Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Moral Foundations are Natural, but Their Ethical Configuration is Cultural

I have been thinking about Jonathan Haidt's empirical work on moral foundations.  He offers (tentatively) that the six moral foundations that he has identified are natural.

Much of his work is on the consequences of the fact that liberals only embrace two of the foundations - care for the harmed and fairness (understood as equality) - as a legitimate basis for public policy.  Conservatives, by contrast, embrace all six, or at least five - adding sanctity, loyalty, and authority, and maybe liberty.

So how do things which are natural to all get grouped differently by some?

I embrace the distinction between individual morals and social ethics.  (Not everyone distinguishes the terms this way, but it makes sense to me, especially sociologically).

Ethics can helpfully be thought of as contrasting configurations of moral foundations to serve social ends.  Different visions of what society is leads to different ethical structures, even though they are made of the same natural moral material.