Now that I have had two posts here about mandating morality it’s probably time to address this general issue. I’m sure that after reading these posts some people question whether I believe there is any moral foundation. They are calling me a moral relativist. A recent article in The Week news site very much characterizes where I stand on this issue. Lets read some quotes from that post. Click on the source to see the whole thing.
Haidt lays out six distinct moral foundations.
1. Care the desire to help those in need and avoid inflicting harm
2. Liberty the drive to seek liberation from constraints and to fight oppression
3. Fairness the impulse to impose rules that apply equally to all and avoid cheating
4. Loyalty the instinct to affirm the good of the group and punish those who betray it
5. Authority the urge to uphold hierarchical relationships and avoid subverting them
6. Sanctity the admiration of purity and disgust at degradation
According to Haidt’s experimental research,
social conservatives affirm the validity of all six foundations.
Libertarians focus very heavily on liberty and a modest amount on fairness, while showing something close to indifference on the rest.
Liberals, for their part, emphasize in descending order of intensity care, liberty, and fairness, and express little concern about the others.
Viewed through the lens of these differing moral foundations, we can see that positions frequently described as expressions of moral relativism actually flow from deeply moral assumptions and commitments.
Liberals, for example, tend to be highly skeptical about American exceptionalism not because they deny moral truth, but because they are suspicious of group loyalty and highly concerned about making fair impartial judgments….
Liberals and libertarians on the other hand, can point to the comparative indifference to these same acts of harm among conservatives as evidence that they’re relativists.
Conservatives are merely somewhat less fixated on harm and much more concerned with group loyalty.
The conservative moral matrix might rub liberals and libertarians the wrong way, but it’s not an outgrowth of relativism. Rather, it’s a sign of a distinctive and different form of moralism….
All of which goes to show that pretty much no one in our politics and culture is a moral relativist. Our conflicts involve clashes among distinct moral outlooks…
The six areas above I believe pretty much cover the foundations for just what morality is. As mentioned various groups tend to almost primarily focus to one or two of these issue and pretty much ignore the rest. Yeah I am part of that group. The words above pretty clearly distinguish between the three political ideologies that are currently around.
I am not one to believe that any of these groups are without their moral compasses. Being a social liberal I pretty much align with that thinking. I can certainly see that some of my conservative friends are mostly concerned with loyalty, authority, and sanctity whereas i put most emphasis on the first three in the list.
The next time one of my conservative friends tells me I don’t seem to have a moral compass I will remember this article and understand that neither one of us is lacking morality we just cling to a different area of it.