Worth a read! Greta Christina explains philosopher Rebecca Goldstein's observation on a fundamental difference between "liberal" and "conservative" core values, and why things aren't as simple as "agreeing to disagree" between two "equally valid" sets of values.

Why Being Liberal Really Is Better Than Being Conservative (AlterNet)

(ellipses and emphases mine -- this summary is just a taste of the full article)

... what researchers are finding is that liberals prioritize very different values from conservatives.... self-described liberals strongly tend to prioritize fairness and [avoiding] harm as the most important of these core values -- while self-described conservatives are more likely to prioritize authority, loyalty and purity....

And of course, when I heard about this research, my instant reaction was to say, "But fairness and harm are more important! We were right all along! This proves it -- liberal values are better!"

But... I realize that conservatives are going to say the exact same thing. "But authority and loyalty are more important! This proves it! Conservative values are better!"

So I've been asking myself: Is there a way to distinguish between these values?

... at an atheist conference I spoke at recently, the answer was dropped into my lap... by the conference's keynote speaker, philosopher and MacArthur genius Rebecca Goldstein....

Fairness and harm are better values -- because they can be universalized.

Goldstein's argument is this. The basic philosophical underpinning of ethics (as opposed to its psychological and evolutionary underpinnings) are:

(a) the starting axiom that we, ourselves, matter;

and (b) the understanding that ... other people matter to themselves as much as we matter to ourselves; and that any rules of ethics ought to apply to other people as much as they do to ourselves. "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," and all that....

In other words, the philosophical underpinning of ethics are that they ought to be applicable to everyone. They ought to be universalizable.

And liberal values -- fairness and harm -- are universalizable.

In fact, it's inherent in the very nature of these values that they are universalizable....

Conservative values, on the other hand, are not universalizable.

Quite the contrary.

It is in the very nature of conservative values -- authority, loyalty, and purity -- that they are applied differently to different people. It is in the very nature of conservative values that some animals are, and ought to be, more equal than others.

The conservative value of authority has, at its very core, the idea that certain special people -- i.e., authority figures -- ought to be respected and obeyed more than others....

Conservative values -- authority, loyalty and purity ... actively resist universalization.

... I'm saying that we can actually distinguish between different core values... and that, unless there's a specific compelling reason to prioritize the "some animals are more equal than others" values of authority or loyalty or purity, we ought to prioritize the universalizable values of fairness and the avoidance of harm.

And you know what? I'll go even further.... in every example I can think of where our morality is a clear improvement over the morality of the past -- democracy, banning slavery, religious freedom, women's suffrage, etc. etc. etc. -- the core values being strengthened have been the values of fairness and the avoidance of harm: the liberal values, the ones that can be applied to everyone.

... humanity's moral evolution has, in every instance I can think of, been in the direction of humanity becoming more liberal.

(Read the whole thing!)

http://www.alternet.org/story/146930/why_being_liberal_really_is_be...

Views: 169

Replies to This Discussion

GC, I'm way to the left of liberal; I'm progressive.

How do progressives differ from liberals?

1. Liberals vote when doing so is convenient. Progressives vote even when conservatives have connived to put one issue on a special election ballot maybe six weeks ahead of the November general election.

2. Liberals are gentle folk. Progressives want what liberals want and we can be as mean as conservatives.

3. Liberals, not enthused about democracy, won't amend the Constitution to provide for a national initiative and referendum. Progressives know what pro-statehood people in the western territories knew when they provided for initiative and referendum in their state constitutions: Beltway politicians -- whatever their party loyalties -- are oligarchs AND OLIGARCHIES ARE CORRUPT.

So, Tom, you recommend people who think as we need to be more serious and focused on political issues and take action, through get out the vote drives, public education, and vote, even when inconvenient.  

You also advise we be more assertive, stand up for what we know to be true, attend rallies, become more visible.   

You promote the amendment of the Constitution to provide for a national initiative and referendum ... to do what? 

I agree that politics from the Beltway on issues they know nothing about, and party loyalties that focus on wealth and big money runs rules the elections. Is that what you propose to end? 

  

Joan, I'm wondering if you feel scolded by what I wrote.

Tom, Oh! my goodness, NO. I don't feel scolded at all. We have the problem pretty well defined and now we need to figure out what to do. I need clarity on what you see as #3. Sorry, I just asleep writing this note and I want to be sure you know I like that you wrote and want to fill it out. 

OK, my computer is going to bed and so am I. Goon morning. 

Joan, I'm glad you don't feel scolded.

When I moved from Phoenix to San Francisco I fell in with some left wing folk, one of whom was wearing an "Eschew Liberalism" button. I asked him what it meant.

I learned that SF liberals contribute the money that leftists need (for which I thank them) and told some of the liberals I met that I was a progressive because I didn't have enough money to be a liberal.

You promote the amendment of the Constitution to provide for a national initiative and referendum ... to do what?

You've heard this said:

You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.

Replace the word 'fool' with the word 'bribe', improvise a little and get:

You can bribe some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you don't have enough money to bribe all of the people all of the time.

With a national initiative, we voters would do what bribed Dem and Repub oligarchs refuse to do. The list you make would largely duplicate the list I make.

With a national referendum, we voters would undo what bribed Dem and Repub oligarchs do.

Any questions?

Tom, I like the idea of getting out from under the money interests and get our government back to the common small business and wage workers. 

We'd still need to go up against the oligarchs' powerful spin, advertising, and astroturfing machines.

Grinning Cat, I agree, absolutely, 

"our morality is a clear improvement over the morality of the past -- democracy, banning slavery, religious freedom, women's suffrage, etc. etc. etc. -- the core values being strengthened have been the values of fairness and the avoidance of harm: the liberal values, the ones that can be applied to everyone.

"... humanity's moral evolution has, in every instance I can think of, been in the direction of humanity becoming more liberal."

Liberal core values of fairness and avoidance of harm underlay not only the creation of our nation but was intended to be part of our experienced history. Sad, neither have existed from the very beginning. How did we allow authority, loyalty and purity take suck a powerful role? Were Liberals too weak? Were Conservatives better organized, more focused on their values?

What will it take to put U.S. back on track of our declared values?

We don't have church communities and I don't want non-believers to change to valuing authority, loyalty or purity. These contain elements unacceptable to me and the direction I think the country should be going.  

I also see a connection between liberal/progressive values and Partnership Culture that allows humans to survive and flourish, and between conservative core values (especially authority) and inherently destructive Dominator Culture.

http://www.partnershipway.org/about-cps/foundational-concepts/what-...

http://www.atheistnexus.org/group/partnership-vision

Yes, Grinning Cat, isn't it exciting that we have a model to observe. Not necessarily to duplicate, but at least there exists a starting point from which to launch a new way of being in relationships with each other. We don't have to do so much wallowing to create a healthier and more productive attitudes and behaviors. 

Greta Christina gave one of my favorite Skepticon Talks a few years ago entitled "Why are Atheists Angry". Link  The HamboneProduction Youtube channel has many great Skepticon talks.

This analysis helps to clarify the difference between liberal and conservative. The old bromide, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion, all opinions are equal, only some opinions are more equal than others, has always been a cop out, according to my way of thinking. 

Some have the opinion it is ethical for a human to own other humans; others have the opinion it is not ethical for a human to own other humans. 

Researchers find that liberals prioritize very different values than conservatives.

Using Rebecca Goldstein's model:

self-described liberals strongly tend to prioritize fairness and harm avoidance as the most critical core values;

while self-described conservatives tend to prioritize authority, loyalty and purity.

The difference of opinion is standpoint dependent.

If one is liberal, fairness defines the higher value.

If one is conservative, authority determines the higher one.

Both can claim to be right, depending on different standpoints.

If one is to judge whether the liberal or conservative offers the highest value, according to Rebecca Goldstein, fairness and harm avoidance imply better values -- because they can be universalized.

Just when I begin to dislike Rebecca because her writing appears unclear to me, she writes something that sounds as clear as a bell to me. 

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