The Ethic of Divinity

Posted by Beetle B. on Wed 26 October 2016

Psychologists have a tendency to study the mind independent of culture. Anthropologists tend to study the culture and not the mind. Haidt asserts both approaches are flawed.

Shweder (of Orissa fame) identified 3 themes from his transcripts:

  • Autonomy: Strong in the West, but present in all cultures
  • Community: Weak in the West
  • Divinity

Divinity is not just about God, but also about the belief that the self is separate from the body. This plays a role in the concepts of purity, degradation, etc.

In Haidt’s Brazilian study, he found that the “morally repulsive” responses (absent of a victim) often violated either the ethic of community (e.g. using a flag as a rag) or the ethic of divinity (sex with a dead chicken).

The ethic of divinity provides value in practicing self-restraint, participating in noble causes, etc. But there is a down side: It makes people more likely to view groups negatively (e.g. homosexuals, obese people, etc). Occasionally is incompatible with “modern” human rights.

The ethic of divinity also criticizes consumerism and materialism.

Personal anecdote: I’ve often wondered if the appeal to environmentalism is merely an argument for the ethic of divinity (i.e. not so much about saving the environment).

The notion that this world is an illusion is found in many religions and philosophies.

tags : trm, morality, Haidt