Initial thoughts on moral character and first proxy measurement idea (intrinsic religiosity)

Two ideas stuck out to me when I was reflecting on the quality of moral character as discussed yesterday: it’s characterized by invariant behavior in circumstances both humble and flourishing, and it’s characterized by moral values that are the same as mine. (If you want make the latter relative, use a different point of reference.) So I’m initially splitting it into “ingrainedness” of values and “rightness” of values. For the former, we may ask how many years of American public education and culture it takes to ruin someone, and for the latter we could just look at revealed preference (more on this below). That is, if a girl is brought up as a nice Christian waifu but she’s ruined by seeing a single episode of Friends (“I want to move to New York City and die alone to flex on my dad!”), then she may have the right values but they aren’t terribly ingrained. Contrarily, if she’s brought up to be the most fanatically Jewish girl possible, her values may be ingrained but she can’t be expected to weather hardships and depression without developing any vices or unfortunate hangups. (Other than the obvious, part of the reason I use Judaism as an example is that, after controlling for IQ, I expect the correlation between intrinsic religiosity and vices, e.g. the practice of witchcraft, to be positive.)

Speaking of intrinsic religiosity, it occurred to me that this is a good proxy measure of something in this model, though I’m not entirely sure what. One possibility is direction/purpose/moral confidence, since it anti-correlates with nihilism:

The purpose of the following study was to determine whether there is a significant relationship between intrinsic and extrinsic religiosity and the presence of and search for meaning in one’s life. Since religion has previously been found to play a role in one’s physical and mental health, the present study offers additional evidence to religion’s role in the mental health field. Three measures were used to collect the data for this study, including a demographic form, the Meaning in Life Questionnaire (MLQ) and the Intrinsic/ Extrinsic Religiosity Revised Scale (I/E-R). Sixty-eight students were recruited or this study, 31 males and 37 females, from a suburban, public, college and had a mean age of 19.6. The majority of participants were Caucasian (75%) and Catholic (57.4%). A correlational design was used to determine whether religiosity was significantly related to meaning in life. The present study concluded that intrinsic religiosity, regardless of gender, is positively correlated with the presence of meaning in one’s life.

https://rdw.rowan.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1852&context=etd

But this is just a correlation. I’m more inclined to identify intrinsic religiosity with this “ingrainedness” quality because the invariance of behavior is like revealed preference of a deeply held belief. Then chalk up the correlation to a positive manifold thing.

It also occurred to me that I have to be careful not to end up measuring IQ, because that’s what ends up happening in any psychometric endeavor that doesn’t explicitly control for it. One way to do that in the realm of the abstract is to do a 2×2: first ask ourselves what measurable qualities distinguish cowardly smarties from courageous smarties, and then ask ourselves what measurable qualities distinguish dumb dumbs without moral courage (as distinct from physical courage, maybe that’s another 2×2) from dumb dumbs with the courage of their convictions.

In retrospect, I should probably have broken moral character down using the parable of the sower. Ingrainedness basically refers to rocky soil versus good soil. “Some [seeds] fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root.”

About Aeoli Pera

Maybe do this later?
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1 Response to Initial thoughts on moral character and first proxy measurement idea (intrinsic religiosity)

  1. Aeoli Pera says:

    Note from aiaslives:

    https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2021.2474
    https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rspb.2021.2474
    “Men are less religious in more gender-equal countries”

    Will have to control for that.

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