Saturday, May 12, 2012

Morality

Physics seems to be wandering off into domains where I can't follow, such as the pressing question of why there is something rather than nothing, while Lubos has become fascinated with fruit flies, so my interests have turned to morality and the question of how we come by our frequently conflicting moral views. This interest is prompted by Jonathan Haidt's new book: The Righteous Mind, Why Good People are divided by Politics and Religion.

It's pretty easy to collect folk theories on the above topic. Liberals are immoral. Conservatives are unevolved, or maybe just dumb. These theories are not too enlightening.

Haidt, however, takes a point of view that I find congenial: he studies the questions experimentally and systematically. In particular, he has looked in detail at moral views of peoples and cultures from all over, and experimentally probed how people make moral decisions. The methods are fascinating in themselves, as are the results. I am only about four chapters in - you know I can't finish a book before I start writing about it - but he is also talking about how people change their moral views - more on that later.