A well-informed tour of contemporary moral psychology.
Haidt (Psychology/Univ. of Virginia; The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, 2005, etc.) lays out a rich landscape of morality, presenting a cross-cultural, evolutionarily sensible scenario wherein a moral universe can be shaped from six moral foundations: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation and liberty/oppression. Haidt examines, via a wide array of theories, research and experimentation, how various subsets—for instance, the WEIRD (Western, educated, industrial, rich, democratic) group—emphasize one or more of the foundations with respect to group traditions and evolutionary progress. He explains how he has arrived at an intuitionist’s rather than a rationalist’s stance regarding the elemental governing of our moral behavior—a framework with us at birth, though not deterministic—how our reasoning comes later to justify our social agenda and how moral intuitions such as loyalty, authority and sanctity gather such subjective importance and potential evolutionary value. He arrives at a broad definition of moral systems as “interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible.” Haidt finds within Western democracies an ethnic and moral diversity that is best served by utilitarianism, producing the greatest total good, and that happiness comes from “getting the right relationships between yourself and others, yourself and your work, and yourself and something larger than yourself.”
A cogent rendering of a moral universe of fertile complexity and latent flexibility.