It is difficult to compare the merits of conservatism and liberalism because value judgments are divisive by nature. Jonathan Haidt argues that we can avoid this argument because these seemingly conflicting values actually compliment each other (yin and yang). This is another way of saying that we ought to avoid extremes and strive to find balance.
My biggest problem with staunch conservatism is that we appear to live in an emergent universe in which change is the only constant. Evolution implies constant adaptation. A flexible branch can move with the wind, but a rigid one will break.
One who is resistant to change will eventually find him or herself out of synch with his or her environment. If conservatives sometimes feel their values are under attack, they may be experiencing the effects of dynamic forces pushing against ideas that belong to another time.
About Jonathan Haidt
Psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the five moral values that form the basis of our political choices, whether we’re left, right or center. In this eye-opening talk, he pinpoints the moral values that liberals and conservatives tend to honor most.
He studies morality and emotion in the context of culture. He asks: Why did humans evolve to have morals — and why did we all evolve to have such different morals, to the point that our moral differences may make us deadly enemies? It’s a question with deep repercussions in war and peace — and in modern politics, where reasoned discourse has been replaced by partisan anger and cries of “You just don’t get it!”
Haidt asks, “Can’t we all disagree more constructively?” He suggests we might build a more civil and productive discourse by understanding the moral psychology of those we disagree with, and committing to a more civil political process. He’s also active in the study of positive psychology and human flourishing.
Openness to experience
“Open individuals have an affinity for liberal, progressive, left-wing political views — they like a society which is open and changing — whereas closed individuals prefer conservative, traditional, right-wing views.”
The five foundations of morality are:
- harm / care
- fairness / reciprocity
- in group loyalty
- authority/ respect
- purity / sanctity
A lot of the problems we have to solve are problems that require us to change other people. And if you want to change other people, a much better way to do it is to first understand who we are — understand our moral psychology, understand that we all think we’re right — and then step out – even if it’s just for a moment, step out — check in with Seng-ts’an.
Step out of the moral matrix, just try to see it as a struggle playing out in which everybody does think they’re right, and everybody, at least, has some reasons — even if you disagree with them — everybody has some reasons for what they’re doing.
Step out. And if you do that, that’s the essential move to cultivate moral humility, to get yourself out of this self-righteousness, which is the normal human condition. Think about the Dalai Lama. Think about the enormous moral authority of the Dalai Lama — and it comes from his moral humility.