Jon Haidt is a positive psychologist who has devoted his career to studying the origins of morality, ethics and the role of disgust in the formation of religion. One of his key arguments is that ethical positions are taken based on emotion (system one) and then we use the reason (system two) to make ex post facto justifications for why we’ve ‘chosen’ a position.
This can explain why it is nearly impossible to have an intelligent conversation with someone across an idealogical divide: religious vs. atheist, Democrat vs. Republican, or pro-Russian vs. pro-Ukrainian. Haidt explores the issue in his book the Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.
Haidt’s interview at Warton Business School gives a succinct summary of his position.
Haidt cowrote a piece for the Atlantic, the Coddling of the American Mind, that has gone on to become one of the most damning critiques of modern political correctness. Much of the same content is covered in this interview with Sam Harris.
What’s the way forward? While the drawbacks to hyper political correctness are obvious, it’s all too easy to forget that segregation and the events in the new film Hidden Figures happened only a generation ago. How can we use Haidt’s research to reach across political divides?