To understand most important ideas in psychology, you need to understand how the mind is divided into parts that sometimes conflict. We assume that there is one person in each body, but in some ways we are each more like a committee whose members have been thrown together to do a job, but who often find themselves working at cross purposes.
Scandal is great entertainment because it allows people to feel contempt, a moral emotion that gives feelings of moral superiority while asking nothing in return. With contempt you don't need to right the wrong (as with anger) or flee the scene (as with fear or disgust). And the best of all, contempt is made to share. Stories about the moral failings of others are among the most common kinds of gossip, they are a stable of talk radio, and they offer a ready way for people to show that they share a common moral orientation.
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Religion and science, for example, are often though to be opponents, but as I have shown, the insights of ancient religions and of modern science are both needed to reach a full understanding of human nature and the conditions of human satisfaction. The ancients may have known little about biology, chemistry, physics, but many were good psychologists.
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The president is the high priest of what sociologist Robert Bellah calls the 'American civil religion.' The president must invoke the name of God (though not Jesus), glorify America's heroes and history,quote its sacred texts (the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution), and perform the transubstantiation of pluribus unum.
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But the most important lesson I have learned in my twenty years or research on morality is that nearly all people are morally motivated. Selfishness is a powerful force, particularly in the decisions of individuals, but whenever groups of people come together to make a sustained effort to change the world, you can bet that they are pursuing a vision of virtue, justice, or sacredness.
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The president is the high priest of what sociologist Robert Bellah calls the 'American civil religion.' The president must invoke the name of God (though not Jesus), glorify America's heroes and history, quote its sacred texts (the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution), and perform the transubstantiation of pluribus unum.
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Idealism easily becomes dangerous because it brings with it, almost inevitably, the belief that the ends justify the means. If you are fighting for good or for God, what matters is the outcome, not the path. People have little respect for rules; we respect the moral principles that underlie most rules. But when a moral mission and legal rules are incompatible, we usually care more about the mission.
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Baumeister's point is that we have a deep need to understand violence and cruelty through what he calls "the myth of pure evil." Of this myth's many parts, the most important are that evildoers are pure in their evil motives (they have no motives for their actions beyond sadism and greed); victims are pure in their victimhood (they did nothing to bring about their victimization); and evil comes from outside and is associated with a group or force that attacks our group. Furthermore, anyone who questions the application of the myth, who dares muddy the waters of moral certainty, is in league with evil.
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Societies that exclude the exoskeleton of religion should reflect carefully to what will happen to them over several generations. We don't really know, because the first atheistic societies have only emerged in Europe in the last few decades. They are the least efficient societies ever known at turning resources (of which they have a lot) into offspring (of which they have few).
The philosopher Edmund Pincoffs has argued that consequentialists and deontologists worked together to convince Westerners in the twentieth century that morality is the study of moral quandaries and dilemmas. Where the Greeks focused on the character of a person and asked what kind of person we should each aim to become, modern ethics focuses on actions, asking when a particular action is right or wrong... This turn from character ethics to quandary ethics has turned moral education away from virtues and toward moral reasoning. If morality is about dilemmas, then moral education is training in problem solving.
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You can see the rider serving the elephant when people are morally dumbfounded. They have strong gut feelings about what is right and wrong, and they struggle to construct post hoc justifications for those feelings. Even when the servant (reasoning) comes back empty-handed, the master (intuition) doesn't change his judgment.
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Moral matrices bind people together and blind them to the coherence, or even existence, of other matrices. This makes it very difficult for people to consider the possibility that there might really be more than one form of moral truth, or more than one valid framework for judging people or running a society.
The emotion of disgust evolved initially to optimize responses to the omnivore's dilemma. Individuals who had a properly calibrated sense of disgust were able to consume more calories than their overly disgustable cousins while consuming fewer dangerous microbes than their insufficiently disgustable cousins.
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I quickly realized that there are two main kinds of diversity-demographic and moral... Once you make this distinction, you see that nobody can coherently even want moral diversity. If you are pro-choice on the issue of abortion, would you prefer that there be a wide variety of opinions and no dominant one? Or would you prefer that everyone agree with you and the laws of the land reflect that agreement? If you prefer diversity on an issue, the issue is not a moral issue for you; it is a matter of personal taste.
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Those who think money can't buy happiness just don't know where to shop ... People would be happier and healthier if they took more time off and spent it with their family and friends, yet America has long been heading in the opposite direction. People would be happier if they reduced their commuting time, even if it meant living in smaller houses, yet American trends are toward even larger houses and ever longer commutes. People would be happier and healthier if they took longer vacations even if that meant earning less, yet vacation times are shrinking in the United States, and in Europe as well. People would be happier, and in the long run and wealthier, if they bought basic functional appliances, automobiles, and wristwatches, and invested the money they saved for future consumption; yet, Americans and in particular spend almost everything they have - and sometimes more - on goods for present consumption, often paying a large premium for designer names and superfluous features.
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Although I am a political liberal, I believe that conservatives have a better understanding of moral development (although not of moral psychology in general-they are too committed to the myth of pure evil). Conservatives want schools to teach lessons that will create a positive and uniquely American identity, including a heavy dose of American history and civics, using English as the only national language. Liberals are justifiably wary of jingoism, nationalism, and the focus on books by 'dead white males, ' but I think everyone who cares about education should remember that the American motto of e pluribus, unum (from many, one) has two parts. The celebration of pluribus should be balanced by policies that strengthen the unum.
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The strong version of the adversity hypothesis might be true, but only if we add caveats: For adversity to be maximally beneficial, it should happen at the right time (young adulthood), to the right people (those with the social and psychological resources to rise to challenges and find benefits), and to the right degree (not so severe as to cause PTSD).
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If people are like plants, what are the conditions we need to flourish? In the happiness formula from chapter 5, H(appiness) = S(etpoint) + C(onditions) + V(oluntary activities), what exactly is C? The biggest part of C, as I said in chapter 6, is love. No man, woman, or child is an island. We are ultrasocial creatures, and we can't be happy without having friends and secure attachments to other people. The second most important part of C is having and pursuing the right goals, in order to create states of flow and engagement. In the modern world, people can find goals and flow in many settings, but most people find most of their flow at work.
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Conservatives tend to see the world more in terms of good-versus-evil and, for some of them, the nightmare is a disarmed citizenry that can be preyed upon by criminals. They know that having a gun in the house would increase the risk of an accident for a member of their family, but they're willing to take that risk.
And it's not just that 'we all need somebody to lean on'; recent work on giving support shows that caring for others is often more beneficial than is receiving help."...."...."...."...We need the give and the take, we need to belong. An ideology of extreme personal freedom can be dangerous because it encourages people to leave homes, jobs, cities and marriages in search of personal and professional fulfillment, thereby breaking the relationships that were probably their best hope for such fulfillment.
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Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it? The pill exists. It is meditation.
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