Via EconLog I came across this Edge piece from Jonathan Haidt. It discusses the evolved nature of morality and how odd the western/liberal/individualist conception of morality common in academia is which focuses on only two factors (harm & fairness) whereas a broader sample of people would reveal three additional ones (loyalty, respect & sanctity) that have roughly equal weight weight with each other and the aforementioned two. Despite being an atheist himself, he points out the flaws in arguments of the New Atheists and points out that the religious & conservative are more likely to charitably give their time, money and blood to others.

As an emotivist, I was happy to see Kantian/logical ethics skewered as post-hoc rationalizations for split-second intuitions; “reason is the servant of the passions” to quote David Hume. As I mentioned before, I endorse a contractarian basis for society because I think it would be least prone to dysfunction. Unlike many libertarians I don’t actually believe normative “rights” exist, but I think people can agree to abide by certain rules, though which ones are entirely up to them and cannot be objectively evaluated. David Friedman has a good explanation here of how property rights can emerge using the idea of Schelling points. I don’t think any of the five factors Haidt discusses have any sort of objective validity but I find myself focusing on the “harm” factor. It might seem somewhat odd given my somewhat right-leaning nature to be a sort of liberal-of-liberals (embracing a subset of their values rather than the broader conservative ones), but it seems sensible to me since I don’t want to be harmed! I don’t dismiss the idea of procedural fairness on rule-utilitarian grounds, but the idea of an outcome as being “fair” strikes me as rather odd. Perhaps my notion of fairness was shaped in childhood games where fairness was simply adherence to the rules and if you thought any of the possible outcomes wasn’t “fair” you had no business playing. I will also wholly admit to a strong sense of disgust (the source of purity/sanctity), which is why I am an admitted homophobe, but it simply doesn’t seem like a “moral” issue to me and I bear no animus as a result of it. If I can close my eyes to the disgusting, then it simply doesn’t exist and I am not harmed.

EDIT: I didn’t feel this deserved it’s own post, but I just wanted to note that a defense of moral “relativism” just appeared at Lew Rockwell, something I didn’t expect to see before. It wanders off on boring tangents after a bit though. And now an attack on it in a poor film review. Either way, neoconservatives are bad (I’ll agree there).

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