Friday, April 15, 2016

Jonathan Haidt in pictures (MFT)

This is my third post on Jonathan Haidt's book, 'The Righteous Mind' and his Moral Foundations Theory (MFT).

If you just arrived here you should read my introductory post first.

The first five foundations of morality are described in this table on page 146 of Haidt's book.

You can click on any of the images in this post to make them larger.

The sixth foundation, Liberty/oppression, which generates emotions such as righteous anger when faced with illegitimate authority was introduced later in chapter 8.

The six moral foundations are best understood as evolved psychological adaptations which make scalable, stable societies possible - getting you past the limits of small kin-groups.


One of Haidt's major proposals is that different groups in the political spectrum inhabit very different moral universes, ones in which their own 'tribes' seem good and virtuous, while others seem strange and evil. In the book he discusses the liberal left (which includes social-justice warriors), the conservative right and libertarians; authoritarians are analysed in the context of Donald Trump in this article.

See this previous post for more details.

Here are some charts I put together to illustrate the different moral foundations of contemporary political positions.

The six foundations to get us started (refer to the table above)

Liberal-leftists: it's 'caring', 'oppression' and 'equality - not much else

Conservatives care about all the foundations - equality of opportunity not outcome

Libertarians: 'Don't tread on me!' with a side-order of tough-fairness

Authoritarians: Loyalty, Obedience to Authority, Sanctity: No Free Riders!

Authoritarians would include Donald Trump, the UK Independence Party's Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen in France. Oh, and Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Jacob Zuma amongst many, many more.

These charts are hand-wavy and suggestive, not at all definitive. For example, I've not said enough about Sanctity which is, of course, big in the States. Haidt links Sanctity with Contamination as polar opposites on an awe-disgust spectrum.

I'm not a big fan of how he treats Fairness, which seems to include in a muddled way:

  • strong elements of compassion on the political left (equality of outcome)
  • reciprocal-altruism on the right (duty) and amongst libertarians (transactional integrity)
  • a tendency towards strong retribution amongst authoritarians.

Incidentally, I observed in a post a while back that the attitude of most societies, traditional societies, towards male homosexuals is not fear ('homophobia' - a piece of politically-correct misdirection), but disgust. Educated liberals have carefully averted their minds from what male gay sexual practices actually involve, but acceptance is a lot easier if you deprecate the 'Contamination' moral foundation - as liberals and libertarians typically do.

If you want to see quantitative details on all the above, read the book and check Haidt's blog and the article I linked to in this previous post.


In case these charts are of any use to you - you might want to improve them - here's a link to the PowerPoint.

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