A Table of Moral Polarities, Initial Take

I’ve been making notes over the past month for a table of moral polarities, in order to align and summarize some of the concepts and the many news examples I’ve compiled lately. Recall how I’ve mentioned that certain attitudes, especially on the right, seem to go together. Obvious ones like religious fundamentalism and being anti-science and anti-gay, and others not so obvious. So let me set up a little table, a first draft, to start to compile some of these terms and attitudes.

I tried to see if WordPress can create a table somehow, and apparently it can, if you switch to “block editing”; but doing so seems to risk being stuck in some new editing mode I don’t want to keep. So instead I’m going to construct a very basic html table, in text mode of editing a post, and see how that works. …It seems to work fine, except that the result doesn’t show vertical borders between cells. Nor can I edit it in the way I can with a table in Word, using tab to move between cells and create new rows. Oh, well, let me try this for now. Further comments after the table.

I’m putting Right on the left because I always prefer chronological progressions, in tables, left to right.

Right Left
Republican Democrat
Red Blue
Traditional Progressive
Conservative Liberal
Tribal Metropolitan/Cosmopolitan
Small town Big city
Monocultural Multi-cultural
Grand Narrative: The struggle to return to a golden past Grand Narrative: The struggle for equality and happiness [Jonathan Haidt]
In-group prioritization (e.g. the Ten Commandments don’t apply to out-groups) Out-group acceptance; expansion of the moral circle
Restricted moral circle Expanded moral circle
Ideology; assertions Conclusions from evidence; science
Anti-education (or home education) to avoid conflicts with tribal mythology and values Education about the reality of the world (e.g. here)
Superstition, animism, seeing every disaster as a portent from God Acknowledgement of reality, awareness of coincidence, and the randomness of the universe
Short-term thinking Long-term thinking
Personal needs The greater good, in a global world
Simplicity [Simplex] Complexity [Complex; Multiplex]
Black and white thinking Understanding shades of gray, and even colors
Zero-sum games, e.g. as when Trump thinks for him to win, everyone else must lose Non-zero-sum interactions that have driven human history and progress
Conformist, to align with traditional values and the tribe; rejecting diversity Individualist, in the sense of allowing people to live as they like; encouraging diversity
Rugged individualist Collectivist minded when necessary, to solve big problems the rugged individualists cannot
Backwards Forwards
Commonsense (tribal) morality Deep pragmatism (utilitarianism) [Joshua Greene]
Obedience to rules to avoid punishment; conformity to group behavior social contracts; universal ethical principles [hierarchy of morality]
Prone to conspiracy theories; unaware of how complex the world is Acknowledgement of complexity, coincidence, and the implausibility of most conspiracy theories

A point that applies to this entire exercise is that things are not black and white; there are shades of gray, even color, in the way humans deal with reality (while conservatives tend toward black and white, which is so much simpler to deal with).

I’m sure I will keep revising this table, perhaps adding columns to acknowledge the extremes at both ends. (Fundamentalism on the right; extreme identity politics on the left.) And the next step is to add the various takes on morality and rationalism from Pinker, Kahneman, and Greene. It’s remarkably how well they align with the polarities already compiled. Not to mention propensity for conspiracy thinking.

Actually, I’ll probably promote this post to a page. I’ve long that I’ve needed to summarize my conclusions about life, the universe, and everything (so to speak), that is, all the posts I’ve done here over the past decade, to leave some kind of legacy for those (everyone) who haven’t read my blog. And this post is a first step.


3jun24: adding numerous other items…
12may24: added three rows, for Republican/Democrat, moral circles, and black&white thinking vs grays and colors.
14may24: added red/blue, access to guns/access to abortions
15may24: added the grand narratives

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