November 21, 2013

The Righteous Mind By Jonathon Haidt: Critique Postscript

There’s so much to be said about moral psychologist Jonathon Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012). I have had my time upon the stage in my critique of the book and am grateful to those who read my post. Let me take things a bit further, however, and discuss one other matter that puts me off about Haidt's work, something I did not address in my critique.  That is, his interpretation of his data on the Left and why members of the Left score as they do on his tests.

Haidt’s portrayal of the Left is incomplete. His claim may be supported by his moral foundation questionnaire but he fails to explain why those on the Left hold the moral positions they do. For example, Haidt claims that members of the Left do not value loyalty as much as members of the Right. Yes, that is true. But the facts of his test result are not sufficient. The matter doesn’t end there. The reasons members of the Left score lower on the loyalty foundation is crucial to understanding the difference between the Left and the Right, and the nature of morality generally.

November 2, 2013

Good And Evil: Hardwired, Learned, Or Both?

by Piercarlo Valdesolo
Scientific American, October 29, 2013

"The longer we cling to strong beliefs about the existence of pure evil, the more aggressive and antisocial we become.  And we may be aggressing towards individuals who are, in fact, 'redeemable.'  Individuals who are not intrinsically and immutably motivated by the desire to intentionally cause harm to others."

What if our strong reductionistic, deterministic scientists some day establish an irrefutable gene, gene complex, and/or a neural basis for evil? Would redemption, atonement, and rehabilitation still be possible? Why bother? What would become of societal values, moral codes and laws, of individual deliberative judgment?  Would we regard them simply as post hoc rationalizations of what our genes and brains direct us to do? Would the social sciences become mere descriptions of artifacts and a cataloguing of individual, societal, and global events that genes and brains have dictated?