Not, I'm not talking about those pesky poor folks, running around acting like rich folks when they don't have the money or power to get away with it.

I'm talking about the emotional mind-sets that go into framing how people think about political issues-- and how so-called "conservative" pundits have become adept at evoking these to manipulate public perceptions of any political problem and how best to address it.

When I was training for orderly work in a nursing home, one of our duties was to record observations etc in each patient's chart. One patient had been consistently alert; until one nurse, one day, marked the box "confused". From that time until a week or so later, the next time I saw her, everyone who'd made an entry had also checked the "confused" box. Perhaps she'd been confused the whole time, but I think that many people didn't have time or energy to do anything but assume things were much as the last person had indicated. Maybe I'd done a miracle cure & didn't know it. But there have been a great many psychological experiments showing how readily people follow the judgments of their colleagues.

Here's the book: George Lakoff's Moral Politics. If you want to read more, your library should have it.

It's not an exciting, new book. But it's what you need to know, about how different people (even the same person, in different contexts) can see entirely different stances as 'the only right, moral thing to do.'

Do you doubt that a "Liberal" morality can be moral? Or like me, wonder how a "Conservative" morality could be called any such thing?

Before any of us unwittedly "follow a multitude to do evil," this book may raise the points we most need to consider, to find the right direction...

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"You can't judge a book by its cover," but when I ran a used bookstore, that was often what I needed to go by.

The influence of people's initial psychological mind-set is far more powerful than we imagine. I could point to something a person had specifically asked for, and (because of this effect) be 100% sure they would look directly away from it. That was our newage shelf (not a subject we sought, but sometimes a batch would contain an unusually thoughtful example, too good to throw away.) It was a low shelf, at the front of the desk where I priced incoming books. I would point, right in their direction, and they would turn away. Once this happened, it took considerable verbal reframing to turn them toward their intended destination.

That is the effect that "conservative" ink tanks were developed to exploit. Because people have at least two basically divergent 'moral' perspectives they can potentially apply to any issue. And one of these will flavor the public's initial reaction with a fearful, judgmental, punitive mind-set that effectively derails their critical examination of what's actually happening, to whom, and why.

Another good resource for information on engaging the different moral viewpoints is Jonathan Haidt. His book (called Righteous Mind) is coming out on the thirteenth of this month. For a good overview of his ideas, Scientific American has a write up.

I get to Scientific American a month late because that's when the library puts its copy into circulation. But I will take a look.

I have a problem with this whole subject (which is why I find it worth discussing): Given that everybody approaches each issue in terms of some frame-- and that we all naturally seek to impose our agenda first, establish our own frame as the one that embraces the true picture....

where/how can we validly distinguish pernicious use of "moral" framing from "the truly common sense application of moral intuition" which it counterfeits?

Why is Jesus right where the "Pharisees" (of any religion-- explicitly not meaning 'practitioners of Judaism'--  meaning rather 'proponents of the particular flavor of Judaism Jesus argued against within Judaism') are wrong?

I am not seeking to "engage the different moral viewpoints" in the sense  of 'learning how to exploit the psychology unfairly too' --

but to examine 'what it is that makes us call both viewpoints "moral" ' -- and consider, Which is most valid? How may we validly decide that?


I'm not able to offer a lot, as I'm in the midst of allstag this and that, but I really liked Richard Shweder's piece on Relativism and Universalism I came across recently in relation to what thee asks, so I thought I would share.


Not really addressed to my unease, but with a couple good features... ie He doesn't reduce 'relativist' positions to == 'nihilism'. And he points up the importance of world view, that good/bad is only decidable within a system of "What happens, to whom, if I ___?"

Working from that hint, I'm coming to think that the problem isn't really contradiction between two "moralities"-- but between two different world views.

In one world view, we should listen to what ink tank personnel say about why poor people have poverty... while the rich have everything else. In another, we should wonder who is paying these ink tank people to bear witness against the poor-- and consider how the person paying acquired the money, and how much this has to do with the poor not having any...

A matter, then, of credibility of witnesses. Whose world view should Quakers be most inclined to credit? Not: Is a particular witness nice to his wife and dog? But: Should we lend an eager ear to someone who explains poverty as a consequence of misbehavior... in a nation where the most remunerative economic activities are fraud, acquiring-and-gutting firms in the real economy, and government contracting?

Not, then, 'philosophy of moral systems'. Rather, psychology of moral judgment.

Not-- Are the poor living lives of desperate disorder? Duh! But why is this being considered a matter of great interest and significance here?

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