Great talk by Jonathan Haidt: “Two incompatible sacred values in American universities”

“One’s primary purpose at university level is to learn how to think.”
Professor Phipps in “Higher Learning” (1995)

Jonathan Haidt’s “Two incompatible sacred values in American universities” is another great presentation to watch. (But then again, I already had a high opinion of him. ;-))

But seriously, watch it if you are concerned about the direction universities take. He makes great points that an university can only have one core value (telos) and that is truth. Whenever something else, another telos, is infused, bad things happen. At the very least, universities should be clear about their telos, esp. if it’s different from truth (e.g., “Christ” or “Social Justice”).

I don’t agree with all of his points though, although I am unsure whether he is sometimes just very diplomatic. Might be, but maybe my bias is showing. In any case he is a great presenter with some interesting tricks.

And yeah, well worth watching.

BTW, if you are interested in the topic, check out heterodox academy. Haidt and others try to ensure/bring back institutionalized disconfirmation/viewpoint diversity.


  1. Some of the woes of incompatible and typically secularized “sacred values” can be dealt with by having virtues that override those values. Humility, honesty, kindness, tolerance and the like can mitigate misbehavior even in those who think their particular dogmas are the ultimate truth.

    And therein lies a problem that’s illustrated all too well not only by our universities, but by our current presidental race. Compare the key virtues as taught by Greek philosopy and enlarged by Catholicism, with both candidates. Both come up dreadfully lacking.

    “In the Catholic catechism, the seven Christian virtues or heavenly virtues refers to the union of two sets of virtues: from ancient Greek philosophy, are prudence, justice, temperance (meaning restriction or restraint), and courage (or fortitude); and the three theological virtues, from the letters of Saint Paul of Tarsus, are faith, hope, and charity (or love). These were adopted by the Church Fathers as the seven virtues.”

    Nor does either candidate—or much of current academia—do well when the seven deadly sins are considered.

    “The seven deadly sins, also known as the capital vices or cardinal sins, is a grouping and classification of vices of Christian origin. Behaviors or habits are classified under this category if they directly give birth to other immoralities. According to the standard list, they are pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth, which are also contrary to the seven virtues. These sins are often thought to be abuses or excessive versions of one’s natural faculties or passions (for example, gluttony abuses one’s desire to eat).”

    Now, imagine a world where those virtues have been replaced by a corresponding set of vices. Much of what’s wrong with our society then makes sense. Those virtues and vices remain only as verbal weapons to hurl at opponents. Hilary accuses Trump of lust. Trump accuses Hilary of greed. Both display pride, envy, and wrath in great abundance.

    –Michael W. Perry, author and editor

  2. Hmmm … without going into the complexities of virtues and vices (how are they defined, are they for individuals or societies, can’t vices be channeled into something good — e.g., as motivators), I wonder how much of what we know of the candidates is a) public vs. private personality, and b) media bias. At least in Germany with most mainstream media, the reporting is very anti-Trump.

Comments are closed.