I've been fascinated by some of Jonathan Haidt's work in moral psychology for some time. His explanation of how we think trumps the ideas of politics, because in politics we phrase ourselves in terms of justifications instead of values and reactions, which is probably the origin (cause, not effect) of our mental cogitation.
Of course, we like to think our thinking is both cause and effect because that's how the personality/ego sees it, but in reality, we're many impulses and the ego just picks the biggest monkey among them.
This is really death metal because it denies the higher plane of intention. Only consequences matter. Even more, our intentions are rarely what they seem -- what we call our intentions are often our justifications. Haidt divides moral psychology into five silos for measurement:
1) Harm/care, related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. This foundation underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
2) Fairness/reciprocity, related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. This foundation generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy. [Note: In our original conception, Fairness included concerns about equality, which are more strongly endorsed by political liberals. However, as we reformulate the theory in 2010 based on new data, we are likely to include several forms of fairness, and to emphasize proportionality, which is more strongly endorsed by conservatives]
3) Ingroup/loyalty, related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. This foundation underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it's "one for all, and all for one."
4) Authority/respect, shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. This foundation underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
5) Purity/sanctity, shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. This foundation underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).
Interestingly, for liberals only two of these five are action items; for conservatives, all five are.
I found purity interesting because it's where a lot of metal comes in, albeit in a pragmatic and not "intention" way:
Purity, the final moral sense, is the hardest one for secular liberals to understand, but the psychology of purity isn’t necessarily about God; it’s the idea, deeply felt by most people, that human beings have a nobler, more spiritual self as well as a baser, more carnal self. It’s the idea that life—both private and communal—should have some higher purpose than the maximisation of pleasure, profit, and efficiency.
Peering under the skin of the human beast helps us learn more about who we are, which is the one thing most people fear.
Part of this is reaching an ultimate truth which is that our social mores are adaptations, not inherent truths:
“There are indeed moral facts, but they are nothing like as relativistic as you’d infer from a study of anthropology or comparative religion.”
We either face those moral facts, or we work around them through mechanisms like status competition
I found this especially germaine:
Take attitudes to contemporary art and music. Conservatives fear that subversive art will undermine authority, violate the in-group’s traditions and offend canons of purity and sanctity. Liberals, on the other hand, see contemporary art as protecting equality by assailing the establishment, especially if the art is by oppressed groups.
Extreme liberals, Dr. Haidt argues, attach almost no importance to the moral systems that protect the group. Because conservatives do give some weight to individual protections, they often have a better understanding of liberal views than liberals do of conservative attitudes, in his view.
It's not in-group/out-group psychology; it's two totally different views of civilization. One is based in the consensual trust of values, and the other, in the individual as a client of the civilization