Posts Tagged ‘moral foundations theory’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 43                              Consecutive Days Blogging: 44

Today’s Mileage:  10                                           Total Trip Mileage: 365


Visitor Center

As I ride the bike I recognize that we are quickly approaching the west coast of Florida.  We will visit Marco Island in coming days and then head towards Naples and our next Pilgrimage Site.  Our travels today take us past the Collier Seminole State Park so I will include photos from the park for your enjoyment.

Red Shouldered Hawk

Yesterday I spoke about the “levels of analysis” we may use when talking about spiritual and religious matters.  In my Psychology of Religion class I steer my students away from the usual “who has the right/proper form” questions towards these questions: how do religions and spiritual systems attempt to meet individual and community needs? How are different religions meeting the same functions with similar processes?”

Canoe trail

Today I’d like to speak briefly on the topic of morality from a functional perspective. Specifically  I would like to address the question:  how do we judge morality? I often hear people speak of other people’s behavior as being moral or not moral.  This is a deceptive simplification of the issue, we call dichotomous thinking.  It’s not that one person has a set of morals and the other is totally without.  The real issue is that the one person’s behavior (the actor) falls outside of what the other (the viewer) sees as moral.  However, in all likelihood, it fits the definition of “moral” held by the actor.  While one person might view going on a gay date as immoral, the person going on the date may judge it as the moral thing to do as they are acting in a congruent way between their feelings and actions.  For that person to deny and not act on their homosexuality, would  be for them, a deceptive and immoral action. I believe if we step back and take a functional approach to analyze conflict laden situations, we will see that both individuals have morals and both use them to judge their actions and choices. It’s in the content of their morals where the differences exist.

Primrose with visitor

In my current academic research I have come across the works of several Social psychologists in working  the field of Moral Foundations Theory. Recently the authors, Jesse Graham, Jonathan Haidt, and Brian Nosek, have reported finding that liberal and conservative individuals base their moral judgment and decisions on different sets of moral foundations. 

Moral Foundations Theory hypothesizes that there are five sets of “moral intuitions” which people use to make their moral judgments.  These include: 1) Does the action harm another and is it caring (Harm/Care),2) Is the action Fair towards the other individual and promote reciprocity (Fairness/Reciprocity), 3) Does the action fit with a loyalty towards one’s group (Ingroup/Loyalty), 4) Does the action show respect for prevailing authority (Authority/Respect), 5) Does the action fall within one’s views of what is a pure or sanctified behavior (Purity/Sanctity). Their research indicates that while individuals tend to use all five of these foundations, clear difference exist between individuals who rate themselves as liberals, who make primary use of Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity, versus conservatives, who make more or less equal us of all five foundations.

Salt Marsh Mallow

These findings point to and highlight the source of conflict between individuals on the opposite ends of political and religious discussions.  Liberals look first and foremost at the impact a choice or decision has on minority members of the society. Conservatives give significantly more weight to tradition, established authority figures and ideas of “right and wrong” as defined in sacred texts.

These authors note: “Western societies are growing more diverse and with diversity comes differing ideals about how to best regulate selfishness and about how we ought to live together.” Political and religious issues overlap in areas like abortion, separation of church and state, waging “just” wars, and gay rights issues, to name a few.  Whenever I hear a discussion concerning political and religious issues among individuals from opposite ends of the political spectrum, I remind myself that we all have morals and that we strive to live by them.  While this recognition may not help us find a common ground on questions of content and form, it will at least keep us focused on the other issue: the shared need to find a basis for our living together as a community.

What are your moral foundations?  Go to www.yourmorals.org and complete the online questionnaire to find out!

Sunset over the park

Thanks to the Florida State Parks Service for the wonderful photos.  Visit www.floridastateparks.org for more information.

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