The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

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Overview

As America descends deeper into polarization and paralysis, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done the seemingly impossible—challenged conventional thinking about morality, politics, and religion in a way that speaks to everyone on the political spectrum. Drawing on his twenty five years of groundbreaking research on moral psychology, he shows how moral judgments arise not from reason but from gut feelings. He shows why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such different intuitions about right and ...

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Overview

As America descends deeper into polarization and paralysis, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done the seemingly impossible—challenged conventional thinking about morality, politics, and religion in a way that speaks to everyone on the political spectrum. Drawing on his twenty five years of groundbreaking research on moral psychology, he shows how moral judgments arise not from reason but from gut feelings. He shows why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such different intuitions about right and wrong, and he shows why each side is actually right about many of its central concerns. In this subtle yet accessible book, Haidt gives you the key to understanding the miracle of human cooperation, as well as the curse of our eternal divisions and conflicts. If you’re ready to trade in anger for understanding, read The Righteous Mind.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Astute parents often caution their offspring to avoid two topics of conversation: politics and religion. What makes otherwise temperate people so sensitive to these hot button subjects? Psychology professor and author Jonathan Haidt (The Happiness Hypothesis) thinks that he knows. In Righteous Mind, he explores the origins of morality, which he views as the basis for both religion and politics. His fascinating, intellectually adventurous investigation seems especially relevant as we enter an extended presidential election season laced with spirited controversies about political and religious differences. A sales and review success in hardcover; now in trade paperback and NOOK Book.

From the Publisher

Praise for Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind

“A landmark contribution to humanity’s understanding of itself. . . . Haidt is looking for more than victory. He’s looking for wisdom. That’s what makes The Righteous Mind well worth reading.”
The New York Times Book Review

“An eye-opening and deceptively ambitious best seller . . . undoubtedly one of the most talked-about books of the year.”
The Wall Street Journal
 
“Splendidly written, sophisticated and stimulating. It may well change how you think and talk about politics, religion and human nature.”
NPR
 
“Ingenious prose. . . . Beautifully written, Haidt’s book shines a new and creative light on moral psychology and presents a provocative message.”
Science
 
“A remarkable and original synthesis of social psychology, political analysis, and moral reasoning.”
—Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

“Highly readable, highly insightful. . . . The principal posture in which one envisions him is that of a scrappy, voluble, discerning patriot standing between the warring factions in American politics urging each to see the other’s viewpoint, to stop demonizing, bashing, clobbering. . . . Haidt’s real contribution, in my judgment, is inviting us all to sit at the table.”
Washington Times

“Excellent. . . . An impressive book that should be read by anyone who has the slightest interest in how political opinions are reached.”
The Daily Beast

“Haidt’s work feels particularly relevant now. . . . Haidt’s perspective can help us better understand our own political and religious leanings.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

“Jonathan Haidt is one of smartest and most creative psychologists alive, and his newest book, The Righteous Mind is a tour de force—a brave, brilliant and eloquent exploration of the most important issues of our time. It will challenge the way you think about liberals and conservatives, atheism and religion, good and evil. This is the book that everyone is going to be talking about.”
—Paul Bloom, Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology, Yale University

“Haidt’s research has revolutionized the field of moral psychology. This elegantly written book has far-reaching implications for anyone interested in anthropology, politics, religion, or the many controversies that divide modern societies. If you want to know why you hold your moral beliefs and why many people disagree with you, read this book..”
—Simon Baron-Cohen, Cambridge University, Author of Zero Degrees of Empathy and The Science of Evil

“A much-needed voice of moral sanity.”
Booklist

“[Haidt’s] framework for the different moral universes of liberals and conservatives struck me as a brilliant breakthrough . . . The Righteous Mind provides an invaluable road map.”
—Miller-McCune.com

“A well-informed tour of contemporary moral psychology…A cogent rendering of a moral universe of fertile complexity and latent flexibility.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Haidt’s a good thing.”
The Atlantic

“Jonathan Haidt’s absorbing The Righteous Mind should come with a warning label: ‘contents highly addictive.’ Written in a breezy and accessible style but informed by an impressively wide range of cutting-edge research in the social sciences, evolutionary biology and psychology, The Righteous Mind is about as interesting a book as you’ll pick up this year.”
The Globe and Mail

“What makes [The Righteous Mind] so compelling is the fluid combination of erudition and entertainment, and the author’s obvious pleasure in challenging conventional wisdom. . . . [Haidt’s] core point is simple and well-made: our morality, much of it wired into brains from birth, at the same time binds us together and blinds us to different configurations of morality.”
The Guardian (London)

“An important and timely book. . . . His ideas are controversial but they make you think.”
—Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company

The Righteous Mind refutes the ‘New Atheists’ and shows that religion is a central part of our moral heritage. Haidt’s brilliant synthesis shows that Christians have nothing to fear and much to gain from the evolutionary paradigm.”
—Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution

“The Righteous Mind
 is an intellectual tour de force that brings Darwinian theorizing to the practical realm of everyday politics. The book is beautifully written, and it is truly unusual to encounter a book that makes a major theoretical contribution yet encourages one to turn its pages enthusiastically.”
—Christopher Boehm, Professor of Anthropology, University of Southern California, author of Moral Origins

“As a fellow who listens to heated political debate daily, I was fascinated, enlightened, and even amused by Haidt’s brilliant insights. This penetrating yet accessible book will help readers understand the righteous minds that inhabit politics.”
—Larry Sabato, University of Virginia, author of A More Perfect Constitution

“A profound discussion of the diverse psychological roots of morality and their role in producing political conflicts. It’s not too much to hope that the book will help to reduce those conflicts.”
—Richard E. Nisbett, University of Michigan, Author of The Geography of Thought

William Saletan
In The ­Righteous Mind, Haidt seeks to enrich liberalism, and political discourse generally, with a deeper awareness of human nature. Like other psychologists who have ventured into political coaching, such as George Lakoff and Drew Westen, Haidt argues that people are fundamentally intuitive, not rational. If you want to persuade others, you have to appeal to their sentiments. But Haidt is looking for more than victory. He's looking for wisdom. That's what makes The Righteous Mind well worth reading. Politics isn't just about ­manipulating people who disagree with you. It's about learning from them.
—The New York Times Book Review
Publishers Weekly
Amid America's tense culture wars, Haidt (The Happiness Hypothesis), a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, has produced this thought-provoking investigation into the innate morality of the human mind. Dismissing the notion that the human mind is fundamentally rational, Haidt briskly guides the reader through decades of psychology research in order to demonstrate that emotion and intuition determine our judgments, while reasoning is created only later to justify these judgments (à la Hume). From there, Haidt dispels the classic notion that morality is based upon concepts of harm or fairness and outlines the variety of moral categories before entering a discussion of how our "righteous minds" "Bind and Blind" us in politics, religion, and nationalism. But Haidt is at his best when using his comprehensive knowledge of moral psychology to explain both sides of American politics with an admirable evenhandedness and sympathy. In his two most insightful chapters, Haidt explains why conservatives have a wider moral foundation and thus, an inherent advantage in politics, and later outlines the necessities of both liberal and conservative moral systems, arguing that the two provide necessary counterbalances to one another. Blending lucid explanations of landmark studies in psychology and sociology with light personal anecdotes, Haidt has produced an imminently readable book about the complexities of moral psychology and the human fixation with righteousness. Illus. (Mar.)
The Atlantic (online)
Haidt's a good thing.
-New York Times Book Review
"Haidt is looking for more than victory. He's looking for wisdom. That's what makes The Righteous Mind well worth hearing...a landmark contribution to humanity's understanding of itself.
New York Times Book Review
Haidt is looking for more than victory. He's looking for wisdom. That's what makes The Righteous Mind well worth hearing...a landmark contribution to humanity's understanding of itself.
Kirkus Reviews
A well-informed tour of contemporary moral psychology. Haidt (Psychology/Univ. of Virginia; The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, 2005, etc.) lays out a rich landscape of morality, presenting a cross-cultural, evolutionarily sensible scenario wherein a moral universe can be shaped from six moral foundations: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation and liberty/oppression. Haidt examines, via a wide array of theories, research and experimentation, how various subsets—for instance, the WEIRD (Western, educated, industrial, rich, democratic) group—emphasize one or more of the foundations with respect to group traditions and evolutionary progress. He explains how he has arrived at an intuitionist's rather than a rationalist's stance regarding the elemental governing of our moral behavior—a framework with us at birth, though not deterministic—how our reasoning comes later to justify our social agenda and how moral intuitions such as loyalty, authority and sanctity gather such subjective importance and potential evolutionary value. He arrives at a broad definition of moral systems as "interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible." Haidt finds within Western democracies an ethnic and moral diversity that is best served by utilitarianism, producing the greatest total good, and that happiness comes from "getting the right relationships between yourself and others, yourself and your work, and yourself and something larger than yourself." A cogent rendering of a moral universe of fertile complexity and latent flexibility.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307455772
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/12/2013
  • Pages: 528
  • Sales rank: 31,621
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He obtained his Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992, and then taught at the University of Virginia for 16 years. He is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, and the co-editor of Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived. He lives in New York City.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction
 
“Can we all get along?” That appeal was made famous on May 1, 1992, by Rodney King, a black man who had been beaten nearly to death by four Los Angeles police officers a year earlier. The entire nation had seen a videotape of the beating, so when a jury failed to convict the officers, their acquittal triggered widespread outrage and six days of rioting in Los Angeles. Fifty-three people were killed and more than seven thousand buildings were torched. Much of the mayhem was carried live; news cameras tracked the action from helicopters circling overhead. After a particularly horrific act of violence against a white truck driver, King was moved to make his appeal for peace.
 
King’s appeal is now so overused that it has become cultural kitsch, a catchphrase1 more often said for laughs than as a serious plea for mutual understanding. I therefore hesitated to use King’s words as the opening line of this book, but I decided to go ahead, for two reasons. The first is because most Americans nowadays are asking King’s question not about race relations but about political relations and the collapse of cooperation across party lines. Many Americans feel as though the nightly news from Washington is being sent to us from helicopters circling over the city, delivering dispatches from the war zone.
 
The second reason I decided to open this book with an overused phrase is because King followed it up with something lovely, something rarely quoted. As he stumbled through his television interview, fighting back tears and often repeating himself, he found these words: “Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we’re all stuck here for a while. Let’s try to work it out.”
 
This book is about why it’s so hard for us to get along. We are indeed all stuck here for a while, so let’s at least do what we can to understand why we are so easily divided into hostile groups, each one certain of its righteousness.
 
###
 
People who devote their lives to studying something often come to believe that the object of their fascination is the key to understanding everything. Books have been published in recent years on the transformative role in human history played by cooking, mothering, war . . . even salt. This is one of those books. I study moral psychology, and I’m going to make the case that morality is the extraordinary human capacity that made civilization possible. I don’t mean to imply that cooking, mothering, war, and salt were not also necessary, but in this book I’m going to take you on a tour of human nature and history from the perspective of moral psychology.
 
By the end of the tour, I hope to have given you a new way to think about two of the most important, vexing, and divisive topics in human life: politics and religion. Etiquette books tell us not to discuss these topics in polite company, but I say go ahead. Politics and religion are both expressions of our underlying moral psychology, and an understanding of that psychology can help to bring people together. My goal in this book is to drain some of the heat, anger, and divisiveness out of these topics and replace them with awe, wonder, and curiosity. We are downright lucky that we evolved this complex moral psychology that allowed our species to burst out of the forests and savannas and into the delights, comforts, and extraordinary peacefulness of modern societies in just a few thousand years. My hope is that this book will make conversations about morality, politics, and religion more common, more civil, and more fun, even in mixed company. My hope is that it will help us to get along.
 
BORN TO BE RIGHTEOUS
 
I could have titled this book The Moral Mind to convey the sense that the human mind is designed to “do” morality, just as it’s designed to do language, sexuality, music, and many other things described in popular books reporting the latest scientific findings. But I chose the title The Righteous Mind to convey the sense that human nature is not just intrinsically moral, it’s also intrinsically moralistic, critical, and judgmental.
 
The word righteous comes from the old Norse word rettviss and the old English word rihtwis, both of which mean “just, upright, virtuous.” This meaning has been carried into the modern English words righteous and righteousness, although nowadays those words have strong religious connotations because they are usually used to translate the Hebrew word tzedek. Tzedek is a common word in the Hebrew Bible, often used to describe people who act in accordance with God’s wishes, but it is also an attribute of God and of God’s judgment of people (which is often harsh but always thought to be just).
 
The linkage of righteousness and judgmentalism is captured in some modern definitions of righteous, such as “arising from an outraged sense of justice, morality, or fair play.” The link also appears in the term self- righteous, which means “convinced of one’s own righteousness, especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others; narrowly moralistic and intolerant.” I want to show you that an obsession with righteousness (leading inevitably to self- righteousness) is the normal human condition. It is a feature of our evolutionary design, not a bug or error that crept into minds that would otherwise be objective and rational.
 
Our righteous minds made it possible for human beings—but no other animals—to produce large cooperative groups, tribes, and nations without the glue of kinship. But at the same time, our righteous minds guarantee that our cooperative groups will always be cursed by moralistic strife. Some degree of conflict among groups may even be necessary for the health and development of any society. When I was a teenager I wished for world peace, but now I yearn for a world in which competing ideologies are kept in balance, systems of accountability keep us all from getting away with too much, and fewer people believe that righteous ends justify violent means. Not a very romantic wish, but one that we might actually achieve.
 
WHAT LIES AHEAD
 
This book has three parts, which you can think of as three separate books—except that each one depends on the one before it. Each part presents one major principle of moral psychology.
 
Part I is about the first principle: Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second. Moral intuitions arise automatically and almost instantaneously, long before moral reasoning has a chance to get started, and those first intuitions tend to drive our later reasoning. If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you. But if you think about moral reasoning as a skill we humans evolved to further our social agendas—to justify our own actions and to defend the teams we belong to—then things will make a lot more sense. Keep your eye on the intuitions, and don’t take people’s moral arguments at face value. They’re mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly, crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives.
 
The central metaphor of these four chapters is that the mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant. The rider is our conscious reasoning—the stream of words and images of which we are fully aware. The elephant is the other 99 percent of mental processes—the ones that occur outside of awareness but that actually govern most of our behavior. I developed this metaphor in my last book, The Happiness Hypothesis, where I described how the rider and elephant work together, sometimes poorly, as we stumble through life in search of meaning and connection. In this book I’ll use the metaphor to solve puzzles such as why it seems like everyone (else) is a hypocrite and why political partisans are so willing to believe outrageous lies and conspiracy theories. I’ll also use the metaphor to show you how you can better persuade people who seem unresponsive to reason.
 
Part II is about the second principle of moral psychology, which is that there’s more to morality than harm and fairness. The central metaphor of these four chapters is that the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors. Secular Western moralities are like cuisines that try to activate just one or two of these receptors—either concerns about harm and suffering, or concerns about fairness and injustice. But people have so many other powerful moral intuitions, such as those related to liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity. I’ll explain where these six taste receptors come from, how they form the basis of the world’s many moral cuisines, and why politicians on the right have a built- in advantage when it comes to cooking meals that voters like.
 
Part III is about the third principle: Morality binds and blinds. The central metaphor of these four chapters is that human beings are 90 percent chimp and percent bee. Human nature was produced by natural selection working at two levels simultaneously. Individuals compete with individuals within every group, and we are the descendants of primates who excelled at that competition. This gives us the ugly side of our nature, the one that is usually featured in books about our evolutionary origins. We are indeed selfish hypocrites so skilled at putting on a show of virtue that we fool even ourselves.
 
But human nature was also shaped as groups competed with other groups. As Darwin said long ago, the most cohesive and cooperative groups generally beat the groups of selfish individualists. Darwin’s ideas about group selection fell out of favor in the 1960s, but recent discoveries are putting his ideas back into play, and the implications are profound. We’re not always selfish hypocrites. We also have the ability, under special circumstances, to shut down our petty selves and become like cells in a larger body, or like bees in a hive, working for the good of the group. These experiences are often among the most cherished of our lives, although our hivishness can blind us to other moral concerns. Our bee-like nature facilitates altruism, heroism, war, and genocide.
 
Once you see our righteous minds as primate minds with a hivish overlay, you get a whole new perspective on morality, politics, and religion. I’ll show that our “higher nature” allows us to be profoundly altruistic, but that altruism is mostly aimed at members of our own groups. I’ll show that religion is (probably) an evolutionary adaptation for binding groups together and helping them to create communities with a shared morality. It is not a virus or a parasite, as some scientists (the “New Atheists”) have argued in recent years. And I’ll use this perspective to explain why some people are conservative, others are liberal (or progressive), and still others become libertarians. People bind themselves into political teams that share moral narratives. Once they accept a particular narrative, they become blind to alternative moral worlds.
 
(A note on terminology: In the United States, the word liberal refers to progressive or left- wing politics, and I will use the word in this sense. But in Europe and elsewhere, the word liberal is truer to its original meaning—valuing liberty above all else, including in economic activities. When Europeans use the word liberal, they often mean something more like the American term libertarian, which cannot be placed easily on the left- right spectrum. Readers from outside the United States may want to swap in the words progressive or left- wing whenever I say liberal.) In the coming chapters I’ll draw on the latest research in neuroscience, genetics, social psychology, and evolutionary modeling, but the take- home message of the book is ancient. It is the realization that we are all self- righteous hypocrites:
 
Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? . . . You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye. (Matthew 7:3–5)
 
Enlightenment (or wisdom, if you prefer) requires us all to take the logs out of our own eyes and then escape from our ceaseless, petty, and divisive moralism. As the eighth- century Chinese Zen master Sen-ts’an wrote:
 
The Perfect Way is only difficult for those who pick and choose;
Do not like, do not dislike;
all will then be clear.
Make a hairbreadth difference,
and Heaven and Earth are set apart;
If you want the truth to stand clear before you,
never be for or against.
The struggle between “for” and “against”
is the mind’s worst disease.
 
I’m not saying we should live our lives like Sen-ts’an. In fact, I believe that a world without moralism, gossip, and judgment would quickly decay into chaos. But if we want to understand ourselves, our divisions, our limits, and our potentials, we need to step back, drop the moralism, apply some moral psychology, and analyze the game we’re all playing. .
 
Let us now examine the psychology of this struggle between “for” and “against.” It is a struggle that plays out in each of our righteous minds, and among all of our righteous groups.

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Table of Contents

Introduction 

Part I Intuitions Come First, Strategic Reasoning Second
1 Where Does Morality Come From?
2 The Intuitive Dog and Its Rational Tail
3 Elephants Rule
4 Vote for Me (Here’s Why)

Part II There’s More to Morality than Harm and Fairness
5 Beyond WEIRD Morality
6 Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind
7 The Moral Foundations of Politics
8 The Conservative Advantage

Part III Morality Binds and Blinds
9 Why Are We So Groupish?
10 The Hive Switch
11 Religion Is a Team Sport
12 Can’t We All Disagree More Constructively?

Conclusion

Acknowledgments
Notes
References
Index

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 33 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 33 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 1, 2012

    Nice try. I read this book also hoping to understand the other

    Nice try. I read this book also hoping to understand the other side. Conservative republicans just seem so awfull, so hateful, selfish and vindictive, shortsighted and dense. I read this book looking for a more balanced and nuanced way of viewing evil and vile republicans especially since they so outnumber me here in Texas.
    This book didn't help. Haidt's argument is that conservatives have a broader moral foundation and consider more things than liberals such as God and Country. Is this not the same old assumption those without traditional orthodox beliefs have lesser spritual lives and essentially less morals? Sure, we are less socially cohessive in terms of participating in mega rallies, but, how is that a moral virtue?
    How can conservatives love their country, especially anything military, and hate government so much? How is it that all this moral indignation about the debt seem not to exist when their party was in power? How can they hate all regulation while so determined to control others sexual behavior? The litany of hipocracy defies reason, and no, it does not exist on both sides. Reason and intelligence operates on the exact same scale.
    Another overworn trope in this book is when the author describes the competiting narratives that the two parties. Republicans are at war to protect thier very way of life, shield their children from liberals who want to turn their children gay, descecrate thier statues of Jesus and give ayll thier hard earned money to caddilac driving welfare queens. That part is obviously true, but I object to the charatization of liberals as bleeding heart fairness obsessed redistributionists. It is not that we want to give money to losers any more than anyone else. I would be happy to be just as jingoistic and sterotype affirming as anyone. It's just that we are not as irrational as the unreflective xenophobic self-maximizers. It is simply that liberals are more rational. It is just that liberals are simply more intelligent. We have the same impusles, the same urge to prefer our family and our clan over others, it's just that we are more capable to take that extra step back and see things from a slightly less ignorant perspective.
    There is no dispute that liberalism is a direct if unfortunate result of higher education and intelligence. There is a one to one correlation between academic achivement and liberal politics. The very words liberal and conservative essentially define this distinction.
    Its' not that any one would not perfer to be a Bible thumping NRA good ole boy socially accepted member of the club. All should agree rock solid conservatives are essentially happier people. Who would not prefer to know all the answers to life's questions with utter certainy and live in a community where all agree with your views? I envy these people. Unfortunatley I'm too intelligent to be one of them.

    23 out of 39 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 8, 2012

    A Brief Summary

    The old saying goes that we are never to discuss religion or politics in polite company. These topics are singled out of course because they tend to be the two that people are most passionate about, and which therefore have the greatest potential to cause enmity and strife. According to the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, the fact that we disagree over politics and religion is not necessarily such a bad thing. For him, though, the current wrangling between political and religious (and non-religious) factions has gotten rather out of hand, as it has recently reached such a pitch in the West (and particularly in America where Haidt resides) as to be threatening the very fabric of our nations. Now, according to Haidt, at least some of the enmity and strife between people of different political and religious stripes is caused by a failure to understand precisely where these beliefs ultimately come from--as well as a failure to understand how one's opponents understand their own beliefs. In an effort to remedy this situation, and to bring a degree of civility back into the ongoing debate, Haidt sets out to supply just these understandings in his new book `The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion'. According to Haidt, understanding political and religious beliefs begins with an understanding of the human moral sense as it was laid down by evolution over the past several million years. For Haidt, the moral sense actually consists of (at least) six moral modules, each of which evolved to answer a specific challenge that our ancestors faced in the environment in which our species evolved. While all of us come prewired with the six moral modules, each of them stands to be either amplified or quieted as well as somewhat modified by a host of internal and external factors. The internal factors include our personality and its development, while the external factors include the environment in which we are raised (including our cultural milieu), and the particular experiences that we have--the latter of which help to shape, among other things, our view of human nature, which itself influences our view of what a good society consists in. It is these internal and external factors--which differ for all of us--that explain the plurality of moral and political views and ideologies across cultures, as well as within the same culture across individuals. In addition to the six moral modules, Haidt maintains that human beings have also evolved an overlay of group-oriented sentiment sometime in the past 140,000 years, and as recently as in the past 10,000 years. This `groupishness', Haidt claims, not only explains some of our moral and political sentiments, but also helps explain our attraction to religion, and other group-oriented pursuits. While our groupishness is particularly adept at binding us to the organizations of which we are a part, it also sets us against those who are a part of opposing groups, and makes it especially difficult for us to appreciate their point of view. The end result is that people not only have opposing viewpoints when it comes to morality, politics and religion, but they are often even unable to appreciate (or truly understand) the viewpoints of their rivals. For a full summary of the book visit the website newbooksinbrief dot wordpress dot com, and click on article #10; the information in the article will also be available in a condensed version as a podcast shortly thereafter.

    12 out of 15 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 8, 2012

    The Righteous Mind asks the big question, ‘why do smart pe

    The Righteous Mind asks the big question, ‘why do smart people, seeing the same world, have such a different viewpoint on so many basic issues?’. The book begins to address this question by reporting the results of experiments in which persons are asked whether or not a set of hypothetical actions are immoral. The monitors of this webpage would probably not appreciate a description of these scenarios, but trust me, most would find them morally disgusting. The question is, why do we find them disgusting? This leads to the conclusion that morality is strongly based on cultural values embedded in our brains as a result of combined genetic and upbringing conditions. The author then asks, which of two basic types of morality, best serves society… a morality based on the individual, or a morality based on what’s best for society? Again, he brings up experimental evidence to show that people will flip-flop between these two extremes depending on the conditions they face. Finally, he presents more experimental evidence showing how political ‘conservatives’ have a broader range of values and moral concerns than do ‘liberals’, which in turn gives the conservatives an edge in politics and governing. What’s particularly interesting in these discussions is that the author himself admits to being an academic liberal although he admits that the experimental support many (but not all) of the traditional conservative positions.

    One particularly interesting discussion focused on the role of religion in the modern world, taking into account the voices of the ‘New Atheists’ (Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Christopher Hitchens). Haidt presents the most intelligent rebuttal I’ve heard in response to these writers and their followers, pointing out that religion serves a much broader purpose than just explaining how the universe came into existence and providing a moral framework. It also provides an important social network that serves the communal needs of people and makes them feel part of something bigger than themself. However, in developing this rebuttal, Haight overlooks the working definition that the ‘New Atheists’ have of religion, which focuses on a supernatural being and the disparity between science and religion So in some sense, Haight’s rebuttals are a red herring to the main points of Harris et al.

    A second ‘red herring’ that is subtly introduced comes from an earlier explanation of human behavior and morality. On page 73 of The Righteous Mind’, the reader is reminded of Glaucon’s question to Socrates in Plato’s ‘The Republic’. In this dialogue, Glaucon asks Socrates to defend why it is better to be a just man with a bad reputation than an unjust man who is widely thought to be good. Haight, looking at the problem from a societal perspective, convincingly argues that it is better to be an unjust man who widely thought to be good. However, readers of ‘The Republic’ will recall that Socrates examined the problem from the perspective of the individual, concluding it’s better to be a just man with a bad reputation. Readers of The Righteous Mind will have fun answering Glaucon’s challenge to Socrates as they study the data presented in this book.

    Highly recommended, with lots of information on many ‘big picture’ topics, including morality, intuition vs. reason, individualism vs. group-think, conservative politics vs. liberal politics, and the basis for the extreme divisiveness seen in politics today.

    8 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 7, 2012

    Highly recommend.

    One of best non-fiction books I have read (over 74 years). I am reading it for the second time to re-enforce the lessons offered. I learned of the book from the Moyers and Company TV program in February 2012 and down-loaded it as soon as it came out in early March. Very readable and presented in a well organized manner. Very well researched as shown by 100+ pages of reference notes.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 16, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    If you think you can win an argument based on reasoned thought w

    If you think you can win an argument based on reasoned thought with someone of an opposing view think again! This book explains why good people on both sides are swayed mostly by their intuition based on 6 parameters the author delves into. Surprisingly, liberals are strong on 2 of the parameters (fairness and caring), but low on the others. Conservatives are balanced across all 6, most importantly loyalty, which allows them to rally around their cause or candidate after they've battled to get there; witness the recent GOP primary debates and the subsequent support of Romney. Liberals, on the other hand, will abandon their standard barrier if they don't feel he or she has supported their hot button cause sufficiently (gay marriage, legalized drugs, abortion etc. etc.).

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 1, 2012

    Stunningly provocative. No discussion of morality or considerat

    Stunningly provocative. No discussion of morality or consideration of why peoplle may hold contradictory views so tightly will be greatly limited if the participants have not read this book. A great addition of academic or non-academic discussions.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2012

    Insightful!

    Only read this book of you are willing to entertain the thought that your political foes may not be the idiots you imagine and GASP! might have a point or two on their side. One of the most amazing books I have read this year.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2012

    While the detail of this book would make any advanced college st

    While the detail of this book would make any advanced college student proud, it's the layman's explanation of how we've arrived at this point in our evolution that makes this book so insightful. Instead of liberals and conservatives talking at each other, a read of this book shows that the talking at each other part of our public discourse isn't bad manners; it's innate in our species. Best line of the book....you'll never see two chimps carrying a log together.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 3, 2012

    A Must Read for Democrats and Republicans

    I found The Righteous Mind a challenging book to wade through - certainly not a book suitable for someone wanting a bit of leisurely reading. It reminded me of my days reading college text books steeped in research data. On the other hand, the author provides an interesting approach to question of why conservative and liberals find it so difficult to accept the political stance of the other side, which is the root cause of the toxic political climate that pervades Washington D.C. these days.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2012

    Can't Recommend Highly Enough

    This book gives the best insight I've ever read into how people think about politics, religion, morality, and judgements of right or wrong.

    A must-read if you want to better understand people you disagree with -- OR if you want to have any chance of changing their views.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 15, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Why Moral Psychology Just Might Change the World Jonathan Haidt

    Why Moral Psychology Just Might Change the World

    Jonathan Haidt's book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion contains powerful insights that just might change the world. Haidt is a moral psychologist who gains insights into people's moral priorities by traveling to different countries and regions and asking intentionally disturbing questions in order to comprehend otherwise inexplicable matters--such as why in certain cultures it is considered horrible for a widow to eat fish.

    One of the biggest ideas presented in Haidt's book has to do with the way logic follows intuition in all humans, rather than the other way around. While people frequently assume we are being reasonable and behaving rationally, research studies show that humans actually lean in the direction of our emotional gut feelings from our subconscious first... and once we start leaning one way or another, our rational minds busy themselves to come up with explanations why our preferred particular direction makes so much sense. This wouldn't be much of a problem if we all tended to lean the same direction as one another, thus tending to generally agree, but it can present difficulties when individuals or groups of individuals all start emotionally leaning one way or another and then disagreeing regarding rational reasons for why that direction is better than others.

    Haidt outlines something called Moral Foundations Theory in his book, in such a way that shows how people from different cultures around the world identify to varying degrees with several basic foundations of morality. These are a bit like tastes, so just as some people might have a "sweet tooth" and others prefer salty or sour, people also show preferences and varying degrees of identifying with the six basic foundational pillars of morality: Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Liberty/Oppression, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sanctity/Degradation. I've been thinking about these pillars of morality ever since reading the book, noticing when I run across them as they are utilized in emotional arguments with friends, family, and in the media.

    Intriguingly, these moral foundations illuminate similarities in viewpoints of members of groups who share concern about Care/Harm and Fairness/Cheating (Liberals)... and the study of moral psychology thus illuminates reasons great rifts can sometimes occur between Liberals who presume Conservatives do not share their same concerns with regard to Care/Harm and Fairness/Cheating, when studies show Conservatives do care about these things... in addition to all the other elements of moral foundation, and perhaps a bit less than some. What a revelation this is! When we understand that some people respond more quickly and passionately to certain moral appeals than others, with everyone coming up with perfectly rational explanations for why they are correct, it's no small wonder we have such rifts between differing religious and political groups everywhere.

    So how does a better knowledge of moral psychology help in healing social rifts, such as those we may find around the holiday dinner table this year? Haidt explains that learning how people have initial intuitive leanings and viewpoints about things as being good or bad so they subsequently create logical support for them can be extremely important, in order that we can better respect that feelings are the primary driving force. Jonathan Haidt recommends that when we really want to understand someone from a different viewpoint or culture, we do well to listen with open hearts, following a sense of sacredness. This is excellent advice for deep listening in general, as deep listening truly is the best way to show respect to others, and bridge gaps between ourselves and others.

    Highly recommended for any student of psychology, philosophy, political science, political history, logic, communications, journalism, religious studies and religious history... and every single citizen who votes.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2012

    This is honestly one of the best books I have read in years. Hai

    This is honestly one of the best books I have read in years. Haidt makes very convincing arguments for his three main points: 1) intuitions comes first, strategic reason second, 2) there is more to morality than harm and fairness and 3) morality binds and blinds. His writing style is very clear and accessible although I paused several times during the book just to explore some of the many ideas he presents. This book really opened my eyes.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 31, 2014

    Boring and expected more.

    This is a rather boring and distracting book with all the "Elephant/Rider" analogy. Probably better just to watch a utube presentation for Michael Shermer about why people believe what they do without very little if no evidence for those beliefs.
    Don't waste your money on Haidt's book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 8, 2013

    Fascinating look at the psychology of morality.

    While I personally disagree with Dr. Haidt, he shares a great deal of knowledge and understanding. While his bias, his elitist attitudes and disdain for the "common" person occassionally come through, it is not strong enough to wholly discredit his work.

    If you are looking for a good attempt to develop a moral code without religious influence, I certainly recommed giving this book serious consideration. He attempts to tie his entire proposed moral code to evolution, and the selection of the fittest. At times it's a stretch, and perhaps annoying, but I think it reflects considerable research, knowledge and insight.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2013

    My highest recommendation. Life-changing potential for the attentive reader.

    A supremely well-research, documented, and cross-referenced scholarly work. Compares, contrasts, and combines accepted as well as discarded research from sociology and psychology disciplines. Great length is devoted to discussing the foundations of morality in various cultures and over long periods of time and distills complex human emotions and reasonings down to a handfull of fundamental concepts and principles that, if understood and incorporated into one's interactions with others of like and unlike political and religious viewpoints, would probably result in a tsunami-like change in interpersonal relationships.
    This book is definitely one of only several books I have read that I would sincerely credit as changing my life for the positive. It creates a whole new template with which to view and communicate with the contentious world in which we live. Agreement is not the goal; understanding and acceptance is.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 14, 2014

    Jonathan Haidt, psychologist and of the liberal intelligensia, h

    Jonathan Haidt, psychologist and of the liberal intelligensia, has offered advice on themes for propaganda against Republicans. Target psychological habits common to virtually all and attack on issues of moral philosophy.

    Flaws both psychological and philosophical are numerous and grave, not nullified by eclectic incorporation of entertaining bits from a variety of noted philosophers and psychologists. But this may matter little, as 50 percent of the votes plus 1 is adequate for a tyranny of the majority. Traditional Democrat tactics fared quite well in 2008 and 2012, so adding to them should be needed only if there is a perception that some voters must be won over from the Republican camp to continue the string of victories. In the last case, Republicans may be attacked on what Haidt terms moral foundations Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, Liberty/oppression, and Sanctity/degradation, factors that will not interest the Democrat core constituency at all but that may encourage disaffection from the Republican constituency.

    His characterization of mankind as 90 percent chimp, 10 percent bee is off target, but perhaps stems from his extensive familiarity with the core constituency of the Democrat Party. His emphasis on "hive behavior" as the means to transform competitive individuals (chimps) into cooperative, altruistic, "ultrasocial" groups (bees) neglects that what he terms "hive behavior" easily slips over into what others would call "mob action," and its attendent propensity to shift to genocide, racism, and other nefarious attributes of thorough-going in-group out-group competition.

    He recognizes Democrat principles place overwhelming emphasis on what he euphemistically terms the Care/harm moral foundation and the Fairness/cheating moral foundation. Of course, these would be more accurately termed "gimmie what I want, because my victimhood means I need it" and "make others pay for it, because I don't have the money due to nefarious practices by those who do." Extension of this emphasis leads naturally to diatribe against "supercorporations" and calls for Government action against them, but that is a side issue and one he waffles on in the addenda.

    He recognizes that moral judgment, like virtually all human judgment, is based primarily on intuition rather than reason. But while he recognizes that many factors are involved in morality, he fails to recognize that moral behavior is predominately a matter of habit, and that this in itself is of paramount importance. Habit is hard to change, and is easiest to mould in early life, but can be extensively altered, to avoid or minimize the weaknesses that result from genetic impulse and uncontrolled environmental influences. Not that a Democrat would ever be interested in shaping moral habits for anything other than the purpose of gaining power, so perhaps this too may matter little.

    For a summary assessment of Haidt's position and message, consider his acknowledgement that his definition of morality, in the normative sense, "would give high marks to fascist and communist societies as well as to cults, so long as they achieved high levels of cooperation by creating a shared moral order." His disclaimer that his morality would be only "an adjunct to other normative theories" politely disregards that theory supporting ideologies and fantasies clearly inimical to the well-being of mankind are not excusible as merely "an adjunct," even were that to be the case.

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  • Posted October 17, 2013

    The book included a fascinating review of the author's and other

    The book included a fascinating review of the author's and other researchers work on morals set in the context of evolutionary and sociological theory. However, the sections where the author supposedly applied that research to religion and politics was extremely weak. The author's comparison of the production of a can of vegetables to healthcare reimbursement payment was amateurish and not at all based on healthcare research and policy analysis, having based it on an article in Atlantic magazine written by a business man. I found it appalling that the author, an academic researcher, would discuss healthcare without ANY basis in scholarship. The author also drew little from political science or from sociology of religion where he attempted to apply research on morals to religion and politics---the title of the book. The author should have written a book only about the research on morals, or he should have studied the scholarly literature in political science and sociology of religion. In my opinion, the book's title was a sales gimmick to capitalize on the contemporary divisive political climate in the U.S.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 7, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    As a lay person, with no background in philosophy or psychology,

    As a lay person, with no background in philosophy or psychology, I found this book to be quite challenging to read. I was not so much interested in the research and historical background that he provides in detail, but in the conclusions drawn from them. The explanations of the six moral foundations and how those apply to people of different backgrounds, beliefs, political parties, etc., were easy enough to follow and understand. It should be required reading for members of Congress, though I wonder if it would really help. After all, the book points out that we seek to justify our own beliefs, which is why we fail to see beyond them, and thus we're back to our righteous minds.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2012

    Helped me make some reasoned sense of our contentious world

    An intelligent, scientific exploration of human behavior that has been perplexing to me for many years. This book has helped me become more understanding and tolerant of the heart felt opinions of others (no matter how destructive or stupid they may be:-).

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 19, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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