Jonathan Haidt seeks a hire

From an email, via Dan Klein:

We are seeking a talented and experienced researcher with some tech skills to help run two projects that use social science research to improve major American institutions. Your main job would be research director for HeterodoxAcademy.org, a collaboration of social scientists trying to increase viewpoint diversity in the academy. You would also be part of the team at EthicalSystems.org, a research collaboration that uses behavioral science to “make ethics easy” for businesses.

The ideal candidate will be a recent Ph.D. or ABD in the social sciences with both technological sophistication and excellent writing skills.

To Apply: Send a CV, writing sample, and cover letter explaining why you would be a good fit for the job to Jeremy Willinger, Communications Director, at  willinger@ethicalsystems.org.

Comments

Haidt seeks affirmative action for some of his fellow conservatives. Film at 11.

Haidt isn't a conservative.

He's a leftist?

Since Obama, he's divided the nation into real conservatives and radical leftists with nothing in between, or outside.

I know this from listening to the real Americans who are all conservatives.

Absolutely not, go to yourmorals.org and get tested, you'll see how you weight each of six moral values. Those who are heavy on a certain two are libertarian, a certain three are liberal, all six are conservative, and any other combination we just haven't come up with a name for them yet. Regardless there is a lot in between. In fact when you consider weighting there are infinite combinations.

To what degree does required registration act a a pre filter on results?

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He's a faux liberal in the same vain as Greg Lukianoff and Kirsten Powers.

At least you didn't call him racist; that shows a measure of self-restraint, anyway. Perhaps you're maturing.

I'm wondering who over at Crooked Timber is now using the handle 'Cassiodorus".

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But you know why they'd think so, right? He spends most of his time criticizing the left. If you're of the Schmittian persuasion (realpolitik) you're more apt to discern left from right individuals by who their enemies are, not by how they self-describe.

In other words, if it walks like a duck...

His object of study is the social psychology faculty. There is no non-left to criticize. In fact, there is no non-left in any arts-and-sciences discipline anymore other than the economics department, where you have a few libertarian capons.

'In fact, there is no non-left in any arts-and-sciences discipline anymore'

Americans are so clueless what a real left looks like that they say things like this in public, and expect non-Americans to agree.

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Americans are so clueless what a real left looks like that they say things like this in public, and expect non-Americans to agree.

I have no expectations of non-Americans. You evidently expect people to use conventional designations as if they were East German communists, which is just stupid.

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Not everyone who isn't on the regressive far left is a conservative.

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Dismissing Haidt as partisan is kind of like dismissing the Brookings Institution as partisan. It says far more about the speaker than the subject.

Haidt's primary topics are:
1. Writing about his belief that conservatives are more moral than liberals.
2. Lobbying for affirmative action for conservative professors.

No - his primary topic is that academia is turning into one big, homogeneous, anti-intellectual blob of groupthink.

Like in the movie, The Blob is not self-conscious.

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Stupid liberal academics!
They need to be more open to majority viewpoints in American conservatism, like Young Earth Creationism.

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@Milliam, one thing that drove him to do this was seeing how fields like animal psychology and evolutionary psychology, which had a greater mix of ideologies amongst academics were completely divergent from human psychology dominated by liberals, and the group of liberals were just throwing around terrible rationalizations like "conservatives are conservatives because they got spanked when they were little" with little critical thinking or rigor.

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Haidt studies the psychology of morality. He is essentially a liberal moderate, but his research has led him to the belief that many conservatives get a bad rap from his fellows in the academy. He devotes a significant amount of space in his book 'The Righteous Mind' to discussing how living in India changed his perspective. In many ways Indian culture is very conservative, and his openness to appreciating that culture let him to gain a greater appreciation for conservative culture in America.

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By that reasoning libertarians would be least moral, yet as a libertarian I liked his book. Haidt shows moral reasoning as a set heuristics we evolved to make decisions in an information scarce world. Now that we are more educated, and have more information we are dropping these heuristics and making more logical judgments.

So by that reasoning you could easily frame it as "Haidt's belief that liberals are more logical than conservatives".... yet that would make libertarians the most logical on his scale... hmmm...

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Cassiodorus,

What would you recommend as an alternative to reading Haidt to learn more about moral frameworks and the roots of acrimony in political discourse?

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Is this just a postdoc job? There's no mention of tenure track.

P.S. What's an ABD?

All But Dissertation: basically, a graduate student who is about to get their Ph.D.

Or a graduate student who will never get their PhD.

Thank you, gents. (If gents ye be.)

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Haidt's work would benefit progressives if they are able to get over the stereotypes he applies to progressives. Reading The Righteous Mind wasn't easy for this reader but I was open minded enough to realize I was learning more about progressives (and how conservatives see them) than by reading a book with a sympathetic portrait of progressives. [I use the term "progressive" not to avoid the "liberal" label but because "liberal" as used in the 19th century means the same as "conservative" does today. It can be confusing.]

The Righteous Mind doesn't say anything that isn't spouted fifty times a day on conservative talk radio. The only difference in Haidt's framing is that he doesn't consider them value judgments. Take fairness as an example. Haidt takes both sides claims to value "fairness" at face value. That those claims aren't really compatable are irrelevant in his framework.

So your complaint boils down to Haidt treating conservatives and liberals fairly and equally?

Why shouldn't he take both sides claims at face value?

That's what I say. Totally unfair to judge my camping expedition by any fairness framework other than my own

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No, my complaint is that he uses terms inconsistently when the results will make conservatives look good. He uses different definitions for fairness to say both groups value it, but then for a concept like loyalty he just spews standard conservative lines.

Who would you recommend we read as an alternative?

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> Haidt takes both sides claims to value “fairness” at face value.

As any academic should do, otherwise there would be an inherent bias in his research. You are complaining that he isn't biased. What Haidt does is deconflict why conservatives and liberals use the idea of fairness differently without saying either one is objectively right. Why they have different definitions of it, as if they are speaking a different language. He isn't engaging in pedantry, and you are complaining about it.

'As any academic should do, otherwise there would be an inherent bias in his research.'

There remains an odd inherent bias in research against Young Earth Creationism - obviously then, the problem is not Young Earth Creationism, but those in the academy biased against it in that do not consider it a valid framework for research in such areas as of geology, biology, or astronomy.

He talks mainly about differences over "values," so the modern science analogy does not apply. But your tiresome ipse dixits on such matters no doubt constitute the Platonic idea of the Good.

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The earth objective. It exists, you can measure it, it is defined outside out mind. On the other hand, you can't walk into a lab with some beakers, acetylene torch and a microscope and walk out knowing what a moral is because whatever morals are, they exist in our heads not outside our heads.

Haidt, being a liberal atheist, didn't think God came out and objectively created a universal set of morals, he viewed them as constructs that humans evolved, and thus like eye color, like skin tone, he expects them not to be universal, but different and subjective for every person.

I think you are more like the young earth creationist in this one, that is if you think morals are objective and universal rather than evolved and or created by man.

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"you can’t walk into a lab with some beakers, acetylene torch and a microscope and walk out knowing what a moral is because whatever morals are."

Absolutely. However, in the undergrad courses I took in science, I think there are broadly two types of science students. One group with practical considerations for employment. And a second group which wants to get into formal research, to discover new things, sometimes with an abstract interest in advancing knowledge for the sake of knowledge, but more generally with a view to dedicating their grey matter to solutions which will be of broad benefit to humanity.

I contrast this with the not uncommon view in finance that if you are smart enough to "trick" a million retirees out of $5 of their retirement each in an essentially zero sum game, that someone it is ethically OK and correct to amass your wealth by whatever method possible, by virtue of the fact that you were smart enough to do so. People in finance basically do not enter the field or engage in advanced research with a view to creating systems which are broadly better for society, and instead seek methods to enrich themselves or the companies they might work for in an essentially zero sum game. (And yes, lots of finance tools can help to allocate resources better, but this is not the objective of most people in finance.)

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'He talks mainly about differences over “values,” so the modern science analogy does not apply.'

Well, if one holds the idea that social science is not science. Many people do hold that view, of course, and it is not an unreasonable one. Often, in the eyes of the sort of people who also feel that evolution cannot possibly be a scientific concept due to the lack of observable experimental results.

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'walk out knowing what a moral is because whatever morals are, they exist in our heads not outside our heads'

As if society plays no role in everyone's tabula rasa state?

'he expects them not to be universal, but different and subjective for every person'

As is my experience of color - however, it isn't light that is subjective. To put it a bit differently - actions can be judged objectively as violations of a codex, where the subjective question of 'morals' is simply removed from consideration, regardless of what one thinks of that codex (within the boundary of a shared culture/society). We live in a social context, after all, not a private one.

'I think you are more like the young earth creationist in this one, that is if you think morals are objective and universal'

Nothing human is objective and universal - but that observation is the starting point of science, not its end point.

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Modern social science is positivist and thus has no basis to evaluate the correctness of moral values. Haidt follows this approach and takes people's values as givens to be analyzed. Those who simply dismiss the values of others who prioritize loyalty, authority, sanctity, etc. or have different ideas of things of fairness as the equivalent of believing in Young Earth Creationism is nothing more than an expression of prejudice and an affirmation of their own tribal loyalty.

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If he did that consistently, you'd have a point. The problem is that for other dimensions of his theory he takes conservative claims and frames at face value and bashes liberals for not agreeing with those claims.

No, he doesn't. He criticizes liberals for not considering conservatives values from within their moral framework. He's asking liberals to get out of their insular little cove and try to understand conservative on their own terms. Basically the same thing that liberals seem to insist upon when it's applied to any other culture. We're supposed to understand Islamic fundamentalists worldview and put their actions into context, but the same courtesy cannot be extended to political conservatives in the US.

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Who would you recommend we read as an alternative?

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Yes, a lot of his work is about explaining how conservatives and progressive have different concepts about what constitutes fairness.
For instance, "equal distribution" is fairness to a progressive (everyone gets an equal share), whereas "proportionality" is fairness to a conservative (people get a share in proportion to how much work they put in). Both side use the word "fairness" , but they mean different things by it.

Which is to use the words in a meaningless way.

If you don't understand that words can mean different things to different people, then you're not worth debating.

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reading his book I learned a whole lot about libertarians, more that I would reading Hayek or someone like that, and libertarians are really just a footnote. I think it's the sort of book where whatever ideology you are, you learn about yourself more than anything else.

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So do you have to list what disgusts you and your views on child sacrifice on your cover letter?

What does it pay? Where does Haidt stand on minimum wage for interns?

Well, if there's child sacrifice involved, I'm going to have to up my rates WELL above minimum wage...

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Why do you assume he was seeking out a conservative for heterodox views.

It could be a Marxist he is looking for.

It has been thirty years since Alan Bloom pointed out that Marxism was the dominant ideology in academia. In Liberal Arts Faculties a conservative is anyone to the right of Trotsky.

It is not a Marxist he is looking for.

Source:
a 45 years working in all the Liberal Arts Faculties
b what dudes on the internet tell you to think

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'In Liberal Arts Faculties a conservative is anyone to the right of Trotsky.'

So, the retired naval captain that taught a semester long Milton class in the GMU English dept. (he was formerly the department chair) would probably be right of Trotsky. It is even possible he was to the right of Reagan, actually - naval captains tending to be big fans of a big navy, after all.

Obviously, we are talking about the GMU of the past - though its stature and size have only grown over time, apparently - but the idea that no one in academia is anything but a Marxist ignores reality. Not to mention an excellent system of American military academies and war colleges.

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Bloom argued in fact that it is an improbable mix of Marx and Nietzsche/Heidegger. It retains the repulsive egalitarianism of the former, but because economics is boring, it combines it with the emphasis on culture (power relations) found in the latter. Hence the focus on identity politics, intersectionality, etc. Standard issue liberals then think of themselves as being relatively moderate and are put on the defensive when harangued by their more radically transgressive colleagues.

I agree except, to take Bloom at his word, there is nothing improbable about the mix. As he points out, Nietzsche is just one of many products of German culture that Americans soaked up in the late 19th and early 20th centuries but then domesticated and Americanized. Nietzsche is elitist and anti-democratic and that's offensive to mainstream American sensibilities so they rejected that part but embraced the radical individualist and heroic part of Nietzsche's thought. Out of context, those parts of Nietzsche fit quite well with the pioneering, individualistic part of the American character so it's a natural fit.

What a lot of conservatives who didn't quite finish his book seemed to miss is that Bloom almost certainly was a Nietzschean himself including the atheist, elitist and anti-democratic bits. He criticized his fellow academics for embracing a tepid, soft-headed bastardization of Nietzschean thought.

The mix was improbable precisely because Marx was a rationalist and egalitarian but Nietzsche and Heidegger rejected both reason and equality. And Bloom was almost certainly not a Nietzschean. As a translator of Plato's Republic, Bloom's atheism and criticism of democracy are better explained by reference to Platonic political philosophy, which is what Straussians generally endorse.

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The only place in the brick and mortar world that I've met legitimate Marxists is among homeless punks who have somehow amassed broad awareness of both historical philosophical aspects of early economics and (exaggerated) run of the mill critiques of a pure laissez faire capitalist system. They tend to have more in common with libertarians than your average social democrat, in that they view government as the problem and (naively, I think) prefer to count on things like good neighbours and social endeavours driven at the local level as solutions to most of our problems.

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