Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Five Rules of Morality

I came across an article by Jon Haidt on how people see moral differences.

I know how my conservative friends value loyalty and stability more than my liberal friends who value fairness and compassion. Jonathan Haidt is at the University of Virginia and he has developed a scheme for describing this. It is described in this article. (Click here for a more scholarly version, and here for a NYTimes pop version.)

The five dimensions of morality are:

Harm/Care - It is wrong to hurt people and right to relieve suffering.

Fairness/reciprocity -  Justice and fairrness are good; people have rights that need to be upheld in social interactions. 

Authority/respect - People should respect the social order, and the social order is necessary for life. 

In-group loyalty -  people should be true to their group and wary of outsiders. Allegiance, loyalty and patriotism are virtues and betrayal is bad. 

Purity/sanctity - The body and certain aspects of life are sacred. Cleanliness and health, as well as their derivatives of chastity and piety are all good. Pollution, contamination, and associated character traits of lust and greed are all bad.  

You can assess your moral compass at I measured mine and came out fairly conservative. It is on the graph above, and mine is the green bar.

There are two kinds of morality, one based on reasoning, and one based on feelings. Perhaps the right brain's morality and the left brain's morality.  The purity rule is one that I feel, and can't really explain.

Jon Haidt talks about how some moral views are selected by evolution. He works at the interface between biology and psychology.  I want to look into his views a little more.  It is like other evolutionary-sociology with  lots of lightly supported theories based on lifestyle assumptions for early humans and hominids.