Moral Psychology in Politics

The clip goes from 10:28 to 11:14 (but I highly recommend watching the whole thing, it’s a fabulous ted talk).

This ted talk explores the idea of ‘moral psychology’ and how we, or more specifically liberals and conservatives, differ in the kind of morals that are held to high esteem.  The speaker, Jonathan Haidt, explains how the five foundations of morality (harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity) differ between people at a fundamental level.  As you probably aren’t surprised, the first two were the most important to liberals; the latter three to conservatives.

The clip that I chose to analyze features Haidt using the above image as a means for arguing why the latter three are moral.   First off, the image is named “The Garden of Earthly Delight”.  The name itself implies that it has something to offer on the topic of purity/sanctity, giving the painting an air of authority on the subject.  While describing the image, Haidt steps through the panels, carefully explaining each as they apply to the latter three moral foundations, appealing to logic.  He uses comedy very well, comparing the middle and end panels as the 60’s and 70’s respectively, making light of some of the hellish depictions in the last panel while appealing to pathos.  The clip was also well organized, as the slideshow moves from panel to panel as he speaks about them so there is no mistaking what he is talking about.

The selection is a indicative of the entire talk.  The speaker uses sound logic and reasoning from very credible sources, adding comedy where appropriate throughout the video.

2 thoughts on “Moral Psychology in Politics”

  1. Why do you think Haidt chooses a painting from around 1500 A.D. to explain the progression here? Is it just as a metaphor? Or does the fact that the image is so old/historical lend a different kind of credence to his presentation? Why this image in particular, when it’s so wrapped up in Judeo-Christian mythology?

  2. I definitely think that the age of the image lends some kind of authority to the argument. What I find interesting, though, is that he would use a religious image. As he stated earlier in the presentation, the TED audience is typically a more liberal, and often less religious, group of people. They are clearly his intended audience, so why would he choose a piece of evidence that may not be the most effective to them? I think this may be why he uses comedy during his explanation to appeal more towards the non-religious in the audience.

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