Pigliucci on Haidt

Posted on September 15, 2008


In my last post, written a few days ago, I mentioned an interesting article on the reasons why people vote Republican – something that certainly astounds me despite my knowledge of the psychological research on human irrationality. In the meanwhile, Massimo Pigliucci has written at length on this article, arguing that the author fails to distinguish between describing and prescribing moral standards as well as failing to recognise the details of the political situation in the US:

There doesn’t seem to be any acknowledgment in what Haidt writes of complex social and historical factors that change over the span of decades. The counterculture of the ‘60s, the backlash it generated and that eventually lead to the surge to power of the Christian right, which is now already in decline again, regardless of the outcome of this election, to name a few. If Democrats lose because they “don’t get it” than we are left to wonder how come they actually won so often during the rest of the history of this nation.

In response to Massimo’s post, an interesting debate has started up in the comments section, with me taking a somewhat less than clear cut position. Let’s call it ‘nuanced’. Or, more accurately, ‘under construction’. Most interestingly for me, one of the other people to pipe in is an old friend of mine from undergraduate days, Joanna Masel, who is now working as a biologist in Arizona. It is the first time I have accidentally run into an old friend on the internet but, then, I used to do that all the time in the real world so I guess I should not be surprised so much.