Pondering Differences

March 26, 2012

I do a lot of reading, trying to understand what makes people think and act as they do. What motivates us. Why we think this is moral and that is not. I also try very hard to limit my own bias in hopes of actually understanding, even if not accepting other points of view. These two articles were  thoughtful reads.

The first, a review of the book ‘The Righteous Mind,’ by Jonathan Haidt.

“To the question many people ask about politics — Why doesn’t the other side listen to reason? — Haidt replies: We were never designed to listen to reason. When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve decided.”

And, “The problem isn’t that people don’t reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn’t work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others. ”

The second post is brief, but pertinent: ” Why Republican Women Vote for Santorum

“I would hypothesize that women who have accommodated themselves to living an evangelical lifestyle have nothing to gain from questioning the premises of Christian patriarchy. Their lives are more comfortable, less fraught with domestic conflict, if they simply decide to be happy and make the most of their assigned roles.”

And, “How many of us want to challenge the social constructs within which we have created active lives that are reckoned as meaningful? ”

This is a puzzle I have been pondering, and discussing with others.  We cannot all be activists. And I have often wondered if people, as a rule, aren’t more comfortable with certainty – knowing their role, feeling they can predict and define in black and white. Security feels safe.

Uncertainty  and self-responsibility are hard taskmasters.

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3 Responses to “Pondering Differences”

  1. Arius Says:

    I agree with “people do reason”; however, people lack critical thinking which inculcates a consequence; be it positive or negative. Parents are to blame for this decreased acumen to question; for children are natural scientists. As far as the brain scan regarding moral questions…did the the author make a differentiation between morals and ethics; two different novels of their own.

    • mhilm Says:

      Critical thinking should be taught as a basic survival / life skill. If we blame the parents, we then have to ask what shaped them that they didn’t want their children to see, or think, or question with reason.
      The fine-tuned definitions of morality and ethics seem to be reflected in these two articles: ethics being the global concepts, and morality the individual’s way of interpreting ethics. Yes, that’s a good point to consider.
      Thank you for your thoughtful comments.


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