Moral Theory Part 2 (What Liberals Need To Know)

I’m trying to cover all facets of Spirituality so that includes the practical.  My Spirituality posts includes prayers, dreams, relationships, people, history, & how things work. Morals would certainly fall under that category so lets look at Moral Theory. Moral Theory is sometimes hard to understand. The reason it’s important is because we are no longer children.   As adults we can see that things are no longer wrong or right, black or white.  In trying to make moral decisions we have entered the realm of Abstract Thinking, trying to balance multiples of concerns to find right answers.  Take your time to assimilate Moral Theory research. It can be examined at the websites as shown at the bottom of the post.

When I became aware of Jon Haidt’s(and his colleagues) research of new Moral Theory concepts it totally amazed me.  Most of my life I’ve been a bleeding heart liberal.   Mr. Haidt and his colleagues have pursued research beyond some of the Original Moral Theories.     In essence there are more deciding issues of  moral decision-making then if things only fall into the 1) Harm/Care and  2)Fair/Reciprocity categories.   He(and his colleagues) have  investigated an ongoing realization that  3)Authority, 4)Ingroup/Loyalty, &  5)Purity/Sanctity were concepts that many people use in the moral decision process. 

Liberals make decisions  principally with:

       1) Harm/Care


                 Or put another way : Does it Harm anyone and is it Fair?

Conservatives also take into account the issues of:




               So Conservatives also add in :  What Authority does it have to make it right, is it in the group and are they loyal, &  does it uphold sacred values and purity.

 These precepts are important reasons why Liberals and Conservatives are different.   While liberals are deciding if the issues are doing harm or if they are fair, conservatives are also asking What does the Boss think, does it fit the group and loyalty model, & does it uphold sacredness and purity.

Mr. Haidt(and his colleagues) realized the Psychology/Sociology/Moral Theory Community was mostly liberal and so in some ways couldn’t really support their theses and Scientific Papers on their selective and subjective research methods.  In essence, they suffered themselves from confirmation bias(the idea that they favored their own position).  The Psychology/Sociology/Moral Theory community was about 80 – 90 % Liberals and so they could not even judge real Moral Theory because they only listened to their own voice. 

At this point in time Mr. Haidt(& his colleagues) also realized that History & Anthropology showed a preponderance of evidence that people have mostly used the added Conservative Values of 3)Authority, 4)Ingroup/Loyalty, & 5)Purity/sanctity.  Our county, America, is one of the first nations that ensured Liberty, Freedom, and Independence. Because of that we have a very modern Liberal constituency that could argue with Authority, deny Groupthink, and to even  question and oppose Sacred Issues.   Most countries and societies are still Authority, InGroup/Loyalty, and Purity/Sanctity oriented. In essence the Psychology/Sociology/Moral Theory Community was wrong(or at least very slanted) and they should have at least considered these values in their research, papers and books.


It appears the Mr. Haidt considers his position now, not as a liberal, but a centrist liberal(he used the words liberal Democrat and centrist Democrat).   I THINK THAT I DO TO.

As a former bleeding heart liberal I NEVER CARED WHAT THE AUTHORITIES THOUGHT,  I DIDN’T CARE WHAT THE GROUP THOUGHT, AND I DIDN’T CARE ABOUT FALSE SANCTAMONIOUS ISSUES.  I now realize that I may have been at least partly wrong(…a little crow,….slice of humble pie,…gulp).

The quick and dirty way that I can finish this is to give those examples of the other three Moral Theory choices that I know now have enriched my life.

Together we are greater than the sum of our parts(Authority, Ingroup).

Without my family I would be a mess(Ingroup, sanctity)

Without these things the center will not hold(Authority, Ingroup).

Mob rule needs direction and cohesion(Authority, Ingroup)

Preservation of society is important(Authority, Ingroup, Sanctity)

Children deserve to mature to adulthood(Ingroup, Sanctity)

Authority  & Society can sometimes provide role models, leadership, & direction(Authority, Ingroup, Sanctity).  

More sometime later on “Why I was only liberal.”

The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.”

             – Mark Twain

 These are the big ideas that take some time to wrap our heads around, the full meaning can’t be understood until we digest it slowly and completely. Because of that I highly recommend that you, the reader of this post, examine it at length on you own.

Here is The Site:

John Haidt’s Morals lesson in video.

New York Times article 

Take a test to find out your “Morals position”


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25 Responses to “Moral Theory Part 2 (What Liberals Need To Know)”

  1. Pat Cegan Says:

    Seems too complicated to me. Besides, since moving to a different culture, I have had to really look at the values I was taught were absolute. Values can be tremendously influenced by cultures. And truths change with many factors. So, what is the answer? Do not harm. Love as unconditionally as possible. Forgive. Be grateful. Oh, and eat a piece of chocolate when you fail. 🙂

    Good write. Very thought provoking. I may even break down and read your references. Hugs, pat

  2. informationforager Says:

    Thanks for the words. It is complicated sometimes I think, Good intentions can go awry.

    My wife and I just got some white chocolate. Peace be with you.

  3. Random Ntrygg Says:

    Churchhill said it best with if you’re not a liberal at 20, you have no heart and if you’re not a conservative at 40, you have no brain.

    Any moral theory – meaning a theory of what is moral – is determined by shared cultural values and balanced between tradition and social progress.

    Morals arise from emotional values and are largely a measurement of disgust and repulsion.

    I would suggest that the conservative basis for determining morals is based on conformity to tradition and authority primarily and are not at all concerned with the liberal emphasis on harm minimization and inclusiveness.

    Morals are not at all a sound decision basis, being rooted in emotional response, which is hardly a stable basis and are entirely subjective, and can be fairly easily conditioned.

    We cannot say that murder is immoral in all circumstances, and then train soldiers, police and other groups to kill people.

    • informationforager Says:

      Thanks for the comment and the qoute. It was very good and well said. You have a good idea of the message that I was trying to communicate.

    • David M. Green Says:

      Re: We cannot say that murder is immoral in all circumstances, and then train soldiers, police and other groups to kill people.

      I respectfully disagree provided that soldiers and the police are used to protect and defend citizens and the commonwealth from predators both foreign and domestic. As opposed to being immorally used as cannon fodder by those of the political and governing class who wish to exploit individuals and other nations weaker than ourselves.

      • Random Ntrygg Says:

        I am not saying that we shouldn’t train the protectors of society to kill

        I am saying that we have to say that there are moral circumstances under which it is not only permissable, but desirable and moral to kill

  4. Professor Taboo Says:

    Love it! Great blog. Some weeks I have it all clear in my heart/mind, other weeks I see more refinement is necessary. I know this (for now 😉 ), this Universe has basic dualities seemingly necessary for balance. Go too far to one and things tend to get out of whack. Having been taught in college that ALL negative forces must be eliminated for the sake of purity — an ideal I no longer fully adhere to — I’ve found myself embracing certain forms of difficulty or pain-at-first-glance like an athlete experiences when training relentlessly. Yet, clearly there are fatal extremes to be avoided which begs the question, who/what defines absolutely right & wrong, good & evil? HAH! 🙂

    • David M. Green Says:

      Professor Taboo as individuals each of us has the right and the obligation to define the moral absolutes of right and wrong, good and evil, moral and immoral for ourselves and then apply them to our lives. The trouble starts when someone or a group decides to go to the fatal extreme of forcing their own special brand of moral tyranny upon the rest of society.

      • Professor Taboo Says:

        Could not agree more Mr. Green! Very well said. A discussion that I’ve been having with another blogger on here on the subject of relationships or marriage, gets into this very debate: WHO has authority to define love? Who has the jurisdiction inside individual homes or bedrooms to dictate what love is between two or more human beings? Invasion into personal homes/bedrooms is too often what you speak of…”fatal extreme…forcing their own special brand of moral tyranny/love”. Namaste Sir. 🙂

  5. informationforager Says:

    Thank you for your hearty comment. That’s a good analogy about the athlete. He/She brings pain upon their self to reach new plateaus and fulfill the goal. Keep Blogging. Keep Writing.

  6. Bhaga Says:

    I tend to agree with what Pat Cegan said in her comment, which came in first.
    Furthermore… I wonder if one can really have this topic of Morality, under the overall title of ‘Spiritual Themes?… I know many people confuse Spirituality with a number of other things in human life that are not really Spirituality, The only contribution I can make here and hope it might help, is this text by a majot spititual figure, Sri Aurobindo, clarifying the difference:

    “It must therefore be emphasized that spirituality is not a high intellectuality, not idealism, not an ethical turn of mind or moral purity and austerity, not religiosity or an ardent and exalted emotional fervour, not even a compound of these excellent things; a mental belief, creed or faith, an emotional aspiration, a regulation of conduct according to a religious or ethical formula are not spiritual achievement and experience. These things are of considerable value to mind and life; they are of value to the spiritual evolution itself as preparatory movements disciplining, purifying or giving a suitable form to the nature; but they still belong to the mental evolution, – the beginning of a spiritual realization, experience, change is not yet there. Spiriituality is in its essence an awakening to the inner reality of our being, to a spirit, self, soul which is other than our mind, life and body, an aspiration to know, to feel, to be that, to enter into contact with the greater Reality beyond and pervading the universe which inhabits also our own being, to be in communion with It and union with It, and a turning, a conversion, a transformation of our whole being as a result of the aspiration, the contact, the union, a growth or waking into a new becoming or new being, a new self, a new nature.”

    Perhaps this is why you (and most other human beings) are having a hard time whenever they try to define an absolute Moral Theory or Political System to rule their lives with from outside? It cannot be done.

    • informationforager Says:

      That’s an excellent quote/message from Sri Aurobindo. Thank you.

      Yea you may be right that it is out of context with a spiritual themes site but I feel that on occasion that I should address the practical. For myself I wouldn’t feel right just posting on a “pure” spiritual message because it is easier to just say it, than to just do it. I think that Pat’s right but I still feel that some things are complicated. I only know this from the times that I thought I was being loving, caring, and understanding only to find out that I wasn’t.

      I have though been accused of being overly analytical.

      I’ve saved Sri Aurobindo message so that I can review it more later. It’s something that may require multiple readings even thought it’s fairly direct and straightforward.

      I’ve just been inspired for a new post.

      I be seeing your own messages soon which are so great. I have put you on my Spiritual Blogs Column on the right. Thank you again.

      • Bhaga Says:

        I just posted a reply to you, but probably didn’t click on the right ‘rply’ button, so my post ended up as a general reply to your main post. Sorry for that!… In case it is indeed so, please just look down below at my real reply to your answer – which i thank you for, by the way!…

  7. Bhaga Says:

    Spirituality is the most practical thing in the world. It has nothing to do with theories, which are of the mind: theories are the only thing your mind can give you… and gives you sometimes plenty of, but still leaves you in the lurch, unable to know which one of all those theories is true!…
    It’s like being at sea, and trying to figure out how to go on, with just perhaps some map to rely on, but no compass. It is the Spirit within you which is the only Compass you can get, so only by getting in contact with you Inner Self do you get this badly needed Compass that will give you the right direction to follow at every moment. It is as simple as that, and, as you can see, real practicality at last!!!
    I know what i am talking about, because I have the constant experience within myself of both the mental way of being, and the spiritual way of being, and I am just so glad and relieved that now for so many years I don’t have to rely on my mental theories any more, but can rely entirely, moment after moment, upon the direct knowledge I get from my soul: exactly like from a Compass!… What a relief! This is exactly why Spirituality is indispensable, and it’s high time all human beings come to know about it and start living it.

  8. informationforager Says:

    Thank you for your reply. This may be why we have a conciousness that our only guiding light is inside. Our deviation from this consciousness is our error. I kind of consider this like loking within and looking without. Do we just sit on a mountaintop and “BE” or are we intacting with the world in a meaningful way.

    In other ways I compare it to dualities. In science it’s “Is it a particle or a wave?” In Love is it a noun or a verb? The feeling of love is not loving.

    Anyway we may have to have slightly different outlooks on this. However that is also why I saved the Sri Aurobindo message, so I can ponder it some more. I have found in my life that the more I think this is “IT” the farther I am from really knowing. Peace be to you.

    • Bhaga Says:

      Thank you for your reply too. Before we stop this exchange for now, I just want to clarify one thing, though:
      Perhaps the fact that i live on the seaside gives the impression that there, one can just ‘Be’. It is not so at all. Life anywhere in Auroville is a far cry from the proverbial life on a mountaintop. We are right in the middle of all the problems of the world, precisely to be ‘impacting the world in a meaningful way’, as you say. It is the traditional ways of yoga that require solitude, away in ashrams or monasteries. Yoga as we live it is lived amidst all the activities and difficulties of ordinary life. It is what I compared with being at sea – just as an image.
      Peace be with you too.

  9. informationforager Says:

    Thank you for you comments. I do believe that my many online aquintances, friends, are co-creators are helping me. Sometimes I lead, sometimes I walk with another, sometimes I follow, and sometimes If I’m think I’m leading I can have great people such as yourself watching my back that I don’t step the wrong way. Thanks again.

    • Bhaga Says:

      Sincere apologies, dear informationforager. Here I am, more or less telling you what topic you can or cannot include, in your own blog!!! I am so sorry. I am awfully lacking in social skills and sensitivity. I just blurt out things as they come, and realize too late I may have hurt or offended the other person. You should have thrown me out of your blog!… Luckily for me, you are a sincere seeker, really, so you willingly accept criticism even when it is somehow out of place as in the case of my remarks. Please do forgive me my inconsiderate behaviour, and accept me still as a visitor on your blog, I promise i’ll be more careful in the future!…. I’m also learning… that’s what mistakes are for! 🙂

  10. informationforager Says:

    You’re a Hundred Per Cent OK. I WANT YOU to speak up. As indicated in the prior responce I NEED YOU to watch my back. Am I the leader or just pretending to be the leader.? I’m really neither, I’m just trying to share things and learn things. You’re going to help me if I misstep on the path, You’re going to tell me to backup if you think that I may be stepping into a trap. You’ll help me turn around if I’m flat out going the wrong way. I have taken your concerns and have pondered them and even have them set aside in mental location to revisit. Peace be with you and God bless you.

    • Bhaga Says:

      Oh, dear informationforager, I’m just so glad for you that your previous reply was genuine, and expressing your real feelings…
      A few weeks ago, I had the very unpleasant and sad experience of another person on her blog speaking wise and cordial words to me for quite a while, but it turned out to have been on her part mostlly polite words, written only out of social bienséance, blogging etiquette, and as soon as she saw (if she even ever saw it…) that about something specific she was wrong, this was too much to accept for her, she could never admit to be mistaken in anything, and she accused me of all kind of nonsense, rather than ever questioning for one second her own interpretation of what i had said, quite sincerely and without any hidden motivations, that she had taken wrongly and thought had been an attempt at deceiving her and claiming her as a ‘convert’ of the devious sect or something like that she affirmed i was part of!!!
      I was flabbergasted by the whole incident, and I promised myself not to believe any more so easily that people’s kind words were anything more than social politeness, while they would actually lash out at me if i was stupid enough to believe their friendly words.
      It’s such a difficult thing to do for our ego, simply to recognize one can make mistakes, and to admit it when one has been wrong about something, I wasn’t sure if you really meant it when you said you appreciated the remarks i had made, which were actually downright criticisms…!
      But now i see you meant it, and I am overjoyed for you, for this reaction on your part shows you are truly a sincere person, a sincere seeker, and this is the only thing that really matters to me for appreciating somebody.
      So yes, dear informationforager, this blog of yours, to my eyes, is truly a blog about ‘Spiritual Themes’, whatever topic you feel to include in that, because your inner attitude is the right one, with all the humility and the willingness to learn, as well as the strength to say what you feel to be true, which can be of use for other people too. Thank you for your blog! It fully deserves its name.
      Hmmm!… Sorry now for this loooong reply… I hope you don’t mind. I’ll tiptoe now out back to my own blog… As you say so nicely, ‘Keep on writing, keep on blogging’!

      • Professor Taboo Says:

        Bhaga, it is indeed disheartening sometimes when a person lavishes us with etiquette & kind words, but behind the ‘Oz curtain’ their heart & mind are in complete disagreement, perhaps irrate, YET do not possess the tact or skill to respectfully express it. Do not beat yourself up. I have to remind myself quietly that on the internet, as in online dating sites for example, people sometimes put an imaginary “best foot forward” not realizing they paint a dishonest self-image. The answer or the key is simple: express yourself honestly but with the skill to respect others who disagree & without being false to yourself. I suspect fear is running around unchecked otherwise. Being wrong (as objectively as “wrong” can be defined) is truly an opportunity, not a failure.

  11. informationforager Says:

    Thanks. Peace be with you.

  12. Random Ntrygg Says:

    Excellent post and recapping of their paper.

    It is difficult for people to understand the difference between “moral” and the means by which the determination is made “theory of morality”.

    When I took morals and ethics in university, it was a focus on all the schools – be they a set of rules or a harm model. These flew out the windo for me when I read the subject paper because I always felt that what was lacking in all the theories of morality was motivation.

    And this paper explains motivation very well – and I think your assessment that liberals, unless they were anarchists, actually did use all 5 basis as well, only liberal emphais the harm/fairness with secondary consideration on the other three but also direct the other three to more personal groups and authority figures – not the social level of authority and group designators.

    brilliant! thanks for giving me more food for thought

    • informationforager Says:

      Thanks. I am reading a book called “Conservatism” by Jerry Z. Muller. This is the same book that Jon Haidt read and that had such a profound effect on him. It is a great book and I am learning a great deal about Conservative ideas and values. Because of this I think that I can understand better how to talk with conservatives but also to end confusion between people. Morals are complicated. Life is complicated. Peac be with you.

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