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List Of The Passages I Highlighted In My Copy Of Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”

From the Department of Being Very Complete In Listing Possible Explanations:

It turns out that witchcraft beliefs arise in surprisingly similar forms in many parts of the world, which suggests either that there really are witches or (more likely) that there’s something about human minds that often generates this cultural institution. The Azande believed that witches were just as likely to be men as women, and the fear of being called a witch made the Azande careful not to make their neighbors angry or envious. That was my first hint that groups create supernatural beings not to explain the universe but to order their societies.

Seems related to some of my recent thoughts on unschooling:

[Piaget] also found that it’s pointless for adults to explain the conservation of volume to kids. The kids won’t get it until they reach an age (and cognitive stage) when their minds are ready for it. And when they are ready, they’ll figure it out for themselves just by playing with cups of water.

If this is true, it seems very very important and people should be trying harder to exploit it:

[Todorov] collected photographs of the winners and runners-up in hundreds of elections for the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. He showed people the pairs of photographs from each contest with no information about political party, and he asked them to pick which person seemed more competent. He found that the candidate that people judged more competent was the one who actually won the race about two-thirds of the time.

On what separates us from the apes:

Michael Tomasello, one of the world’s foremost experts on chimpanzee cognition, [said] “It is inconceivable that you would ever see two chimpanzees carrying a log together.”

On what doesn’t separate us from the apes:

Acheulean tools [a style used by hominids 1.8 million years ago] are nearly identical everywhere, from Africa to Europe to Asia, for more than a million years. There’s hardly any variation, which suggests that the knowledge of how to make these tools may not have been passed on culturally. Rather, the knowledge of how to make these tools may have become innate, just as the “knowledge” of how to build a dam is innate in beavers.

One of those “Huh, I guess thousands of very intelligent people throughout all human history haven’t been doing something useless for no reason” moments:

In September 1941, William McNeill was drafted in the US Army. He spent several months in basic training, which consisted mostly of marching around the drill field in close formation with a few dozen other men. At first McNeill thought the marching was just a way to pass the time, because his base had no weapons with which to train. But after a few weeks, when his unit began to synchronize well, he began to experience an altered state of consciousness. “Words are inadequate to describe the emotion aroused by the prolonged movement in unison that drilling involved. A sense of pervasive well-being is what I recall; more specifically, a strange sense of personal enlargement; a sort of swelling out, becoming bigger than life, thanks to participation in collective ritual.” McNeill fought in World War II and later became a distinguished historian. His research led him to the conclusion that the key innovation of Greek, Roman, and later European armies was the sort of synchronous drilling and marching the army had forced him to do years before.

Would-be commune founders, take note:

The anthropologist Richard Sosis examined the history of two hundred communes founded in the United States in the nineteenth century. Which kind of commune survived longest? Sosis found that the difference was stark: just 6% of the secular communes were still functioning twenty years after their founding, compared to 39% of religious communes. He found one master variable: the number of costly sacrifices that each commune demanded from its members. It was things like giving up alcohol and tobacco, fasting for days at a time, conforming to a communal dress code or hairstyle, or cutting ties with outsiders. For religious communes, the effect was perfectly linear: the more sacrificce a commune demanded, the longer it lasted. But Sosis was surprised to discover that demands for sacrifice did not help secular communes. Most of them failed within eight years, and there was no correlation between sacrifice and longevity.

This is a very interesting application of the trust game, but I feel like I’ve seen some experiments that show the opposite as well:

A team of German economists asked subjects to play a game in which one person is the “truster”, who is given some money on each round of the game. The truster is then asked to decide how much money, if any, to pass on to an anonymous “trustee”. Any money passed gets tripled by the experimenter, at which point the “trustee” can choose how much, if any, to return to the truster. Behavioral economists use this game often, but the novel twist in this study was to reveal one piece of real, true personal information about the trustees to the trusters. In some cases, the truster learned the trustee’s level of religiosity, on a scale of 1 to 5. When trusters learned that their trustee was religious, they transferred more money. More important, the religious trustees really did transfer back more money than did the nonreligious trustees, even though they never knew anything about their trusters. The highest levels of wealth, therefore, would be created when religious people get to play a trust game with other religious people.

Another “Oh, that explains it” moment:

Even today, markets that require a very high trust to function efficiently are often dominated by religiously bound ethnic groups (such as ultra-Orthodox Jews in the diamond market) who have lower transaction and monitoring costs than their secular competitors.

Very curious if same effect in “Sunday Assembly” style groups:

Why are religious people better neighbors and citizens? To find out, Putnam and Campbell included on one of their surveys a long list of questions about religious beliefs and practices. These beliefs and practices turned out to matter very little. The only thing that was reliably and powerfully correlated with the moral benefits of religion was how enmeshed people were in relationships with their co-religionists…Putnam and Campbell’s work shows that religion in the United States nowadays generates such vast surpluses of social capital that much of it spills over and benefits outsiders.

We keep losing these intellectual Turing tests, and I’m pretty sure I can’t blame this one on Gilbert being an outlier who should not be counted:

We tested how well liberals and conservatives could understand each other. We asked more than two thousand Americans to fill out the Moral Foundations Questionnaire. One third of the time they were asked to fill it out normally, answering as themselves. One third of the time they were asked to fill it out as they think a “typical liberal” would respond. One third of the time they were asked to fill it out as a “typical conservative” would respond. This design allowed us to examine the stereotypes that each side held about the other. More important, it allowed us to assess how accurate they were. Who was best able to pretend to be the other? The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who described themselves as “very liberal”.

Where do libertarians fall on personality measures? No surprises here:

We found that libertarians tend to look more like liberals than like conservaatives on most measures of personality. For example, both groups score higher than conservatives on openness to experience, and lower on disgust sensitivity and conscientiousness. Where libertarians diverge from liberals most sharply is on … the Care foundation, where they score very low (even lower than conservatives).

Another one from the Department of Insight Porn:

We learned that much of the increase in political polarization was unavoidable. It was the natural result of the political realignment that took place after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act in 1964. The conservative southern states, which had been solidly Democratic since the Civil War (since Lincoln was a Republican) then began to leave the Democratic Party, and by the 1990s the South was solidly Republican. Before this realignment there had been liberals and conservatives in both parties, which made it easy to form bipartisan teams who could work together.

From the Department of Unexpected Consequences:

But we also learned about factors that might possibly be reversed. The most poignant moment of the conference came when Jim Leach, a former Republican congressman from Iowa, described the changes that began in 1995. Newt Gingrich, the new speaker of the House of Representatives, encouraged the large group of incoming Republicans to leave their families in their home districts rather than moving their spouse and children to Washington. Before 1995, Congressmen from both parties attended many of the same social events on weekends; their spouses became friends; their children played on the same sports teams. But nowadays most Congressmen fly to Washington on Monday night, huddle with their teammates and do battle for three days, and then fly home on Thursday night. Cross-party friendships are disappearing; Manichaeism and scorched Earth politics are increasing.

From the Archipelago Establishment Working Group:

Our counties and towns are becoming increasingly segregated into “lifestyle enclaves”, in which ways of voting, eating, working, and worshipping are increasingly aligned.

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170 Responses to List Of The Passages I Highlighted In My Copy Of Jonathan Haidt’s “The Righteous Mind”

  1. Konkvistador says:

    There is a reoccuring thought experiment on what the impact of transporting a unit on matines into ancient Rome would be. How much could they conquer with modern technology? Yes, I probably read too many alternative history forums if I think this a common thing to wonder about. But on twitter I explored its reverse a few months ago when thinking about what me and Nyan have come to call social technology. Altered consciousness induced by marching seems a great example of an arsenal a legion could deploy that all modern institutions don’t have. How much could a legion of ancient Romans conquer if transported to modern times?

    The answer I think likely is quite a bit. Effective control of several Western cities seems likely. Recently Ukraone was nearly conquered by far more primitive means in Kiev street battles.

    • Anonymous says:

      “unit on matines” – unit of marines?

      • lambdaphage says:

        Given the rest of the post, “troops high on morning prayers” could also be credible.

    • Sly says:

      I think a more realistic answer is that they could conquer just about nothing. “Outgunned” in the most literal sense of the word.

      • Konkvistador says:

        If this is the case why do Western states seem incapable of asserting sovereignty against stone age social technology as can be seen in street battles for Kiev a few months ago or Swedish incapacity to prevent stores and cars from being torched or the conquest of inner cities by simple tribes? Perhaps because all of these are proxies. But then why couldn’t a legion of Romans be a better proxy? Anyone sponsoring them could easily displace the listed proxies with them.

        • suntzuanime says:

          The social math works out differently depending on whether you’re shooting your own citizens or shooting time-traveling Romans.

          The social math also works out differently depending on whether you’re shooting someone who is trying to assert sovereignty (which is what it means to “conquer” something), or if you’re shooting someone who is merely burning shit down.

          A better question might be, how many states could prevent the Gauls from sacking their capital? Those states have some claim to have advanced past Rome.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Also, as noted above, the Romans always had trouble with their own plebs (and, during the late Republic, pissed off the legionnaires through systemic fraud and withholding benefits). Our word “Proletariat” comes from the original unproductive masses and literally means that they were only seen by the state as the means of reproduction. The large prole population of Imperial Rome was the original welfare class; rabble easily bribed with proto-foodstamps. It is really kind of ignorant to bring up Rome as an example of strict internal social control. The Gracchi, in particular, were killed in part for attempting to make the grain dole more official and centrally controlled, which would have undermined the ease with which individual power brokers influenced the rabble.

          (Incidentally, gushing about Roman “social technology” when they were literally running wild with the things Obama is only accused of doing feels like the inverse of dog-whistling about “Obamaphones” – the so-sensible-it’s-obvious “bootstraps” program that American conservatives ought to praise if they cared more about lifting up the underclass through jobs and social connections than humiliating and segregating it.)

        • Multiheaded says:

          P.S. Wait, damn, here is Scott drawing a better and more informed comparison between the Roman and American welfare states:

          http://slatestarcodex.com/2013/10/31/the-poor-you-will-always-have-with-you/

          If the essay is trying to compare the grateful Roman poor and the entitled, demanding modern poor, I propose that the Roman recipients of the annona were as entitled and demanding as any modern. Ancient Roman leaders automatically assumed any hiccup in the flow of free grain would lead to riots, and their assumption was justified. You may for example read the section on Roman food riots here. Particular high points are the riots of 22 BC, during which rioters threatened to burn the senators alive if they didn’t produce enough free grain, and the riots of 190 AD, when Papirius Dionysius, the prefect in charge of the grain supply, accused political enemy Marcus Aurelius Cleander of threatening it – the disturbance ended when the Emperor Commodus killed Cleander and his son and threw their heads out to the angry mob (which instantly calmed down and dispersed).

          Konkvistador, I am addressing you as a friend and a comrade to check your veering off into complete bullshit! Tell me, whose heads would Barack Obama throw to the mob? Would Kshama Sawant? Hell, would Jesse Jackson? (He might tacitly condone some kind of violence, but that’s light years away.) Modern bourgeois democracies are unimaginably more advanced in social stability and control compared to the Romans.

          P.S. it’s awfully hard for me to decipher my comments on that post… must’ve been high as shit.

          P.P.S…. November 4, 2013… oh my god ARGH fuck! I was having a psychotic break! I was institutionalized for two weeks after that! I’m triggered ARGH FUCK. Scott! Please delete all of my comments on that post!

        • Multiheaded says:

          help i got triggered help

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Multiheaded, I think the resolution between the reactionaries endorsing policies that they condemn in particular examples in the modern day is that they are formalist: they want explicit acknowledgement of power and deals around it.

        • Multiheaded says:

          I think the resolution between the reactionaries endorsing policies that they condemn in particular examples in the modern day is that they are formalist

          Yet another thing that the Romans, with their complex relationships of patronage, seem to have been worse at than the modern bourgeois state.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          The world is complicated. That the patronage is complicated does not seem to me to be an argument that it does not accurately represent the dealings of power.

  2. Konkvistador says:

    Remember that the social technology used by Roman legions was lost and only remastered nearly a millenia later. If I had to bet I would say Romans could do better than modern army instructors for creating effective organizations.

    • Charlie says:

      Ditto for Roman medicine, sanitation, construction, machinery, farming… the list of things Romans must have been better at than present-day people just keeps growing and growing.

      Sadly, the masses cannot grasp their genius, and do not know the complete extent of their techniques, so they think they understand, and think we have surpassed the Romans.

      • Stuart Armstrong says:

        The Romans were great engineers, administrators and combatants, but poor innovators and speculative thinkers.

        I doubt they would be much good with modern technology (even less with developing future technologies). Our social and military structures have co-evolved to make the most out of our technology, through experimentation (and other things like market economies). It’s not just “give the legions guns, and all will be well”. Militaries have to be completely reorganised to benefit from guns, social and economic structures have to change to best produce guns, etc… Consider the various iterations the modern militaries have gone through just on the role of officers, the importance of independent thinking vs chain of command, etc… I see no reason to believe that the Roman culture would show independent skill at this.

        EDIT: if we’re going to have a discussion about this, I should probably start listing some things that would change my mind:

        *Evidence that the Romans were in fact technologically innovative.

        *Evidence that the Romans were socially innovative.

        *Evidence that the Romans were willing to reorganise their society to take advantage of a new development.

        *Evidence that the Romans were willing to learn in major ways from their opponent.

        *For maximum points, these major changes would have to be in a few generations (<100 years) and during the Roman period when they had military domination (so probably the Empire).

        Am I holding the Romans to higher standards than today's societies? Of course I am. We already have market economies, the scientific method, and military R&D. To best take advantage of modern weaponry, the Romans will have to develop these, which means wrenching changes to their society. Hence also:

        *Evidence that market economies (with or without large governments) are not the best way of generating surplus wealth.

        *Evidence that there are better innovation paths that the scientific method, that could be used by Romans.

        *Evidence that it is NOT true that parts of the modern mindset (such as the vision of constant tech progress) are essential to modern technological development.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          What do you mean when you say that they were great engineers?

        • Stuart Armstrong says:

          Douglas Knight: Road and infrastructure builders.

        • Salem says:

          *Evidence that the Romans were willing to learn in major ways from their opponent.

          The Romans were of course famous for learning in major ways from their opponents, from reverse-engineering Punic shipbuilding technology from a single captured ship, to the wholesale adoption of Greek military technology (e.g. Greek fire), to the incorporation of Germanic foederati and their cavalry tactics, and so on. In fact, the history of the Romans is one of constant adaptation and learning from their opponents and neighbours, to the extent that the culture of Byzantium in 1000 is unrecognisable from that of Rome in 400 BC.

        • What Salem said.

          It should be noted that the Romans had to adapt to quite a few changes as they went from a city-state of autonomous land-owners to the rulers of a huge empire. On one hand, they managed these changes without collapsing; on the other hand, appropriate changes to the structure of the government didn’t exactly happen smoothly, as shown by the history of the socii and the Social War, of the Gracchi and their agricultural/economic reforms, of the civil wars of the late Republic (think not just Caesar, but also Sulla before him and Augustus after him), etc.

          They did manage to absorb Greek philosophy, Eastern mysticism and Christianity, though.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          If the Romans had absorbed Greek philosophy, it wouldn’t have taken thousands of years to catch up with Greek engineering.

        • Anthony says:

          Douglas Knight – that would depend on *which* Greek philosophies they absorbed.

          Also, the Greeks were more inventive than the Romans, but less coordinated; Roman *engineering* was better than the Greeks. The Roman genius was taking something the Greeks invented and spreading it everywhere.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          If you think that aqueducts are the best that the Greeks had to offer, then you could say that the Romans were as good as the Greeks, but I don’t see how you could say that they were better.

          In particular, the Romans probably demonstrated better coordination in building road networks than the Greeks, but I would call that management, not engineering.

        • Earnest_Peer says:

          @ Douglay Knight: The romans apparently dug tunnels through mountains starting at both sides, and meeting in the middle. Unlike building roads, that takes some actual engineering.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          There are two points here: absolute and relative engineering skill.

          The roads were given as an example of how the Romans surpassed the Greeks. Tunneling through a mountain from both sides is not an example of surpassing the Greeks.

          It’s not an innovation of the Hellenistic Greeks, or even the Classical period, but from the 6th century. Which suggests that it’s not that impressive in an absolute sense – just a dog leg. Hellenistic and Roman roads – the individual stretches, not the network – probably are more sophisticated. Aqueducts that run uphill definitely are.

      • Multiheaded says:

        Sadly, the masses cannot grasp their genius

        :tips fedora:

  3. Dan says:

    Free copyediting: “Todorow” should be “Todorov”

  4. DoppiaM says:

    AFAIK chimps sometimes hunt in groups. How is carrying a log togheter cognitively different? You still have to understand the intentions of the other chimps, the ultimate goal, and work together effectively. How does he expand on that point?

    • Anonymous says:

      They certainly hunt chimps in groups.

    • anon says:

      Are chimps as tactical as you believe? I don’t know whether their fights depend on modelling the fighting of allies.

      • Anonymous says:

        Grabbing different limbs of the opponent is pretty similar to taking different ends of a log. But it requires less coordination.

  5. Stuart Armstrong says:

    >He found that the candidate that people judged more competent was the one who actually won the race about two-thirds of the time.

    Since election victory is almost entirely determined by party membership, there’s a huge confounder somewhere in the background there.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Or you know, something very silly: tall, “leadery” looking men are judged more competent and thus win more often.

      • Stuart Armstrong says:

        Still doesn’t explain why the party that has the lock in the district would be more likely to select the taller man.

        There’s probably a “better looking candidates are preferred by colleagues and hence selected by their party for more winnable seats” effect or something.

        • suntzuanime says:

          If you’re a cool guy, you probably don’t waste your time running for a seat your party is locked out of. Opposition candidates for safe seats probably tend to be huge nerdlingers that would hold a political campaign as a hobby, instead of as a bid for any actual power.

        • Vulture says:

          @suntzuanime

          Ding ding ding! Sounds right to me.

    • Anonymous says:

      Are you saying that most districts are gerrymandered and the other party doesn’t put up a serious candidate?

    • suntzuanime says:

      Maybe the photos were taken right after results were announced and the winner looked happy while the loser looked crushed.

    • rly says:

      I believe I looked at this study a while ago, and it was framed in a

      “Those with more testosterone are more likely to have particular facial morphology, this morphology gives the impression that they’re more dominant (often shown to be true), which in turn is associated with winning elections”

      type of way.

      There’s plenty of literature on facial morphology/morphometry which tends to support this kind of theory.

      • Matthew says:

        But female candidates sometimes defeat male candidates, and the most high-testosterone women still have much less than the lowest-testosterone males.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      That seems to predict that for US Congress races, this method would work better on the House than the Senate, yet the difference is small and the Senate is more predictable. public pdf ; official text, requiring free registration.

  6. manichaeus says:

    Manichaeism is making a comeback? I guess that’s the logical endpoint of Protestantism.

  7. Deiseach says:

    There’s hardly any variation, which suggests that the knowledge of how to make these tools may not have been passed on culturally.

    *sighs* Or, maybe Mr. It’s Bloody Obvious You’ve Never Used A Billhook To Clear Away Undergrowth, the form follows the function? The optimal design for the purpose, given that physics works the same all over the world (as far as we can tell), is going to be re-discovered through trial and error and long-term use. That means that the best “rock for socking Ug in the back of the head and stealing his stuff” is not going to be very much different whatever part of the world you and Ug are living in.

    Sure, when you get the fancy big-brained guys on the scene, then you get more variation, more invention, the whole lot: but the basic principles underlying the design remain the same.

    About the army drilling: I suppose you’ve never heard the “hayfoot, strawfoot” joke? About the sergeant who is faced with a bunch of new recruits, most of them farm boys and down from the mountains and out of the bogs, and when he tries to get them to march “Right, left, right, left” it is a complete mess.

    Finally after a couple of weeks, in desperation (because these are all country boys and even if they can’t tell their right from their left, they know the difference between hay and straw), he gets them to tie a sop of straw to their left foot and a wisp of hay to their right, then drills them to march “Hayfoot, strawfoot, hayfoot, strawfoot!” which works 🙂

    • David says:

      Suddenly the context of the hook line of that 16 Horsepower song is filled in for me. Thanks!

    • Vaniver says:

      The optimal design for the purpose, given that physics works the same all over the world (as far as we can tell), is going to be re-discovered through trial and error and long-term use.

      I was under the impression that the atlatl was discovered only in a handful of places that could have used it, despite it being fairly simple and very useful.

      • Randy M says:

        Saying that all axes will look a certain way isn’t the same as saying every tribe will have had axes.

  8. Salem says:

    [Liberals] keep losing these intellectual Turing tests

    Well of course. I used to think that this is because liberalism is the dominant intellectual culture, so liberals never have to encounter conservative ideas if they don’t want to (whereas the reverse is not true). And while I still think this is a factor, I don’t think it’s the whole story – notice that moderates do much better than liberals. I think what’s really going on is that liberals are refuse to understand conservatives. Conservatives say liberals are foolish and misguided (toned down – “I disagree with your ideas”) but liberals say conservatives are evil – I don’t even know what the toned down version of that is! It’s not just a semantic stopsign, it’s a deliberate refusal to engage – after all, if your interlocutor really is the devil, you should refuse to listen to his no-doubt-subtly-persuasive arguments about why selling him your soul would be a good idea.

    I therefore suspect being able to accurately represent conservative viewpoints is viewed with great hostility among liberals, especially the very liberal. Proposed test: go to lawyersgunsandmoney, or a similar website, and, on the latest post misrepresenting conservative views on a subject, post “While I’m not a conservative, conservatives actually favour that policy because of such-and-such…”. I predict a furious reaction, being told that you are clearly a conservative, being argued with as if you actually espoused that position, accused of being a troll, etc. Purity theatre.

    • James says:

      ‘Purity theatre’ seems like a really useful expression.

    • Creutzer says:

      I have a suspicion that there is also another factor (I’m pretty sure someone else must have pointed this out somewhere in the LW/SSC sphere, so it’s probably not original with me): conversatives have all six Haidtian foundations of morals, liberals have only three of them. So while a conservative is, at least in principle, equipped to see where a liberal might be coming from, liberals just don’t get where a conservative is coming from because they have no resources to simulate someone who cares about sanctity and respect for authority.

      • Anonymous says:

        Hrm. I wonder if “conservatives reason from moral bases I do not have” is the milder version of “conservatives are evil.” Like… before I learned about moral foundations theory I spent quite a bit of time under the impression that my conservative friends were crazy moral mutants, and I don’t think that’s necessarily an irrational conclusion to come to if, from your perspective, the person has a blue and orange morality.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Hrm. I wonder if “conservatives reason from moral bases I do not have” is the milder version of “conservatives are evil.”

          I’ve seen conservatives discussing Haidt’s book bring it up as a milder version of “liberals are defective and mentally ill”. Personally, of course I think that if the foundations are useful categories, then they must be human universals expressed differently and directed at different things by different Weltanschauungs.

      • Amanda L. says:

        That’s a brilliant point. I remember reading about Haidt and thinking “yes, but don’t sanctity and respect for authority *really* just reduce down to harm in the end? They’re instrumental for a harmonious society, which is good because it reduces harm and increases anti-harm, right?”

        Actually, I could do this with any of the other foundations. So basically I’m failing, again, at alieving how anyone can truly *fundamentally* not be utilitarian.

        • Sage says:

          Actually, I could do this with any of the other foundations. So basically I’m failing, again, at alieving how anyone can truly *fundamentally* not be utilitarian.

          Depending on your definition of ‘utility’, sure. But here you seem to be implicitly defining a utility function about minimizing harm:

          That’s a brilliant point. I remember reading about Haidt and thinking “yes, but don’t sanctity and respect for authority *really* just reduce down to harm in the end? They’re instrumental for a harmonious society, which is good because it reduces harm and increases anti-harm, right?”

          Here’s a perfectly valid counter-system:

          There exists a Supreme Authority. Obeying that Supreme Authority is an intrinsic good. Disobeying that Supreme Authority is an intrinsic evil. Inflicting harm on those who disobey that Supreme Authority is an intrinsic good, even over and above the good inhered in following that Supreme Authority’s commandments to inflict harm on those who disobey It. Beyond this, “harm” is utterly irrelevant. One is justified – indeed, compelled – to perform any actions necessary, with no regard to the harm inflicted on anyone (including oneself), to ensure that maximum harm is inflicted on those who disobey the Supreme Authority, and to ensure that disobedience to the Supreme Authority is as difficult as possible. This is because your own existence is only instrumental (it allows you to obey the Supreme Authority), not intrinsic (the Supreme Authority does not care about you, except that you obey It.)

        • Said Achmiz says:

          Now, hold on. I, too, have the reaction to “sanctity” and “respect for authority” (but not all of the rest of the foundations) that you describe, but I am not a utilitarian. Even believing that everything may be boiled down to harm reduction is not sufficient to make one a utilitarian; one sticking point is whether you think utility (or harm or whatever unitary measure you like) may be unproblematically aggregated across subjects.

      • Ghatanathoah says:

        Isn’t there a common counterargument to Haidt that liberals care about all five foundations too, they just have different referents for them. Like that political correctness and “diversity” are the liberal versions of “tribal loyalty” and that environmentalism is the equivalent of “purity?”

        If that’s the case then liberals are emotionally equipped to understand conservatives and the confusion is merely failure to understand how one’s moral foundations can by triggered by X instead of by Y.

      • Charlie says:

        This is a good point. Also, looking at the experimental design and results, what happened was that the sampled liberals overestimated the degree to which the sampled conservatives would use e.g. purity or authority rather than harm or fairness – they overrated the differences and underrated the similarities.

        Because the list did not have any values that were framed as particularly liberal (“welfare,” maybe, or “environmentalism,” or “racial sensitivity”), the sampled conservatives simply did not have the option to screw up in the same way the liberals did.

        Haidt might argue that this is inherent in the values people have. But my problem is that this experiment looks at political exaggeration entirely through the lens of this categorization of values – if that theory doesn’t capture the fullness of politics, then this experiment only gives us weak results.

      • Eli says:

        I think the more significant question is: which of those moral foundations correspond to things that actually exist in the real world?

        My specific implication is: do sanctity and respect for authority really, actually mean anything objective? If you take away irrational beliefs in Sacred Springs and Triforces of Courage, do Purity of the Springs and Respect for the Legendary Hero make any actual sense?

        Or were they perhaps just useful for keeping a group together in our ancestral environment?

        • Sanctity and authority really, objectively mean things in precisely the same way that theft really, objectively means something. Ownership is not an objective property of the external world, being undiscoverable by any observation of the owned object in isolation, but is rather a social convention. Nonetheless, if you steal something, but the victim and the courts will agree that you really, objectively committed a crime by virtue of violating the social convention.

          Likewise, even if sanctity and authority don’t correspond to objective properties of the physical world, they do correspond to properties of the social world, and are perfectly “real” as such.

        • Multiheaded says:

          I like the expression “intersubjectively real”, or “intersubjectively objective”, depending on which connotations you want to stress.

        • Eli says:

          Hey, Mai La Dreapta, guess what I don’t believe in?

          That’s right, private property! Good job finding an issue I’m consistent on!

      • Tab Atkins says:

        This makes a lot of sense to me. Simulating someone with less moral basises than you is just a matter of gimping your own morality. “If I pretend that unfairness doesn’t matter to me, what else about this situation would I consider good or bad?”

        On the other hand, simulating someone with more moral basises seems incredibly difficult. Knowing that someone has a moral basis you don’t is one thing; knowing *how*, *when*, and *to what degree* that moral basis is applied is a matter mediated strongly by cultural cues that don’t make a ton of objective sense.

        I can imagine someone having blue and orange morality (blue is good, orange is bad), but I have no idea how they’d react to various situations. Is it worth saving someone’s life if you have to use an orange scalpel to do it? Obviously, feeding a beggar blueberries is better than feeding them an orange, but is this equivalent to giving them decent leftovers, or rotten food? If someone ran the same “predict each other’s reactions” test on me and the person with my same morals but also the blue/orange thing, I’d do terribly, but I expect them to do fine. (“Okay, so the man was wearing a blue shirt, but if I ignore the color, is it still okay for them to kiss?”)

        In shorter terms, someone having less moral basises than you is morally retarded, while someone having more moral basises than you is morally alien.

    • Anonymous says:

      The slightly misstates the study, liberals fail to predict how conservatives self report. It’s not clear they fail to predict how conservatives actually reason.

      Simple case

      Bob is greedy and doesn’t want to pay taxes because he is greedy.
      Bob reports that he doesn’t want to pay taxes because he thinks it funds programs he disagrees with.
      Carl predicts Bob doesn’t want to pay taxes because he is greedy.

      Has Carl succeeded or failed at understanding Bob?

      • Sage says:

        Has Carl succeeded or failed at understanding Bob?

        That honestly depends on Bob’s ability to punish Carl for calling him greedy.

      • Zathille says:

        The first statement is a value judgement, but is already being presented as a statement of fact, at most I think we could say Bob would not pay taxes if the punishment for not doing so did not exist.

        Just struck me as a tad uncharitable.

        • Ghatanathoah says:

          I think we can translate “greedy” into a statement of pure fact.

          For instance: “If Bob accumulates a large amount of money he is unlikely to spend it helping other people and instead likely to spend it on himself or keep it locked up somewhere.

      • pxib says:

        I think people have misunderstood your example, so I’ll try to rephrase it:

        The study measures self-assessment.

        Anonymous proposes that liberals may be unusually truthful in their own self-assessment, and conservatives unusually prone to providing deceptive layers of justification.

        Under such a framework, one could argue the liberals are providing accurate pictures of the underlying beliefs of both themselves and conservatives, while conservatives tend to hide their own basic values with constructed idealism.

        Were this the true state of affairs, the study would have produced the same results and the political spectrum would be just as rife with misunderstanding.

        • Troy says:

          I’m not sure this hypothesis would predict the same results. Haidt says that moderates were also more accurate than liberals, “whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives.” Were conservatives self-deceived, it seems that moderates should have picked up on that as well.

          Moreover, if Anonymous’s hypothesis is correct, moderates ought to be more accurate (or “accurate”) in imitating liberals than conservatives. Haidt doesn’t tell us whether or not they were in that quote, but I would bet not.

        • pxib says:

          I think the hypothesis assumes a continuum of self-deception in which Liberals understand their own beliefs most clearly and conservatives are the most confused about them. The moderates would, naturally, fall in between those extremes.

          Liberals would state conservative beliefs in terms of how they themselves interpret the conservative’s actions, just as they expect others to interpret their own beliefs based on how they exercise them. Conservatives, on the other hand, would state liberal beliefs in terms of what the liberals state about themselves, just as they would prefer that others do for them.

          Extremely liberal people are more observant, catching the self-deception of a larger and larger portion of the population and getting less and less “accurate”. Slightly liberal “moderate” people would tolerate and embrace more self-deception by turn.

        • Sage says:

          Huh.

          Liberals would state conservative beliefs in terms of how they themselves interpret the conservative’s actions, just as they expect others to interpret their own beliefs based on how they exercise them. Conservatives, on the other hand, would state liberal beliefs in terms of what the liberals state about themselves, just as they would prefer that others do for them.

          Postulating a framework for why this is:

          Conservatives, being more concerned and invested in long-standing social structures, care more about preserving { tatemae }, while liberals are more concerned about { honne }.

          For a conservative, maintaining { tatemae } is vitally important for the smooth functioning of society – the assertion that one’s declared values are not one’s deeply-held values is a rather deep social boundary violation, and a challenge to one’s honor / dignity / ‘face’.

        • Troy says:

          I think the hypothesis assumes a continuum of self-deception in which Liberals understand their own beliefs most clearly and conservatives are the most confused about them. The moderates would, naturally, fall in between those extremes.

          Would you nevertheless agree that on this hypothesis, moderates ought to more successfully imitate liberals than conservatives?

          I’ll also say that, speaking anecdotally and as an admittedly interested party, I just don’t think it’s plausible that liberals engage in less self-deception than conservatives, at least when it comes to “sacred values” like race. I know many liberals who, when it comes to politics, would be appalled at my views about race, but who, when it comes to personal lives, would never live in a neighborhood like mine (i.e., majority black). Similarly for liberals who (sincerely, so far as I can tell), when race comes up, proclaim that IQ is a meaningless metric, and yet routinely make the same kinds of judgments of intelligence that we all do when it comes to individual cases. I don’t think these liberals are being deliberately disingenuous (in most cases), but I think that for many the values or beliefs they affirm in the political sphere don’t match up with their private lives in the way they would if they were being completely honest with themselves.

        • nydwracu says:

          liberals are more concerned about { honne }.

          Authenticity.

        • Jaskologist says:

          This still seems like a poor excuse. The Turing test isn’t “can you replicate the process used by X,” it’s “can you replicate the *results* given by X” and for very good reason: the process is generally opaque to us. Turing was very intentionally trying to avoid any discussion of how human consciousness actually worked. As in science, why should we believe your model of the process is correct if you can’t even match the results of the process?

          So too with ideological Turing Tests. Show me you can get the results, and then I’ll listen to your description of the black box’s internals.

          The task given to the liberals was “answer as a conservative would.” It is not a defense of the liberals to claim that they chose to ignore that task and tell us all what conservative are *really* like instead.

        • Hainish says:

          proclaim that IQ is a meaningless metric, and yet routinely make the same kinds of judgments of intelligence that we all do when it comes to individual cases.

          If their position is that IQ is a poor or biased correlate of intelligence, then there is no contradiction.

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          @Jask This objection requires a refinement of the hypothesis. My attempt would be ‘liberal self-description is accurate and therefore easier to figure out from liberal policy prescriptions without having to study liberal self-descriptions. On the other hand, conservative self-description isn’t actually what motivates their policy, so you can’t infer it from their policy.

          Interestingly, there are more subtleties to the results than the excerpt goes into. I’ve read it, but I propose those who haven’t use this opportunity to make predictions.
          In particular, a) ability to predict Fairness and Harm responses has a different group pattern than ability to predict Ingroup, Authority and Purity responses. What difference, if any, would you expect?

          And b) people were also sometimes asked to imitate their own group (e.g. liberal asked to answer like a typical liberal). What results do you expect on these trials?

      • Mary says:

        Let’s apply Ockham’s Razor. You are hypothesizing massive lying on part of the conservatives and deep, profound insight on the part of liberals — and note, many of both.

        For Haidt’s theory to be true, we need postulate only one mental thing, namely a deep desire on your part to avoid acknowledging the conservatives’ actual views.

        Haidt’s wins, unless you have actual evidence of this lying and this insight.

    • zz says:

      liberals say conservatives are evil – I don’t even know what the toned down version of that is!

      Lawful evil?

      Proposed test: go to lawyersgunsandmoney, or a similar website, and, on the latest post misrepresenting conservative views on a subject, post “While I’m not a conservative, conservatives actually favour that policy because of such-and-such…”. I predict a furious reaction, being told that you are clearly a conservative, being argued with as if you actually espoused that position, accused of being a troll, etc.

      FWIW, I recently tried to suggest to a liberal that there were often two sides to an issue, and that even if conservatives were ultimately wrong, and I certainly don’t agree with them, they still might have some valid points. I would have gone on to cite such point had I been subjected to a rant about how terrible opponents to said law were.

      • Multiheaded says:

        Lawful evil?

        Somewhere in my long-ass .txt of never-started projects is the line “Is there such a thing as Lawful Evil?”, intended for a post to counter-troll Moldbug’s asking “Is there such a thing as CG?”. Basically; all law is founded on the hidden obscene moment of unbound violence (like Maistre’s executioner), and is maintained by the recurring shock of that original brutality, distorting and rupturing the reality field of those subjugated by it; the fear and awe of the Law are also the chaos of an alien incursion into its subject’s universe. IIRC Zizek spoke of something like this, citing Walter Benjamin.

        • Zathille says:

          Isn’t that basically the Hobbesian view of the State, in a way? I do recall the awe inspired by it being a point addressed in The Leviathan, though I may be misremembering.

    • Bryant says:

      Alternatively, conservatives are worse at conveying their core beliefs.

      Alternatively alternatively, “conservative views” are more divergent than liberal views and thus harder to accurately predict.

      Also, feel free to try that proposed test on a conservative web site as well.

      • Salem says:

        But remember, moderates can understand both conservative and liberal views. Therefore it is very unlikely that the problem is that conservative views are hard to comprehend or predict.

        And yes, I agree that for the test to be meaningful, there needs to be a control or comparison. A good right-wing equivalent to lawyersgunsandmoney would be the Volokh Conspiracy. I propose we do exactly this experiment – do you agree?

    • Fezziwig says:

      My experience is almost exactly the opposite of that. Just on Redstate, I’ve read that liberals support immigration because they want to create a permanent dependent underclass, that liberals favor large governments because they hate freedom, that progressive taxation is motivated by envy, and that liberals want old people to die. More, I know they would fail your test because I’ve seen it tried (and would also fail the related “why are establishment Republicans doing what they’re doing?” test).

      I suspect that it’s mostly selection and confirmation bias. You probably don’t read Redstate at all, and if you do I doubt you remember reading anything like that. I’ve never read lawyersgunsmoney, but I bet the authors I do read have said cruel, false things that I didn’t retain.

      I don’t want to give in to some lazy both-sides-do-it equivalence, but dehumanizing your opponents _works_, and always has. Absent some strong countervailing force, you’ll see that strategy everywhere.

      • nydwracu says:

        liberals want old people to die

        Tim Wise and Oprah have said things along those lines, and it’s easy to realize that old people dying would be beneficial to the enactment of liberal policies.

        • peterdjones says:

          I wonder if that is a misstatement of views on euthanasia, or just complete fantasy,

        • nydwracu says:

          Oprah: “There are still generations of people, older people, who were born and bred and marinated in it, in that prejudice and racism, and they just have to die.”

          Tim Wise:

          In forty years or so, maybe fewer, there won’t be any more white people around who actually remember that Leave it to Beaver, Father Knows Best, Opie-Taylor-Down-at-the-Fishing Hole cornpone bullshit that you hold so near and dear to your heart.

          There won’t be any more white folks around who think the 1950s were the good old days, because there won’t be any more white folks around who actually remember them, and so therefore, we’ll be able to teach about them accurately and honestly, without hurting your precious feelings, or those of the so-called “greatest generation” — a bunch whose white contingent was top-heavy with ethical miscreants who helped save the world from fascism only to return home and oppose the ending of it here, by doing nothing to lift a finger on behalf of the civil rights struggle.

          It’s OK. Because in about forty years, half the country will be black or brown. And there is nothing you can do about it. …

          We just have to be patient.

          And wait for you to pass into that good night, first politically, and then, well…

          Do you hear it?

          The sound of your empire dying? Your nation, as you knew it, ending, permanently?

          Because I do, and the sound of its demise is beautiful.

        • Multiheaded says:

          :tearofaneagle:

          (Also, some… counterproductive phrasing here, even given that the goal is to cause offense.)

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          I wonder if that is a misstatement of views on euthanasia, or just complete fantasy,

          Or alternatively, a deliberate mischaracterization of a known phenomenon, that gets said without controversy all the time in science.

          People don’t typically change their mind; they die off and are replaced by people who grew up exposed to a newer paradigm.

          Trying to sneak not-so-subtle “these people want to kill you” scare-mongering into that observation is disingenuous at best.

        • Anonymous says:

          I have never once heard anyone say that they can’t wait for the old people to die off and unblock the progress of science.

        • nydwracu says:

          “Liberals want old people to die” is not the same statement as “liberals want to kill old people”.

        • Matthew says:

          Either way, it’s still sneaking in connotations that aren’t in either of the quoted passages. The implication in your version is a normative “I hope they die as soon as possible,” whereas the originals were descriptive statements “things are going to be better in due course.”

        • peterdjones says:

          Looks like Max Plank was an Evil SJW too.

        • nydwracu says:

          Either way, it’s still sneaking in connotations that aren’t in either of the quoted passages. The implication in your version is a normative “I hope they die as soon as possible,” whereas the originals were descriptive statements “things are going to be better in due course.”

          How big a difference do you think there is between “things will be better once X happens” and “I want X to happen”?

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          How big a difference do you think there is between “things will be better once X happens” and “I want X to happen”?

          A pretty damn big one.

    • Troy says:

      One worry I have about this discussion is that there are probably somewhat heterogenous groups that make up liberals, moderates, and conservatives. In particular, American liberals tend to be either African-Americans with relatively little education, or very well educated white Americans, two very different groups. In addition, the data I’ve seen on political affiliation suggests that moderates aren’t in most senses just people “half-way in between” liberals and conservatives. For example, political moderates tend to be less intelligent, less knowledgeable (I’m not trying to knock moderates here; that’s just what the data says), and more politically apathetic. For these reasons I suspect that when we compare liberals and conservatives on these metrics we aren’t carving nature at its joints; it would be more perspicuous to look at subgroups of liberals and conservatives that share relevant demographic features.

  9. In re kids hitting an age when they can understand simple conservation of volume on their own: I’ve been thinking that the desire to help is a passion like any other passion, which means that people need to choose whether to engage in behavior based on it.

    The theory that “looking competent” is based on testosterone level has been suggested in comments, but this showed be checked.

    It seems bizarre to me that liberals think less well of conservatives than conservatives think of liberals– there’s a lot of team-building on both sides. If you don’t believe me, try suggesting in a public venue that there could be a liberal-conservative coalition to oppose the war on drugs, and you’ll hear plenty of “but the other side is just too awful”.

    • drethelin says:

      I think the difference is conservatives are more willing to talk about value differences. They recognize that liberals have different values, and think that that’s bad. Liberals seem more likely to generalize their own values to conservatives and claim the conservatives are being bad at implementing liberal values rather than having different values.

  10. Gavin says:

    I actually thought this was the reverse, but it looks like a lot more Americans call themselves Conservative and Moderate than call themselves Liberals. http://www.gallup.com/poll/166787/liberal-self-identification-edges-new-high-2013.aspx

    Also, there’s the literature on which side is smarter: http://content.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1968042,00.html#ixzz0gw6qkclr

    I’m not sure what conclusions to draw here, other than that I notice that I am confused. Liberals having more raw intelligence and Conservatives more empathy and understanding is the opposite of what I might have predicted.

    • Emily says:

      Possibly:
      1. You are encountering non-representative samples of one or both groups.
      2. The way you are defining those terms are different from the way the researchers are defining those terms. I recall the “which side is smarter” literature tending to define conservatism as social conservatism.

    • a person says:

      People don’t like the word “liberal” for some weird reason. I think if you substituted “progressive” in its place you would get very different poll results.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’m much more comfortable with being called “liberal”, which I think of as similar to libertarianism without the economic side (so pretty much the way the libertarian 4-celled grid describes liberalism) than “progressive”, which ties in more Social Justice Warrior connotations (especially dogmatic belief in “equality”) to me.

        • Nornagest says:

          Huh. “Progressive” to me implies a belief in leftist social goals but a desire to be (or to be seen as) goal-oriented rather than tribe-oriented, with “liberal” implying a more tribal approach to issues.

          Rhetoric about “progress”, oddly, is almost the opposite; it reads to me as implicitly accusing the other side of being outmoded.

        • nydwracu says:

          To me, using locations as hopefully-intuitive shorthand for personality/value-clusters, “liberal” implies Inland North and “progressive” implies Tumblr.

          Or: “liberal” implies Old Left and “progressive” implies New Left.

          However, this is probably more a product of the New Left using “progressive” as a positive ideograph / thede-identifier and “liberal” as a negative ideograph where they use it at all than anything about the word “liberal”. The Old Left tends to be older than the New Left, and there was some negative connotation-loading of “liberal” that happened in the ’80s or so which may still persist. I don’t know; I don’t really hear anyone using it anymore.

          Google says Daily Kos has slightly more hits for ‘liberal’ than ‘progressive’, and Think Progress has slightly more hits for ‘progressive’ than ‘liberal’, which fits my intuitions but doesn’t confirm them as much as I thought.

    • Adele_L says:

      Conservatives having more empathy makes more sense if you consider that oxytocin – a neurotransmitter important in empathy – has the effect that it makes you more empathetic to people in your in-group, and less trusting of outsiders.

    • lmm says:

      It makes sense from a typical mind perspective. Conservatives believe people are basically good and will do the right thing so they don’t need regulating, inequality can be solved through private charity, a rising tide lifts all boats. Liberals believe minorities need legal protection, there should be redistributive taxation from the selfish rich to the poor, and so on.

      • blacktrance says:

        Alternatively, conservatives think that people are basically evil and will take advantage of a social safety net, and private charity is better because they think it would be better at distinguishing between the deserving and undeserving poor.

        • Randy M says:

          Conservatives believe that people are by nature irreparably flawed, morally–they will, on average (and especially so in groups) be tempted towards pride, envy, sloth, wrath, etc, and no amount of social engineering will change them, but incentives can be set up to take this into account.

          However, people are generally competent to run their own lives, and need to meddling beaurocrat to direct them–especially since that beaurocrat will himself be tempted towards vice, and his incentives will be harder to engineer than the common mans (temptations of power and all).

          Progressive/liberals believe that man is born good, but social structures are in place that train people towards vice (although the vices don’t overlap perfectly with conservative vices). If people can be trained from early enough, with the proper social environment, they can be made significantly better morally, if not perfectly so now, but maybe some day.

          However, they doubt the common man is capable of navigating the myriad choices he faces in his own life in the modern world, and needs guidance to choose the proper diet, automobile, government, etc.–especially in light of the powerful forces in business, church, etc. attempting to trick and take advantage of him.

          I think the reactionary position is that man is both innately sinful and stupid, and the libertarian position is that man is both innately virtuous and wise. I don’t know if I’ve heard of political philosophies explicitly being charted on these axies before however.

          eta: of course, the degree of innate and potential variation is viewed quite differently as well, but I think this is understood here.

          • Here’s something I see, but I’m not sure where it fits into various frameworks.

            Conservatives and liberals both have a lot of trust in punishment for shaping human behavior in desirable ways, but conservatives have overt love of punishments, while liberals mostly talk as though their punishments aren’t really punishments, the punishments are just an effort to make things better.

        • Creutzer says:

          Wow. That classification does an amazing job of making libertarianism sound really stupid.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Progressive/liberals believe that man is born good, but social structures are in place that train people towards vice (although the vices don’t overlap perfectly with conservative vices). If people can be trained from early enough, with the proper social environment, they can be made significantly better morally, if not perfectly so now, but maybe some day.

          How about the far left? You seem to completely fail the Turing test for our view. I realize that our position is barely visible, especially in the U.S., but most of us seem to believe that striving for collective self-interest is good, that moralizing is pointless in itself and only serves for negotiating or justifying interests (where it might be instrumentally important), and that the “nurture vs. nature” arguments are insignificant next to the constantly reproduced influence of the particular ways humans interact with structures.

          (So, for example, if the late feudal socioeconomic structure withers away and is replaced by early capitalism, people would adapt and start reproducing a distinctly bourgeois or industrial-proletarian morality, with its particular rules and values, instead of a distinctly rentier-aristocrat or smallholder-peasant one. Project towards a hope for communism. Add the economics of reproduction to get a materialist take on feminism.)

          P.S. As much as I dislike American liberalism, you’ve probably… rather misrepresented its justifications too; let a liberal take you to task.

        • Randy M says:

          Cruezritter: Well, I’ve seen some libertarians make the justification on the fact that since man is flawed, it is more important to keep him from unrestricted state power than to regulate him in the microsphere, what I above called the more conservative view. And of course, I was simplfying the latter two rather than trying to give justification. Basically Libertarianism trusts men to negotiate their own affairs competently and fairly. (There’s also the coordination problem of centralized powers being less efficient than markets).

          Multiheaded: Well, I was trying to be fair to the underlying justifications–in regards to only these criteria underdiscussion, at least. I find that some of your objections are therefore somewhat besides the point.

          More specifically, though:
          “most of us seem to believe that striving for collective self-interest is good, that moralizing is pointless in itself”
          This is self-contradictory, isn’t it, or at least a futiile argument by it’s own logic? paraphrased: “Moralizing is pointless, and by the way, let me tell you how to be good!” Regardless, how does this speak to your views on the innate a)goodness and b) competency of the average person?

          “the constantly reproduced influence of the particular ways humans interact with structures. ”

          The reproduced way of interacting with structures… so, culture, in other words? or institutions? That seems like a fancied up way of saying “social structures are in place that train people”. Please rephrase if I am not understanding.

          “As much as I dislike American liberalism, you’ve probably… rather misrepresented its justifications too”

          I was by no means giving complete justifications for any theories, but of ideologies, leftist ones seem to believe that man is perfectable but needs regulation. Again, I welcome correction.

        • Sage says:

          This is self-contradictory, isn’t it, or at least a futiile argument by it’s own logic? paraphrased: “Moralizing is pointless, and by the way, let me tell you how to be good!”

          It isn’t contradictory – in fact, this is a wonderful moment where we notice confusion.

          For a certain kind of left, “seeking good” and “moralizing” are COMPLETELY DIFFERENT THINGS.

          Seeking good is motivating myself to my own moral structure; moralizing is attempting to motivate *you* to adopt *my* moral structure as well, rather than simply attempting to motivate you to take actions that my moral structure says I should want you to take.

        • Randy M says:

          “It isn’t contradictory – in fact, this is a wonderful moment where we notice confusion.”

          Not so much confusion as inarticulateness, I suppose; you are saying what I was trying to with the second half of the section you quoted.

          But more to the source, is he saying that leftists don’t so much try to preach as engineer society to inculcate the good–which may not, certainly, be the same good as the conservative? That’s more or less what I was trying to get at in the original.

        • Multiheaded says:

          But more to the source, is he saying that leftists don’t so much try to preach as engineer society to inculcate the good–which may not, certainly, be the same good as the conservative?

          Yes, except that we aren’t currently “trying” to implement some of the measures we think would be most valuable, because they aren’t at all on the table politically and there’s no way to get to them through simple campaigning and agitating voters. E.g. here it is pointed out that the current overton window is so far to the right economically that even Piketty’s modest and entirely liberal suggestions put him in the same boat as the revolutionary left as no-one else would fight for them.

          Regardless, how does this speak to your views on the innate a)goodness and b) competency of the average person?

          The average person is about as good as they need to get by, and has some potential for remarkable goodness or lack of it under specific circumstances and within specific interactions, because sometimes that’s what’s needed to get by. The average person is about as competent as they need to get by.

          The reproduced way of interacting with structures… so, culture, in other words? or institutions? That seems like a fancied up way of saying “social structures are in place that train people”. Please rephrase if I am not understanding.

          Imagine that you’re robbed at gunpoint ten times in a row, and each time you do not resist, humbly ask not to kill you and give away all your money. This is a predictable pattern that is reproduced by the robber’s interaction with you – but is the robber “training” you like Pavlov’s dogs? Absolutely not, he’s just affecting your incentives and such (as you’re affecting his) so that you make the object-level rational choice (and maybe justify it to yourself afterwards, like “I’m a non-violent person!”). Or, alternatively, you take the meta-level rational choice of risking your life to violently fight him off, knowing that the story would disincentivize other robbers; even if you make that choice by executing an adaptation (“Don’t take shit from nobody!”) rather than sitting in an armchair and reasoning about this – but we would still look to the source of that choice in your actual situation instead of simply noting that e.g. you or your culture are intrinsically violent.

          P.S. S-senpai? A-am I doing it right?

        • nydwracu says:

          I think the reactionary position is that man is both innately sinful and stupid

          The neoreactionary position is that man tends to respond to perceived incentives in ways that satisfy drives, but that different people will respond in different ways based on socially-conditioned factors like thede-identification, biologically-conditioned factors like IQ and time-preference, and personality-conditioned factors like the nature and degree of the drives. This usually looks like “sinful and stupid”, and it’s certainly closer to Xunzi than to Mencius, but it doesn’t map as well onto those axes as you seem to think.

          The paleoreactionary position is that man is by nature irreparably flawed, and that incentives can only be set up to take this into account to a small extent, if at all.

      • Jaskologist says:

        Conservatives believe people are basically good and will do the right thing so they don’t need regulating, inequality can be solved through private charity, a rising tide lifts all boats.

        The standard American conservative (and Christian) view on human nature is precisely the opposite. People are basically bad. The problem is that regulators are people, too.

        Or, as Federalist 51 eloquently put it:

        If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.

  11. J. Quinton says:

    Ara Norenzayan has some additional information about those religious observations:

    Big religions, that is, the world religions, show more cooperative behavior in economic games. Small religions are more selfish; belief in god in and of itself doesn’t correlate with any behavior in monetary generosity. Prosocial behavior correlates with a belief in a punishing god. Belief in a forgiving god correlates with cheating. Same for hell/heaven belief, respectively.

    Norenzayan also mentions that the more abstract one’s conception of god is, the less they think said god cares about morality and/or punishes bad behavior. So someone who believes in a completely abstract “ground of being” god more than likely also believes that this god doesn’t care too much about morality. Whereas someone who believes in a god that cares a great deal about morality simultaneously believes that said god is also much more anthropomorphic. At one end of the spectrum is the god of the philosophers/Sophisticated Theologians, at the other is the god of fundamentalists.

    • Multiheaded says:

      at the other is the god of fundamentalists.

      Which clearly implies that faith-based social cohesion is, contra Haidt, neither remotely sufficient nor nearly the most important thing for a society that’s decent to live in.

      Wait. Control for intelligence… Nah, seems to hold; I’ve read plenty of unpleasant stories about Hasidic Jews from angry Americans.

      • nydwracu says:

        For a society that’s decent for outgroup members to live in.

        • Ghatanathoah says:

          Most stories of insular religions I’ve heard indicate that they’re also very unpleasant places for ingroup members. Members are heavily brainwashed and prevented access to any information or media that might cause them to reconsider their worldview. They are also forced to make life choices and assume social roles that are extremely deleterious to their wellbeing. And heaven help them if it turns out that they are better psychologically suited to being an outsider than being an ingroup member.

          Insular religious communities are basically groups of people caught in feedback loops where they make each other and everyone around them lead miserable and unfulfilled lives. But their minds are so mutilated and deformed by the effects of the community that they don’t even realize what is happening to them.

          I don’t care if cooperating is slightly easier because of this. It simply isn’t worth it. Cooperating has no intrinsic value, it’s just a means to an end.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Cooperating has no intrinsic value, it’s just a means to an end.

          I’d say it might have “intristic value” for a kind of consequentialist thinking, seeing as it might be a Deep Innate Need akin to Haidt’s “moral foundations”, but it’s meaningless and in a way even self-contradictory without other aspects of individual flourishing. If the collective supresses individuality within it… what can it be a collective of? Its intersubjective reality can only be formed by the subjectivity of its members. Lacking such, there’s no reason not to classify it as a primitive Unfriendly lifeform, like a virus.

        • Jaskologist says:

          They are also forced to make life choices and assume social roles that are extremely deleterious to their wellbeing.

          Deleterious by what standard? From what I’ve seen the religious tend to do better on objective measures of wellbeing like life expectancy.

          Note that the people who will give you stories about insular religions are probably self selected to be the people least suited to insular religions.

        • nydwracu says:

          Members are heavily brainwashed and prevented access to any information or media that might cause them to reconsider their worldview. They are also forced to make life choices and assume social roles that are extremely deleterious to their wellbeing. And heaven help them if it turns out that they are better psychologically suited to being an outsider than being an ingroup member.

          Do recall that I spent a semester at a college in Massachusetts.

          Heavily brainwashed? Check. Very few of them had ever encountered any political positions that weren’t substantially to the left of Barack Obama, and there were institutional structures set up to continue this pattern and discourage any deviation from it, such as placing political dissenters on indefinite medical leave on vague charges of unspecified mental disorders, having the dean call them at home and tell them to get the fuck out or the administration would go out of their way to make their life hell, and then docking all their grades by a letter for no discernible reason.

          Incentivized to make life choices and assume social roles that are extremely deleterious to their well-being? Check. The semester after I left, some bad acid started going around on campus. A lot of people got fried and ended up institutionalized. Of the people who didn’t get fried, some of them ended up institutionalized anyway, and others… well, there was a guy I knew from high school there. He developed four separate drug addictions that I know of, including cocaine and heroin. This would not have happened had he gone to a different school. And at this college, there were seniors who were hospitalized for alcohol poisoning. There was also a guy who got some sort of pension from the government because his relatives had been killed in a war or something — I’m not too clear on the details — and he spent every penny of it on drugs.

          The place had about 400 students, so if even four ended up institutionalized, that’s a 1% rate of total mental breakdown. I would bet money that there were more than four.

          Heaven help them if they’re better psychologically suited to being an outsider than an insider? Check. Firsthand experience.

          Everyone in my father’s family besides him and me is a conservative Presbyterian, of the sort that y’all would probably consider fundamentalist. They are all remarkably psychologically stable. At the aforementioned college, I met a very devout Muslim, who was one of the few decent people there. He had the holiness drive in spades, but it was channeled toward such things as being nice to people because Allah repays good deeds thrice over — not toward doing fucking heroin and trying to shame everyone-minus-three to death.

          (It was a popular saying up there that everyone hates everyone else but three. The reason it was popular was that it was accurate.)

          I’ve seen fundies. I’ve seen people who buy very much into their religion. I’ve also seen the progressive equivalent. Now, maybe I haven’t seen the worst of the fundies, but they’d have to be pretty fucking bad in order to even come close to the other side.

        • Sage says:

          Now, maybe I haven’t seen the worst of the fundies, but they’d have to be pretty fucking bad in order to even come close to the other side.

          I have, and they are orders of magnitude worse than ‘pretty fucking bad’. I will provide a few examples.

          I was personally caught in the middle of this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day-care_sex-abuse_hysteria

          I’ve had experiences similar to this, but fortunately not quite this terrible: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/West_Memphis_3

          So yeah – maniacal dog-piling on innocents to fit a moral narrative isn’t JUST something Social Justice Warriors do.

        • Multiheaded says:

          Now, maybe I haven’t seen the worst of the fundies, but they’d have to be pretty fucking bad in order to even come close to the other side.

          Behold the horror. (CN: child abuse, abusive parenting.)

          (Alternatively, ask Ialdabaoth… although he might not be that willing to talk.)

        • Ialdabaoth says:

          Huh, my last comment got posted as ‘Sage’.

          But yeah. My personal ‘fundie horror story’ growing up involves a bunch of people absolutely *INSISTING* that I, and a large group of my friends, were sexually abused by a Satanic Ritual Abuse cult. (It was in fact the first such accusation made – you can say that my community invented an entire new form of mass hysteria!)

          My insistence that the utterly fanciful events had *NOT*, in fact, occurred led to me being branded as a Satanist. (I was eight.)

          The accused adults were convicted in 1984 and sentenced to like, 250 years of prison each; their convictions were overturned in 1996, after having rotted in jail as known pedophiles and satanists for 12 years.

          (Of course, the worst of it is that some of these kids WERE being sexually abused – by their own family members. Go fig.)

        • Hainish says:

          I’m not sure I recognize the progressivism in that particular picture of a Northeastern U.S. liberal arts college.

        • nydwracu says:

          I’m not sure I recognize the progressivism in that particular picture of a Northeastern U.S. liberal arts college.

          They had, as an official, mandatory event, “Diversity Day”.

          Freshmen were required to attend some number of health information seminars. One such seminar, which I attended, was a one-man play, described as “avant-garde theater” or something along those lines (“avant-garde” was actually used), which contained the following plot: a guy beats up some gays having sex in a park because homophobia, goes to jail, and gets repeatedly, brutally raped — and this is described in great detail, and framed as him getting what was coming to him for being a wicked homophobe.

          This was, remember, an official event, put on by the college.

          It was not unheard of among the student body to think of progressivism as being the official ideology of the school: I was told that, since it was a liberal arts college, no one but liberals should ever attend it.

          I got into a huge Facebook argument about Diversity Day, in which an upperclassman, the only person to publicly say anything that wasn’t an attack on me, said that, a few years before, a professor had given a Diversity Day presentation arguing for the thesis that all men are rapists. I got death threats as a result of that argument. And people wrote to me in private thanking me for standing up to the prevailing ideology — which they wanted someone to do, but, of course, they didn’t want to take the status hit themselves.

          There was a ‘disability rights’ demonstration on campus that lasted for at least a week: signs were posted on all the doors saying whether or not the doors were ‘accessible’, and the campaigners tried to shame people into not using doors rated ‘inaccessible’. No one on campus had a wheelchair or anything.

          A few years before I was there, one of the dorms tried to organize an orgy.

          And then there’s the drug use thing: not using drugs incurred a status penalty.

          Now, as for parenting methods, I never really found out much about how the sorts of people who attended that place were raised. The subject didn’t come up much. The only exception I can remember was the one student who had started drinking heavily at the age of twelve. She bragged about it.

        • peterdjones says:

          I have suggested that it would solve some problems for colleges to admit We Have an Official Doctrine and it u
          Is Progressivism.

        • Hainish says:

          I guess if you’ve only ever experienced two phenomena occurring together, it would be difficult to be able to distinguish them or imagine one occurring without the other. Yet, that doesn’t make them the same.

        • nydwracu says:

          I guess if you’ve only ever experienced two phenomena occurring together, it would be difficult to be able to distinguish them or imagine one occurring without the other. Yet, that doesn’t make them the same.

          Oh, so moral panics and child abuse don’t have anything at all to do with fundamentalism after all.

        • Hainish says:

          Do feel free to respond to my actual comment. If you’re going to put words in my mouth just to argue with them, you might as well argue with yourself.

        • Zathille says:

          Hainish, I’ve read the comment, but could you clarify which phenomena you said were unrelated?

      • Hainish says:

        “Progressivism” as embodied by the practices of the small private college in the Northeastern U.S., and rampant drug use.

        • nydwracu says:

          I did respond to your actual comment, but I’ll make the point again: by what standard is fundamentalism to blame for the aforementioned child abuse and progressivism not to blame for the aforementioned drug abuse?

  12. Lavendar bubble tea says:

    My kindergarten teacher used to hold mini/mock presidential elections where her students would pick which real candidate they wanted to win. Apparently her students were usually/maybe always spot on. I had voted for Bush since he had an American flag in the background and looked really damn old and wise with his gray hair. Kindergarten me thought he possessed the qualities of a wise leader and dammit kindergarten me didn’t want any young non gray non wise people running my country.

    • Fezziwig says:

      I’m dating myself, but when my kindergarten did that we picked Ross Perot in a landslide. I can’t remember what we were thinking, but I do recall that it freaked my parents out a little.

      • Lavendar bubble tea says:

        Most of the first image results for him seem to have grey hair and glasses. I likely would have found him to be wise as well. As for how my parents reacted, they seemed upset and disappointed with me for my flag based voting choices

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        I’m dating myself

        I got very confused for a second there. (I read this before the parent comment).

        • Anonymous says:

          I’m dating myself, but I first learned the term when Dilbert made that joke. Well, I probably read it in a collection years later, same time as Fezziwig’s story.

          I’ve never heard anyone say that when the dating was as precise as Fezziwig’s.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        🙂 I was in first or second grade and I was the only person to pick Ross Perot. I don’t remember if my older brother put me up to it or if it was just precocious hipsterism.

        • suntzuanime says:

          I also picked Perot. This blog’s readership might be selected for disagreeableness.

        • nydwracu says:

          We did this in ’04. Everyone picked Kerry except a black guy who went with Bush because Kerry had a big nose.

          We also did this in the ’08 Dem primary. I picked Kucinich. This blog’s readership might be selected for disagreeableness.

    • potatoe says:

      I did this as well. I lived in a very liberal area at the time, so all the other kids voted for Clinton. However, I decided to cast my vote for Dole, because “Bill Clinton already had his chance to be president, and he should share with Bob Dole!” I was very unpopular for the week following our straw poll.

      • Lavendar bubble tea says:

        Awww..I find that to be a really sweet/altruistic way for a child to vote.

        • potatoe says:

          My parents thought so too. Don’t worry, I’ve been cured of these impulses in the mean time. Now my heart is dark and full of poison and I’m politically polarized.

    • Nornagest says:

      My primary school didn’t do this, but my high school did. I remember the results of my senior class’s straw poll as roughly mirroring their parents’ presumed inclinations, but a bit more left-leaning (I grew up in a right-leaning town, but my class voted a little under 50% Republican) and a lot more ideologically extreme (better than 20% voting Green).

      Plus a few votes for popular students and/or cartoon characters, but that’s probably to be expected.

    • Doug S. says:

      In my school district, there was a rumor that Bush the Elder wanted to abolish summer vacation. Clinton won the straw poll by a landslide. 😉

  13. Alexander Stanislaw says:

    I don’t know why you think that having a more easily misunderstood position is evidence in favor of that position. It could be evidence that that position is correct but nuanced, or wrong and incoherent, or (as another commenter pointed out) wrong and disingenuous.

    Regarding religiosity and trustingness, this brings up the eternal question of whether religious people are more trusting because they are religious or more religious because they are more trusting. We already know that agreeableness (which is related to trustingness) is heritable. And that religiosity increases with agreeableness.

  14. Anthony says:

    [Todorow] collected photographs of the winners and runners-up in hundreds of elections for the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. He showed people the pairs of photographs from each contest with no information about political party, and he asked them to pick which person seemed more competent. He found that the candidate that people judged more competent was the one who actually won the race about two-thirds of the time.

    So – the consensus pick for “more competent” was more likely to win. Now I’m curious as to how well any individual rater scored in terms of their “more competent” matching the winners were.

  15. Rob says:

    I’m lacking context, but I disagree about the pointlessness of teaching kids about conservation of volume. Of course when they get to a certain age they’ll figure it out from playing with water, but that’s not the point. When you explain conservation of volume of water, you’re not explaining *water*, you’re explaining *conservation laws*. You’re not just saying “the volume of the water doesn’t change”, you’re saying

    – This is a rule about water (under certain conditions)
    – We can use this rule to do reasoning (like the displacement method of volume measurement)
    – There are other rules like it (energy/mass, momentum, angular momentum). This is a common pattern in the way our universe works.

    At what age do kids “just figure out” conservation of probability, or CPT symmetry? The idea of a conservation law is just handy, and the earlier you grok it, the less time you waste thinking about perpetual motion and other obvious failure modes.

    • Randy M says:

      But I think that you would want to use conservation of volume to explain the existence of physical rules, etc. after they already grok the concept from playing around with buckets and stuff.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Does anyone have a link to the pseudo-Turing-Test? My clumsy attempts to find it with Google are stymied by the overwhelming interest in his more general claims about Moral Foundations and liberals/conservatives.

  17. Nestor says:

    That first paragraph reminded me of Övind Thorsby’s The accidental space spy… I think you’ll like it.

    • Wow, I just read that whole comic series and it was really interesting! I loved it. It suggested some interesting explanations for our behavior, and interesting speculation on alien evolution in various environments. And you’re right, the first quoted paragraph is indeed expanded upon in the comic.

      The last page of the webcomic says it has moved to a different host. Here is the link to that same page of the comic on the new host, in case the old host disappears.

  18. orthonormal says:

    > From the Department of Unexpected Consequences

    Unexpected? I thought Gingrich was intentionally aiming to break the culture of the DC cocktail circuit among the new Republican congressfolk.

  19. anon says:

    Reading these comments makes my alarm bells go off very loudly. Apparently, I dislike attempts to argue for broad characterizations of either liberals or conservatives. I don’t generally get like this when people try to make useful approximations or stereotypes, I wonder what is going on.

    I think thinking about group identities might be a case where crystallizing patterns leads to less rationality, and that is why I’m nervous. But that still doesn’t explain what makes this situation any worse than other attempts to make broad characterizations of groups. I’m confused. It might be that partisanship is uniquely powerful or threatening in our society? Thoughts?

    I’m aware this is emotion driven reasoning. But honestly, I have good self-awareness instincts, and my emotions and rationality have always been unusually good at cooperating. And also, I’m skeptical that the influence of emotions should or can be minimized here. Looking directly at cognitive hazards is dangerous. Hopefully my emotions combined with the reflections of someone else will help me to figure out what’s going on here.

  20. http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140612085345.htm

    “Chimpanzees spontaneously initiate and maintain cooperative behavior”

  21. Vaniver says:

    If this is true, it seems very very important and people should be trying harder to exploit it:

    Speculation: looking competent actually tracks being competent fairly well. (For example, if someone has a somewhat shabby suit in their election photo, well, that tells you something about them and their friends.) Remember that people weren’t terrible predictors of IQ from pictures.

    • Looking like you have more free testosterone means you are actually more likely to have more free testosterone. Having more testosterone (typically) means having more motivation. More motivation makes “getting things done” easier and people want their candidate to “get things done,” therefore people are more likely to choose candidates that look like they have more free testosterone (look like a “leader”).

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