Thursday, March 10, 2016

5. Righteous Taste Buds

My summaries of Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind continue. I've blogged on:

1. Introduction
2. Intuitive Dogs and Rational Tails
3. Elephants Rule
4. Three Domains of Morality

Let me continue with chapter 6: "Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind."

1. The "three domains" of previous chapters seem quite generative for describing various ethical strands within the Bible. In this chapter he tries to tease out five moral "taste buds" that humans have. Like cuisine, some cultures emphasize some more than others. They are:
  • care/harm
  • fairness/cheating
  • loyalty/betrayal
  • authority/subversion
  • sanctity/degradation
So far I don't find these as generative as the earlier three, but we'll see how things progress.

The taste bud image in itself is generative. The suggestion is that all tongues come with the potential for certain tastes, but varied cultural contexts activate some more than others. So also there are various moral categories we come equipped with as humans. Some cultures activate some more than others.

2. His love of Hume as a moralist comes out again in this chapter. Morality is based in a variety of sentiments. I have a good deal of respect for Hume, but my elephant is hesitant to dive in. I'm reading Haidt with caution.

One of the more amusing aspects to the chapter was Haidt's suggestion that Bentham was on the autism spectrum and that Kant wasn't far off. He uses research into autism, where a person can be plotted against two axes--one has to do with high and low empathy. The second has to do with high and low systematization. So the "Autism Zone" is placed with high systematizing and low empathy. He puts Bentham flat in the square, Kant just outside it.

3. On the one hand, I agree that Kant is worthless when it comes to ethics. When it comes to epistemology, Kant is fundamental to my sense of knowing the world. But when it comes to morality, Kant was useless. He tried to make morality into an equation that just flat fails and that Kant himself tried to re-express multiple times.

Bentham tried to make morality into an equation as well, but his intention was working at something noble. Bentham was balking at a world that treated the aristocracy as more important than the common person. Sure, Bentham's approach needed seriously modified to be human, which John Stuart Mill did. Mill's version is much to be preferred, but Bentham had good intentions. "The greatest good for the greatest number" needs some supplements, but it is fundamental.

Forgive me for believing that there are some ways in which Enlightenment morality is superior to a number of other world moralities. A world in which women have the same value as men is a better world than cultures in which they do not. A world that leans toward individual identity seems to me a better world than one than leans toward honor-shame.

I'll admit that it's hard to prove it. I can say, "Because it leads to a greater total happiness without individual oppression," but I can't prove it. It may be that some cultures actualizing different standards may have greater total happiness.

No comments: