9.12.2008

http://www.edge.org/documents/archive/edge256.html#haidt

A Durkheimian society would value self-control over self-expression, duty over rights, and loyalty to one's groups over concerns for outgroups.

A Durkheimian ethos can't be supported by the two moral foundations that hold up a Millian society (harm/care and fairness/reciprocity). My recent research shows that social conservatives do indeed rely upon those two foundations, but they also value virtues related to three additional psychological systems: ingroup/loyalty (involving mechanisms that evolved during the long human history of tribalism), authority/respect (involving ancient primate mechanisms for managing social rank, tempered by the obligation of superiors to protect and provide for subordinates), and purity/sanctity (a relatively new part of the moral mind, related to the evolution of disgust, that makes us see carnality as degrading and renunciation as noble).

This is a quote from the edge.com, and, frankly, I have a problem with the categories, *especially* the last three, which I expect any more educated respondant might, and which I suspect may be skewing the results: harm/care are opposites; fairness/reciprocity are complimentary (both related to equality) but are not antonyms or synonyms; ingroup/loyalty are related, but "ingroup" has negative connotations, since it implies exclusion, while loyalty comes in all flavors; authority/respect is a truly odd coupling, but the explanation seems to indicate that what is really intended is "respect for authority / responsibly acquitting duties"; purity/sanctity are another odd pair, and I frankly don't have a handle on how they are trying to make "sanctity" operate as a category.

So, I think they're really misunderstanding Durkheim here. Or maybe I am; I dunno much about that Durkheim lad. Mill is about protection, service, and equality; is Durkheim about loyalty in exchange for protection, respect reinforcing equality, and responsibility derived from service PLUS? Putting "sanctity" aside again, I think it is plain to see how these pretty common values have been exploited. We have been protected from problems we created in order to have our loyalty policed; we have been asked not to respect others because they are equals, but because they are superiors (mostly through this manipulation of authority); and no responsibility or assumption of true duty or service has occurred.

If Durkheim is about "ingroup, authority, purity" then, well, yeah, that's pretty objectionable stuff. Exclusion, hierarchy, and -- there again, purity, I'm not ready to touch that yet -- that's pretty unAmerican stuff.

All of this makes me think of the odor of sanctity that accompanied some sainted individuals -- individuals made saints, exemplars, ideational intercessors to more difficult and complex moral truths. No one knows if a person is pure or holy except by that person's actions or other outward signs, where language is a sign, not a statement, like "I am good with God," but "I think thus and thus and thus," and we judge that.

Another tactic is: this seems to be a gross misunderstanding of how american protestantism has historically worked. Now, I am willing to concede that this is not a primary area of my expertise, and that it seems to be operating differently than formerly. However -- a stab at it -- the ability of believers to have a direct communication with god, rather than one mediated by a church, is a founding principle of most protestantisms, no? and we have seen one of our vp candidates SHOP for religion by moving from church - mediated religion (roman catholicism) to direct emotional relationship with god (pentacostal) to direct literal (no interpreation necessary) reading of "god's text" (bible church).

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