Emotion, Moral Intuition, & the Social Function of Literature

I was recently with a longtime friend who revealed that he does not believe in morality. He thinks the only ultimate good is his own happiness. Now, he tries to act in a way that others see as moral because he believes that that is conducive to his own happiness, and he acknowledges having emotions … Continue reading Emotion, Moral Intuition, & the Social Function of Literature

Haidt’s Biased Survey Evidence on Libertarians (Updated)

In his book The Righteous Mind (review coming soon) and in a coauthored paper with Ravi Iyer and others, moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt claims that libertarians are essentially amoral(*): they care less about care, fairness, authority, loyalty, and sanctity than conservatives and liberals and care most of all about liberty. (I blogged the latter study … Continue reading Haidt’s Biased Survey Evidence on Libertarians (Updated)

Must Libertarians Be Amoral?

A recently published paper by Ravi Iyer and coauthors on the "libertarian personality" has been getting a great deal of attention. To recap the findings, Compared to self-identified liberals and conservatives, libertarians showed 1) stronger endorsement of individual liberty as their foremost guiding principle, and weaker endorsement of all other moral principles; 2) a relatively … Continue reading Must Libertarians Be Amoral?

The Religious Are More Trustworthy

Atheists may be smarter than the religious, but the religious are more likely to do the right thing when they aren't being watched (see also Ron Bailey's post here). On the other hand, the differences between the religious and nonreligious in these studies are unlikely to justify quite the levels of mistrust toward atheists found … Continue reading The Religious Are More Trustworthy

Caplan on Parenting and Having Children

One of the books I read this summer was Bryan Caplan's Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids: Why Being a Great Parent Is Less Work and More Fun Than You Think. Having already read works like Judith Rich Harris's excellent books The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do and No Two Alike: Human … Continue reading Caplan on Parenting and Having Children

Jimmy Carter: the Gift that Keeps on Giving

In these days of youthful experimentation with witchcraft (thank you Ms. O’Donnell),  “homosexual brainwashing” (thank you Mr. Paladino), and flirtations with  the pagan god named “Aqua Buddha” (thank you Mr. Paul), it is refreshing to know that, once again, Jimmy Carter was ahead of the curve.  As Patrick Gavin notes in a piece entitled “Carter’s … Continue reading Jimmy Carter: the Gift that Keeps on Giving

Atheists Are Just Smarter

Many electrons have been spilled over that Pew survey showing that atheists, agnostics, Jews, and Mormons know more about world religions, including Christianity, than Protestants and Catholics (I got 32/32!). Even after controlling for education, these four religious groups know more about world religions in general (however, white evangelicals know more about Christianity than Jews, … Continue reading Atheists Are Just Smarter

Uncertainty, the Small Investor, and Recovery

By now, we have all heard the basic argument that a core problem impeding recovery during the 1930s was the uncertainty created by public policy. In Robert Higgs’ words: “the New Deal prolonged the Great Depression by creating an extraordinarily high degree of regime uncertainty in he minds of investor.” New or anticipated taxes and … Continue reading Uncertainty, the Small Investor, and Recovery

Does Disgust Have Moral Force?

An interesting but occasionally infuriating article by Drake Bennett in the Boston Globe argues that research into the psychology of disgust undermines systems of morality. Here are some claims that I find particularly poorly justified: The agnosticism central to scientific inquiry is part of what feels so dangerous to philosophers and theologians. By telling a … Continue reading Does Disgust Have Moral Force?