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  • Topic: Morality, Sociology, Conservatism
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Haidt & Graham -- 1

When morality opposes justice: Conservatives have moral intuitions that liberals may not recognize Jonathan Haidt and Jesse Graham University of Virginia February 1, 2006 Second draft of invited submission to special issue of Social Justice Research, on emotions and justice [8026 words for full MS]

Abstract Researchers in moral psychology and social justice have agreed that morality is about matters of harm, rights, and justice. With this definition of morality, conservative opposition to social justice programs has appeared to be immoral, and has been explained as a product of various non-moral processes, such as system justification or social dominance orientation. In this article we argue that, from an anthropological perspective, the moral domain is usually much broader, encompassing many more aspects of social life and valuing institutions as much or more than individuals. We present theoretical and empirical reasons for believing that there are in fact five psychological systems that provide the foundations for the world’s many moralities. The five foundations are psychological preparations for caring about and reacting emotionally to harm, reciprocity (including justice, fairness, and rights), ingroup, hierarchy, and purity. Political liberals have moral intuitions primarily based upon the first two foundations, and therefore misunderstand the moral motivations of political conservatives, who generally rely upon all five foundations.

Haidt & Graham -- 2

Suppose your next-door neighbor puts up a large sign in her front yard that says “Cable television will destroy society.” You ask her to explain the sign, and she replies, “Cables are an affront to the god Thoth. They radiate theta waves, which make people sterile.” You ask her to explain how a low voltage, electrically-shielded coaxial cable can make anyone sterile, but she changes the subject. The DSM-IV defines a delusion as “a false belief based on incorrect inference about external reality that is firmly sustained despite what almost everyone else believes and despite what constitutes incontrovertible and obvious proof or evidence to the contrary” (APA, DSM-IV, 1994, p.765). Your neighbor is clearly delusional, and possibly schizophrenic. She is responding to forces, threats, and agents that simply do not exist. But now suppose your other neighbor puts up a large sign in his front yard that says “Gay marriage will destroy society.” You ask him to explain the sign, and he replies, “Homosexuality is an abomination to God. Gay marriage will undermine marriage, the institution upon which our society rests.” You ask him to explain how allowing two people to marry who are in love and of the same sex will harm other marriages, but he changes the subject. Because your neighbor is not alone in his beliefs, he does not meet the DSM-IV criteria for delusion. However, you might well consider your homophobic neighbor almost as delusional, and probably more offensive, than your cable-fearing neighbor. He, too, seems to be responding to forces, threats, and agents that do not exist, only in this case his widely shared beliefs have real victims: the millions of men and women who are prohibited from marrying the people they love, and who are treated unjustly in matters of family law and social prestige. If only there were some way to break through your neighbor’s delusions – some moral equivalent of Thorazine – which would help him see the facts as you see them. But what makes you so certain that you see the moral world as it really is? If you are reading Social Justice Research, it is likely that you care a great deal about issues related to justice, fairness, equality, and victimization. It is also likely that you don’t care as much about patriotic displays, respect for authority, or chastity. In fact, these last three topics might even make you feel uneasy, calling up associations with political conservatism, the religious right, and other...
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