Moral Foundations

Biased presentation of a potentially good idea

Using the Moral Foundations Questionnaire, Haidt and Graham found that libertarians are most sensitive to the proposed Liberty foundation,[4] liberals are most sensitive to the Care and Fairness foundations, while conservatives are equally sensitive to all five/six foundations.[6] Joshua Greene argued however that liberals tend to emphasise the Care, Fairness and Liberty dimensions; conservatives the Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity dimensions.[17]

Source: Moral foundations theory – Wikipedia

What I find a bit offensive about Haidt’s version is the failure to recognize that the scales used to measure responses to the different “foundations” are independent.  There is really no meaning to the claim that conservatives are “equally sensitive” to all of them while liberals are “most” sensitive to the Care and Fairness foundations, since just changing the survey questions to include more extreme examples of Sanctity violations and more modest ones of Care and Fairness would have produced results showing equal response from liberals and a bias towards Sanctity among conservatives.

Also the whole model fails to distinguish between sensitivity and moral judgement.

For example I may feel disgust at things that I do not feel are morally wrong, and indeed there are cases where I may consider my disgust at something to be a moral failing on my part.

Similarly, with regard to group loyalty, I may feel that (except for the obligation to honour voluntarily accepted commitments) it is not a virtue because it limits the scope of our willingness to care for others.

Indeed if I were to adopt Haidt’s metrics then I might say that they indicate that conservatives lack a moral compass and just judge as morally good whatever pleases them, whereas liberals can distinguish between what they like and what is good. But that would be abusing the data so I won’t do it.

 

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