Why are we meeting?
Here are three changes since the early 1990s:
     1) A variety of new global and national problems have emerged (e.g., the possibility of nuclear terrorism; rising sea levels due to global-warming; the return of enormous deficits at a time when enormous entitlement spending is imminent).
     2) American political and public culture have gotten increasingly polarized (even if Americans themselves have not), making it more difficult to find and implement the costly and controversial means necessary to deal with these new problems.
     3) There has been an enormous increase in our understanding of moral and political psychology.

Can’t we use #3 to do something about #2 to help us do something about #1? More specifically, the goal of the workshop is: to examine how moral motivations drive political behavior, for better and for worse, and to consider the implications of recent research on morality and politics. Can we find ways to make American cultural and political life less moralistic (i.e., narrow minded and self-righteous) and more constructive in its disagreements?

What will we do?
The workshop will have four sessions, each devoted to answering a focal question. In each session, three or four speakers will make short presentations (8-10 minutes). A PC  with PowerPoint and a projector will be available for those who want to use it. However, these presentations should not be thought of as research talks. Rather, the speaker’s job is to make the ensuing discussion as lively and well informed as possible. Each speaker should aim to do two things:

1) Tell us a few facts or findings from your research or your experience that will help us answer the focal question, raise a related sub-question, or challenge the premises of the focal question.  If you present data from a study be extremely brief in your presentation of the methods; focus on what you found and what it means.

2) Offer the group a few ideas about how to make some aspect of American political or cultural life less moralistic. If possible each speaker should end with a slide, or a list that can be written on a white board, presenting a few such ideas, even if they are quite speculative.

Those who are not scheduled to speak are invited to be the first commentator on any of the four sessions, particularly if they have research findings or other insights that will help the group to answer the question and draw out implications.


The workshop is sponsored by the Princeton University Center for Human Values. It is organized by Jonathan Haidt. It will take place at Princeton University on Saturday, May 19, 2007, from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm. (see Agenda for details).