Crawl Across the Ocean

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

111. Righteous Mind Follow-Up

Note: This post is the one hundred and eleventh in a series about government and commercial ethics. Click here for the full listing of the series. The first post in the series has more detail on the book 'Systems of Survival' by Jane Jacobs which inspired this series.

Previously, I reviewed Jonathan Haidt's 'The Righteous Mind' in a series of posts, noting at one point that, "Like so many others, Haidt never considers the possibility that morality might be context-sensitive, not just in the sense that some morals might be more useful than others in certain cultures (which he does acknowledge) but that even within one culture some actions might be moral or immoral depending on the context."

I was reminded of that when recently  I was reading an interview between Tyler Cowen and Jonathan Haidt and came across this quote from Haidt, which is still stuck in the 'one set of morals per culture' mindset, but comes closer than he did in The Righteous Mind to seeing the commerce driven and context sensitive nature of different morals.
"If you have a warrior culture, if you’re constantly being attacked, boy, is it going to build on the loyalty, the authority, the sanctity ones, to create this tribal consciousness. You can see that in a joke form in fraternities. Fraternities, even on a secular campus, fraternities will build on those tribal foundations.
 Whereas, if you go to, say, Amsterdam, or New York, or places that are port cities with a lot of variety, diversity, commerce, those tend to thin down the moral domain. They don’t tend to do a lot with group loyalty and hierarchy. They tend to focus more on, “I’ll tell you what, you don’t hurt me, I won’t hurt you. You honor your contracts, I’ll honor mine.”
This is a more appropriate morality for diversity and for commerce."

The above passage could almost be a direct quote from 'Systems of Survival'.

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