In politics, the right and the left are usually completely opposite. They seem to speak a different language. Why is one voter guided by outright hatred toward Europe, while another expects the bailout from Brussels? Why is justice more important to the left voter and the economy to the right voter?
Jonathan Haidt, a professor of moral psychology in America, has been dealing with these types of questions for a long time. He did so in light of the polarized political situation in the United States. From his analysis as found in his book Feeling of justice, Discusses the sense of holiness that characterizes people mainly. He discovered this in India, where he saw how religious awareness permeates people’s lives.
The Jewish environment
In his book – the first to be translated into Dutch – Haidt tells that he grew up in a Jewish environment and, of course, voted for the Democratic Party in America. At a young age, he asked: How can people vote for a Republican Party in which justice and equal opportunity do not play a role? At the same time, he saw the Democrats struggle to keep voters permanently: every time Republicans return to the White House. How about that now?
In his book, in which Haidt recounts many stories about his career in social psychology, the central idea is that people are determined in the behavior of their political choice over five elements. In addition to justice and equality, these are community, authority and holiness. These last three aspects, which are often of great importance to people, fade into the background if you only look through the eyes of educated and wealthy Westerners. They are more likely to support the idea of personal autonomy, which results in a focus on the individual and their rights. But anyone who understands people this way, Haidt says, has a blink. Because we must also be mindful of what transcends the individual, including religion and a sense of holiness.
Haidt writes about politics as a social psychologist, which is very helpful. But if you want to think more broadly about values, religion, and societal awareness in line with this, you should also take a look at another book, which also uses the word “justice” in the title: Justice, Personality, and Creativity. This publication, edited by attorneys Claudia Butelegger and Timo Slotwig, deals with the topic of “Personality”.
This book actually shows all the aspects that Haidt emphasized as important. Because personality as a spiritual movement relates to people and their value as a person, and to the vital bond of society. You just become human in communion with the other, says the character. The human being as an individual, and thus independent and self-sufficient, becomes impoverished. If life is to be meaningful, then man must be removed from unity in society, without having to lose his individuality, in this regard.
Man as an independent and self-sufficient individual became impoverished
The book contains fourteen chapters, in which thinkers and writers who have something to say about people and society are presented. For example, the Jewish philosopher Levinas, who thought extensively about who is human and what it means to be a person. Judaism plays an important role in this, just as the Catholic faith plays a role in Emmanuel Monier (who is considered the founder of the character). Classes are also dedicated to the Dutch lawyer and philosopher Paul Schulten, the Catholic theologian Romano Guardini, and the Swiss Protestant Denis de Rogemont, as well as Simon Weil, Paul Ricoeur, and Martin Popper.
The character arose in the first half of the last century, as a reaction to two developments. At the time, communism was a formidable factor in European politics. But in communism, a bachelor wasn’t counted, he was just a cog in the big picture. This collectivism, as it is called, was considered by individuals as unhealthy, because a person as a person perished. But liberal individualism cannot be a substitute. This was also not helpful, according to the characters, because only in true reciprocity does something like the good life arise. A life is only valuable if it lives in contact between people and the world.
The book for Bouteligier en Slootweg is very welcoming and inspiring. Not because personality is now suddenly the great solution to all political problems, but because there is a broad tradition of thinking in religion, philosophy, politics and law becoming visible. Not as a curiosity from the past, but as something that provides inspiration for today’s questions.
The moral and religious ground
The character has disappeared as a recognizable movement long ago. The main political forces of the post-war era were socialism, liberalism and capitalism. But this does not mean that thinkers and writers associated with the character have been left without influence. This is evidenced by the big names discussed in this book by Bottlegier and Slotwig, such as Levinas, Ricoeur and Popper.
Reflection on politics, law, and society, with an emphasis on the ethical and religious foundation that supports us, remains valuable, as this series of articles shows. The fact that it was thanks to this book that some very interesting thinkers were removed from the dust confirms the value of this publication.
Feeling of justice. Why don’t we all think of the same thing about politics and ethics. Jonathan Haidt. Publisher Ten Have. € 29.99 Justice, person and creativity. Personality in Law and Politics. Claudia Bottleiger and Timo Slotwig (Editor). Publisher Gompel & Svacina. € 49.00
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