There’s been a conflict running through Jonathan Haidt’s work that it’s time for him to address.
On the one hand, he asserts that there are characteristic moral intuitions that distinguish partisan liberals from partisan conservatives. He recently argued that these moral intuitions are demonstrated by the fact that the vast majority of social psychologists identify themselves as liberal.
If this is true, then there’s an important spectrum of the human condition that liberal social psychologists will fail to address. According to Haidt, liberal partisan identification hamper scholarship because liberals are unable to understand or be motivated by in-group affinities, deference to authority, or purity and disgust.Â Haidt’s earliest claim was that conservatives have moral intuitions that liberals can’t recognize.
But when he polled social psychologists looking for liberals, their answers signified that they are Democrats or have even more radically “leftist” policy preferences. Is this the same as being liberal in the way that his research suggests, which is to say that they allow their moral lives to be ruled by the intuitions associated with fairness and care? Haidt hasÂ said that it is:
The current American culture war, we have found, can be seen as arising from the fact that liberals try to create a morality relying almost exclusively on the Harm/Care and Fairness/Reciprocity foundations; conservatives, especially religious conservatives, use all five foundations, including Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity.
One the other hand, Haidt has beenÂ going out of his way to show that liberal partisans demonstrate the supposedly conservative “moral intuitions.” We are now told that partisan liberals evince purity intuitions, in-group solidarity, and deference to authority, too. If they’re excluding Republicans from the academy because of tribalism, they can certainly understand the motivation to allow loyalty to dominate fairness! So liberals can recognize conservative moral intuitions, if only they’d reflect on the ways that they do similar things.
He can’t have it both ways: either liberals have a purity, hierarchy, and in-group intuitions, which keeps partisan conservatives out of the academy, or they *fail* to have those intuitions in ways that importantly hamper their work. So which is it?Â Are liberals just like conservatives, making conservative perspectives superfluous, or are they unable to feel or understand the full spectrum of moral intuitions, and thus no threat to conservative participation in the academy?