Navigating the Hot and Cold of Moral Persuasion

Robb Willer from the You Are Not So Smart podcast: 

When you go to make a morally reframed argument, you really have to ask yourselfDo I want to be totally, through-and-through true to my principles or do I want to be persuasive?  

Do I want to stick to not just the position that I hold, but the reason I have for it?

Or do I want to win?

Am I willing to do what it takes to make a persuasive argument?

And that means that you may have to make an argument in terms of a moral value that you don't really endorse yourself. Reasonable minds can disagree on what the right answer [to a question] is.

Because people might feel that they just don't want to make an argument that seriously engages the value of religious purity [for example] because it goes against their values to even do that. And people might feel that they don't even want someone to just agree with them on the issue, but for different moral reasons, that they want the person to agree with them for what they consider to be the right reason. 

I think that this motivational block that some people face with moral reframing relates to a larger dilemma in political behavior which is that those things that motivate people are often the exact opposite of what makes them effective and successful politically. 

So it's emotion, outrage, and visceral responses to immorality that get you fired up about an issue, but it's cold, calculated, reasoning and strategy that are going to help you win.

This is the dilemma that social movements face. How you get people to not just show up for a rally, to set aside their self-interest to contribute to this cause, but then also conduct themselves intelligently and persuasively at that rally? 

And it's this same dynamic that we found in political persuasion. How do you get people to want others to agree with them, but also set aside their own very fiery feelings about this issue to soberly consider another person's perspective and make an effective argument?

That hot and cold of moral persuasion is very challenging to navigate for anyone.  



Header photo by Jerry Kiesewetter  on Unsplash