- What: Moral Leadership Across Difference: LCN Online Session
- When: Thursday 31 January at 10-11:30am EST, 3-4:30pm UTC
- Where: Online on Zoom
- Registration: Free for LCN members, $15 USD for non-members
- Register below
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This month’s LCN Online Sessions will feature Christopher Robichaud, Senior Lecturer in Ethics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.
Exercising moral leadership requires proficiency with a battery of skills that together ground virtuous action. These skills include accurately perceiving the various ethical features of situations, adequately weighing moral tradeoffs, and effectively putting into reflective equilibrium judgements of the heart and judgements of the head.
Developing the capacity to entertain different moral perspectives is an essential part of honing these skills, for without the ability to live in another person’s moral universe—to see the moral world, as it were, through their eyes—one will fail at perceiving all the relevant ethical features of situations, fail at calibrating moral tradeoffs, and fail at engaging in reasonable reflective equilibrium.
Seeing the other side comes with risks, however. It can upend the confidence a person has in their own moral standpoint, leading to a kind of moral anxiety that a person then might be tempted to assuage either by reinforcing their own moral convictions with renewed fervor—at the cost of dulling the skills needed for genuine virtuous action—or by succumbing to a kind of ethical relativism. In other words, doing the important work of building the capacity to entertain different moral perspectives threatens to lead to a kind of moral radicalism, on the one hand, or a kind of moral indifference, on the other.
And so some effort needs to be made to learn how to cultivate the ability to see the world through different moral lenses that sharpens the skills needed for virtuous action while avoiding various pitfalls. The effort requires, among other things, learning to appreciate the difference between seeing the other side, and embracing it, as well as the difference between understanding a moral perspective, and endorsing it.
This session will begin to offer strategies on making progress on this, focusing first on the basics. We’ll take a look at Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations theory and see how it predicts political association, unpacking Haidt’s animating idea that morality both binds and blinds. With this on the table we can begin to ask how we can engage in meaningful collective action across political/moral differences. To do that, we’ll explore the important role that intellectual humility can play in this.