre, symbolic stuff like Yale and Halloween or Bowdoin and sombreros tend to predominate.

Does he have any stories about seemingly minor but PC-related issues being handled reasonably and without making national headlines?

141 Anonymous March 7, 2016 at 5:21 pm

In last fall’s racial campus brouhaha, a video went around of a young black female Yale student screaming at her college master, Nicholas Christakis. Near the end of the clip, she says Mr. Christakis “should not sleep at night,” and she calls him “disgusting.” It’s that last bit that I think is most interesting. So, the question is: Are elite left-leaning progressives’ relationship to blacks (and to other special “victim” groups) inflected by the purity axis that Haidt usually ascribes to conservatives? [The video I’m talking about can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IEFD_JVYd0.%5D

142 Gil March 7, 2016 at 6:55 pm

From a psychological perspective, is it rational to think that this might be THE YEAR for the Caps?

143 Trump supporter March 7, 2016 at 7:01 pm

Haidt wrote that Trump reflects authoritarianism. Why then are Trump supporters not extreme on any of his moral foundations?

144 Hopaulius March 7, 2016 at 7:07 pm

Are you familiar with Rene Girard’s mimetic theory? If so, how does this inform the political polarization we are seeing in light of your moral foundations system?

145 Vera March 7, 2016 at 9:17 pm

1. Haidt blogged (http://righteousmind.com/where-microaggressions-really-come-from/) about a really fascinating sociology paper that argues that we are transitioning from a culture of dignity to a culture of victimhood, as we previously transitioned from a culture of honor to a culture of dignity. Why is this transition happening? It seems to be strongly related to the shift (legally and casually, I don’t know which drives the other more) from focusing on intended harm versus experienced harm (which allows for the definition of microaggressions to make any sense in the first place.) Is this a cause or effect of the cultural transition, or not as related as I think?

2. The worst instances of PC-gone-mad come from college campuses. Is there something about young minds and/or college social environments that leads to this? Do people naturally grow out of their PC outrage as they age, sort of like learning to pick your battles (which naturally leads to focusing on bad intentions rather than accidentally bad experiences) or learning to make the best of your situation in order to stay sane (which naturally leads to brushing off those accidentally bad experiences or reframing them as not bad at all)?

146 Hazel Meade March 8, 2016 at 11:51 am

Regarding #2: This reminds me of the way people accuse libertarians of being self-centered and juvenile. Perhaps the reason the PC-gone-mad thing is centered on college campuses is because young adults are naturally more self-absorbed and hence more focused on their own experience of pain, which leads them to trumpet their own victimization more aggressively. In that case, there is some hope that these people will simply grow out of it, realize there is a world outside of their own subjective suffering, and stop trying to demand that everyone else sacrifice to provide them with a “safe” emotional space.

However, that still leaves the question of why *this* generation of young people’s self-absorption manifests itself as a desire for emotional protection instead of as a desire for independence. Why are young people today SJWs instead of libertarians?

147 JasonL March 7, 2016 at 9:39 pm

They reformulated the moral foundations axis of fairness. It used to emphasize equality but it now focuses on proportionality. The former might be the revulsion a liberal in the US feels when seeing ostentatious wealth or the shape of the income distribution curve. The latter is something more closely associated with conservatives who might intuit feelings that if you do something for me I should do something for you.

With that revision, there doesn’t seem to be an equality in the liberal sense axis anymore, but it is arguably the driving instinct behind Sanders supporters. Don’t we have to have that notion so we can contrast notions of justice such as social justice with notions of justice such as you are paid in proportion to the economic value of your output?

148 Phil B March 7, 2016 at 10:13 pm

How about a round of Over/Under-rated with a twist: first answer the question, then speculate on why your unconscious mind led you to that answer. Which moral taste buds did the subject stimulate? Said another way, let’s dispense with the ex-post rationalizations that people usually give and instead talk about what Haidt thinks is actually going on when we make snap judgments about who or what is deserving of higher/lower status.

149 Banana Republican March 7, 2016 at 10:36 pm

Ask him why there are only six foundations to morality. Why not nine? Or nineteen?

Wouldn’t it be useful to do a factor analysis of moral words to find out how many foundations there are the way personality researchers used a factor analysis of personality words to uncover five factors of personality?

150 Thursday March 8, 2016 at 4:04 pm

That’s exactly what Haidt et al. already did. He didn’t just think this stuff up in his own head.

151 Joe March 7, 2016 at 11:17 pm

Haidt has argued (convincingly, I think) that “social conservatives see more value” than liberals do in the “moral foundation” of “Loyalty” – that is “keeping track of who is ‘us’ and who is not” and not being a “traitor” to “us.” My question: Does the rise of Identity Politics on the campus left also result from the “Loyalty” moral foundation being activated – or do you see some other moral foundation at work? If so, what? I sense plenty of moral outrage in Identity Politics in its left-academic form and I wonder which of Haidt’s moral foundations he would connect it to. (It’s pretty obvious how his model works re right-wing populist identity politics, but would like more explication re leftist identity politics.)

152 Hazel Meade March 8, 2016 at 12:00 pm

Agree here as well.

I think this may be because from the liberal perspective the conservative loyalty-to-country version of loyalty is seen as white-identity-loyalty. That’s because conservatives see the “country” as essentially defined by it’s white-western-European-Christian heritage. To a non-white, the principles of the “founding fathers” aren’t seen as universal norms but as features of a history defined by white privilege. Thus, it’s not that left-liberals lack a “loyalty” axis, it’s that non-whites and their liberal allies have difficulty feeling loyalty to the particular concept of the nation that conservatives do. Those feelings end up being directed at ethnic or cultural identity instead.

As a side note, I think libertarians could do a better job presenting libertarian principles as genuine cultural universals that everyone can share, rather than attaching them to Western-European culture.

153 Seb Nickel March 8, 2016 at 8:55 am

I’ve exchanged a few emails with him, where he has written that a glaring omission from his models were moral intuitions about property rights, and that future models should probably include a property foundation.
I hope that will come up.

Also, I hope you’ll reread all of Bryan Caplan’s blog posts about Jon Haidt before the conversation, and ask him to comment on everything said there 🙂

The main question I ask myself is why there has been so little progress on Moral Foundations Theory ever since The Righteous Mind came out. Jon Haidt may be busy with other things, but no one else seems to have picked up on it, either. And as far as I’m concerned, Moral Foundations Theory is both very exciting and very immature, poorly validated.

154 freethinker March 8, 2016 at 10:39 am

In one his book on happiness he says “Just as plant need sun, water, and good soil to thrive, people need love, work, and a connection to something larger.”
For theists something larger is God, however conceived. For mystics it is the sense of being one with the cosmos or something like that . Haidt calls himself a Jewish atheist. Ask him what an atheist deems “something larger” which brings happiness.

155 lemmy caution March 8, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Ask him what happened in India that made him realize the value of purity as moral value. Seems weird in a country with castes.

156 Michael Wiebe March 8, 2016 at 1:56 pm

What does he think about ideological Turing tests? How important is ideological Turing-capability as a standard for public discourse?

157 Khalil Hegarty March 8, 2016 at 10:43 pm

Dear Tyler — possible question for Jonathan:

From what you’ve written in The Righteous Mind, Western secular liberals are in a bind; they have firmly rejected religion and nationalism as sources of a moral foundation for loyalty — and therefore cut themselves off from increasing broader social capital that isn’t defined by narrow interests (e.g. labour movements, the environmental movement, social justice). This is being entrenched politically (e.g. the European Union) such that the size and power of the state increases, but without anything that taps into loyalty instincts and can encourage greater cooperation. Can this bind be overcome, and if so, how?

158 Kalim Kassam March 9, 2016 at 2:16 am

1) In what way are academics with minority political opinions most disadvantaged? What sorts of view carry the greatest disadvantages?

2) One unique aspect of the current university system is the concept of tenure. Why hasn’t tenure done more to bolster freedom of thought in the academy? As the higher education sector undergoes crisis and changes, are we likely to see a post-tenure future? What would that mean for the politics of the academy?

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