Remember the "moral values" voters?



Is it fair? Does it hurt anybody? I always thought those were the two basic moral questions. (The first is often associated with guys and Lawrence Kohlberg, the second with gals and Carol Gilligan.) But that just shows what a liberal I am.

Social psychologists Jonathan Haidt and Jesse Graham of the University of Virginia have posted a draft paper [PDF]--not a wackadoo screed but an invited contribution to the journal Social Justice Research--arguing that in most cultures there are three additional basic moral questions, ones that liberals rarely ask but that still animate social conservatives:

1) Does it protect our in-group?

2) Does it respect the leader(s)?

3) Is it pure- or disgusting?

Haidt and Graham research and explain all five foundational questions. They conclude:

"Justice and related virtues . . . make up half of the moral world for liberals, while justice-related concerns make up only one fifth of the moral world for conservatives. Conservatives have many moral concerns that liberals simply do not recognize as moral concerns. When conservatives talk about values and policies based on the in-group, hierarchy, and purity foundations, liberals hear talk about theta waves," i.e. nonsense.

I'd add that the immediate point is not whether these last three questions deserve the honorific designation of "moral." The point is that lots of people see them that way, and you'll communicate with them a lot better if you understand that thinking.

(Hat tip to Marginal Revolution.)



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