Divided By Politics

Monday, November 19, 2012

Jonathan Haidt, contributor for The Saturday Evening Post and author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, looks at the different views of morality on the Right and Left.


Take the moral foundations quiz Haidt mentioned on the air here.


Jonathan Haidt

Comments [23]

landless from Brooklyn

Terrible show--especially because Brian failed to challenge speaker's and callers' assumptions about attitudes toward work. I grew up around Communists who were proud to be the best and most skilled workers in their trades and plants. They defined themselves as workers. In fact, I always thought that the worst workers were the least self-defined and most dependent upon the boss's good favor.

Nov. 23 2012 07:11 PM
Ed from Manhattan

N says it very eloquently.

Does it come down to whether or not we accept the Enlightenment? I think that the historical struggles over the Enlightenment continue today.

Nov. 19 2012 03:08 PM

N, and does undersimplification lead to mistakes that hurt other people?
I do see a balance.

Nov. 19 2012 12:41 PM

I've been thinking about this a lot! My bible belt cousin has been applying to ivy league colleges, and her family is totally baffled that these schools favor strong teacher recommendations, personal essays, and interviews over grades and standardized test scores. I struggled to explain the thinking to them, and came away concluding that what I was really trying to justify to them was the entire liberal view of morality.

Liberals would agree with conservatives that life is an endless struggle to be an increasingly good person, but the definition of "good" is different: to embrace the diversity of a broad range of worldviews, find areas of understanding that hurt the smallest number of people possible, and in finding those areas of understanding to always to be guided by an internal sense of personal perspective, whether or not that aligns with social approval. Conservatives, by contrast, see morality and personal guidance as being bound up in things external to the self: biblical teachings, social structures. The lifelong struggle is in coming to a deeper understanding of and respect for the bible, your family, or your broader local community, and working to bring your behavior into closer alignment with that. For liberals, going to an ivy league school is valued in part because it's seen as validating that your child is not just smart but also interesting and of strong personal moral character. Academic and career achievement plays a less central and integrated role for conservatives; their goal is to responsibly "support your family" and it ends there.

Studies have found that:
- liberals value complexity more than conservatives
- conservative values bear a stronger resemblance to most human cultures' natural value systems.

Based on the college discussion I had, I've been concluding that liberal values are more learned than intuitive. In my mind, that makes developing and adhering to them a more heroic act: they run contrary to much of human nature and attempt to accurately understand the complex functioning of a world that we are, by nature, inclined to want to simplify (and oversimplification necessarily leads to mistakes that hurt other people and such mistakes are, liberals would argue, immoral).

Nov. 19 2012 12:12 PM
Ed from Manhattan

I see the crucial difference between left and right (not necessarily between liberals and conservatives) in a difference about where morality comes from. The right believes that moral values must derive from authority and tradition, while the left believes that moral values should be open to discussion and debate. The right worries about anomie--the need to have a firm moral structure, while the left is more concerned with alienation--the need for individuals to have fulfilling lives.The bootstrap idea overlooks the fact that all humans need a social web to become who they are. It's not just a political idea, but a factual one.

Nov. 19 2012 11:14 AM

It's a shame (is that strictly a "conservative" "us-versus-them" concept?) that this segment wasn't more organically connected to your first segment [IMHO].

Or, as your promo spot asks "What is the first thing you think when someone says "Beethoven"?

Nov. 19 2012 11:02 AM
dboy from nyc

Uhmm... how 'bout keeping your damn religion to yourself and out of politics all together?!


Nov. 19 2012 11:00 AM
JML from Brooklyn

Tried to phone in but your lines are busy. Your ability to take the kind of balanced imagining-the-other side view may depend on the extent to which you and your family resemble the majority. It's hard for me, as an LGBT person, to imagine the other side's reasoning for saying my family's inferior, not a family, and doesn't deserve equal civil rights. I'm white, but I imagine when Republicans use code words (like referring to food stamps) to spark racist attitudes, they also lose the ability to listen and to imagine where the other side is coming from.

Nov. 19 2012 10:59 AM

This centrist dogma -- the New Normal, from every talking-head in America -- is insufferable.

The notion that "progressives" should trade already inadequate retirement benefits, which aren't contributing to the deficit, for minimal tax increases on wealth which are, is ridiculous.

The middle-class has "sacrificed" for 30+ years, during which it has declined. It's time for the 1% and the .1% to make *their* sacrifice. Satisfying their ideological biases, or buying them off with right-wing social policies, ought not be part of the deal.

Nov. 19 2012 10:58 AM
John A

or (Roger Steare, /bl/2012/sep/14/) vs (Jon Haidt, /bl/2012/nov/19/), I give Jon the edge, BTW. Collective narcissism is practiced when a person reinforces his beliefs by only listening to the one group that agrees.

Nov. 19 2012 10:58 AM
Fishmael from NYC

Before we get to excited about this.... remember that, as fascinating as this is, talk is cheap... and despite perhaps well-meaning conservatives, the result of it all is today's Republican party... this will only be relevant if these posited "conservatives with a heart" can somehow rein in their extreme party positions.

Nov. 19 2012 10:57 AM
Rich mccullah from Brooklyn

A fanatic is someone who can find nothing positive in someone else. Everyone has something positive about them and this can disarm someone when you point out something positive about "The other side"

Nov. 19 2012 10:55 AM


Nov. 19 2012 10:54 AM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

My moral and political compass came from my parents LONG before I became religiously observant, but my religion also steers me in the right direction. I am very liberal.

I have been in the company of people whose political and religious views differ greatly from mine, and what I see many times are irrational and illogical arguments. They also tend to be uninformed. I have been flummoxed by the viewpoints they take because they don't make much sense.

I tend to be pretty logical and pragmatic, so I guess that feeds into my viewpoint. I want facts before I make decisions, and then my decisions are pragmatic as well as compassionate.

Nov. 19 2012 10:53 AM
fuva from harlemworld

Confusing false equivalency with balance, once again.

Nov. 19 2012 10:53 AM
Carla from Astoria

"Hard cases make bad law." The moral divide comes from the division within ourselves. It's hard for human beings to reconcile two good things when they come into conflict: justice vs. forgiveness; freedom vs. order; personal autonomy vs. personal responsibility; etc. etc. Most people just pick a side for simplicity's sake and tune out everything else, while the best people recognize that we live in a world where nothing will ever be clear and every major policy decision will be fraught.

Nov. 19 2012 10:50 AM

"Why good people are divided" — conveniently excludes without explanation the "bad people." Does Haidt think there are bad people? Does he have any excuse for everyone? What's his excuse for the virulent racist hatred expressed toward Obama? Does he think it just doesn't exist? And what happens to facts in his relativist world?

Nov. 19 2012 10:49 AM
John A

"Collective narcissism"
means potentially and entire country can stake its identity on taking and not giving, on being a social entity with an antisocial agenda. I found this term on wikipedia thanks to Jonathan's appearance on "Moyers and Company" about a year ago, So, thanks.

Nov. 19 2012 10:43 AM

BHO won the catholic vote also. they knew which side was moral!

Nov. 19 2012 10:14 AM
Sheldon from Brooklyn

Greg Gutfeld - that 4'9'' snobby troll, who can't help but make inappropriate jokes every 5 minutes on his FOX show?

Yes - "Leftie Hollywood" and the "media" makes fun of Christianity all the time, cause it's hard not to - but make fun of Jews? I don't know of anyone who's done that and still has a career: Mel Gibson, Charlie Sheen (had the nerve to call a Hollywood producer by his Jewish name)- CNN pulled Rick Sanchez off the air faster than a Manhattan cab ride, after his tirade.

No one told Carl Palladino or Bob Turner is wasn't ok to exploit people's fear of Muslims to run for office, they did so with the blessings of the ADL and the Catholic Diocese - so much for religious freedom.

Nov. 19 2012 10:13 AM
John A

I have been using the Internet personally since 1991 (earlier as a professional) and there is always a person on public forums, wherever they may be, that has more time to waste than 'you' do. These persons cannot be eradicated, unless those fora are moderated, but they can be demoted. Such a person is treated as more nuisance than contributor, and essentially ignored. I've re-read your latest post, 'Martin Chuzzlewit', and have no problem filing this complaint publicly.

Nov. 19 2012 10:06 AM
Martin Chuzzlewit from Manhattan

Great subject for this show’s faux righteous audience comprised of phony, sanctimonious doyennes of artificial tolerance. And here’s a great book for the intolerant leftist bigots here with their manufactured outrage and repressive “inclusiveness” -

“The Joy of Hate: How to Triumph over Whiners in the Age of Phony Outrage.”
by Greg Gutfeld

BRIAN - please ask why the guest -

It's okay to call a woman any name imaginable, as long as she's a Republican?
And no problem if you're a bigot, as long as you're politically correct about it?
You can make fun of Christians and Jews, but God forbid Muslims?
Why only a black conservative can be called a plantation slave or the "N" word without an end to the speaker's career?

Nov. 19 2012 07:29 AM
Ed from Larchmont

But morality for a Catholic, of course, is objective, and is clearly taught, and is more fundamental than left or right designations or preferences.

Nov. 19 2012 05:50 AM

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