Why don't you understand what I'm SAYING?

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Professor Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, recently published a book titled Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion that brings calls into mind new question regarding political polarization in the United States, while at the same time evaluating the changing views of American political parties. The book attempts to cover the spectrum of different ideas ranging from the disparities of political communication to the morals that create groups and societies. In a New York Times article William Saletan, Slate Magazine's national correspondent, and author of "Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War" summarizes the book and provides a brief discussion on it.
In the discussion regarding the book, Saletan really seemed to focus on the rhetoric of politics. He argues that when it comes to politics, people who try to argue to other people's logic rarely ever win, because people choose political parties based on their morals. Therefore, when it comes to political discussion, it's more beneficial to try and discussion the morality of it, then to use reason. The example that Haitd used in his book was a study in which he asked participants

Is it wrong to have sex with a dead chicken? How about with your sister? Is it O.K. to defecate in a urinal? If your dog dies, why not eat it?

He concluded that under interrogation, most subjects in psychology experiments agree these things are wrong. But none can explain why. This shows how people who have strong beliefs struggle with the ability to justify them, when they are just based on morals. This in turn translates into the difficult political rhetoric many face.

For more information on Haidt and his research visit his website


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It makes sense that people choose their political parties based on moral beliefs, especially considering how much politics revolves around subjects that require morals. Everything from abortion to the war in the Middle East is based on morals. And by the way, I think I would be able to justify why I answered "no" to those questions.

Do you think morals are based on more emotional decision-making? Do we reason about them independently or take them from our parents?

Yes, sometimes logic can't be the weapon to win the heart of others. Emotional approach might be way better than logic. The morals of people are quite different from others, so I think the best way is to understand and value on how other people think of their moral, and show respects to them.

I think a significant part of decision-making, especially in regards to politics, is emotional decision making. First in relation to politics, most political ads and campaigns today targets voters with statements that try and move the masses emotionally in order to win a vote. I think a good example with this is the Kony campaign. The Kony campaign has spread like wildfire gaining support all over the web with it's moving 30 minute movie. However how many those that "shared" it on facebook actually took the time to look up what % of the profits went to the actually cause, where the money went in relation to the actual cause (as in how it helped the cause) and/or looked up other organizations that are also involved with the cause to see what those organizations were doing compared to invisible children? I am not at all challenging or supporting the kony campaign, but simply trying to point out how people will make a decision based off of a emotionally moving video instead of research the facts. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of those asked to defend their opinions and cannot is because they made that decision or found themselves holding a moral that was based off of emotionally supported logic instead of facts and research.

Emotional reasoning guides us in our decision making as opposed to logical reasoning. If you pay attention to advertising, you will find that generally ads are based on either fear, humor, or sex appeal. This is actually very sad because people in politics, marketing, etc. make us do or buy certain things by literally pushing our emotional buttons.

Haidt argues that moral grounds are built on care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. He has found related themes that carry moral weight: divinity, community, hierarchy, tradition, sin and degradation. So the role of the family and morals depends on culture one is brought up in and the emphasis placed on authority, hierarchy and tradition.

This definition makes a lot of sense to me. A lot of the time I find using logic to argue with someone is useless because they are unwilling to really listen to my logic. Instead, they have preset morals set in their head that they are scared to stray from, which is explained here. Very interesting read!

I used to be a debater, and rhetoric was always a crucial and interesting part of every debate. It's interesting and complicated how people establish their morals and how they value different things. While we can't always use logic to explain our beliefs, it doesn't seem to matter to a lot of people that they can't use logic to justify their morals and political beliefs. Many people have their own thoughts and don't need logic to argue them, they still exist even if evidence to support or refute them doesn't.

Exactly, political questions are really not up to debate. People have different views. Some may think that women should stay home, some may not. Some think that pot should be legalized, some doesn't. When debating, we shouldn't focus on "right" and "wrong". We should focus on the numbers, the effect of each decision. Instead of arguing it is "wrong" to give poor people money or take money from the rich. We should argue, what effect would such a policy produce. For example, if a policy that will make the rich pay more taxes and give them to the poor. Then it would create an incentive to be poor, we might get more freeloaders who can actually work but choose to live on welfare. Those are solid points in a debate, and that's what our politicians should focus on. However our politicians can't because the general public care more about what's "right" and "wrong". This forces our politicians to lie to stay in the "right" side of people's views.

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This page contains a single entry by zasto004 published on March 27, 2012 4:34 PM.

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