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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are…
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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (original 2012; edition 2012)

by Jonathan Haidt

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5291619,057 (4.05)23
Member:ThufirHawat
Title:The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
Authors:Jonathan Haidt
Info:Pantheon (2012), Hardcover, 448 pages
Collections:Kindle Editions
Rating:
Tags:psychology, social psychology, political psychology, religion, politics, United States, current affairs

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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt (2012)

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Haidt's The Righteous Mind is a really fascinating book. I don't know where you'd categorise it -- I've read people saying moral psychology, political philosophy, sociology, anthropology... As far as I can gather, Haidt gathers up research and thought from different fields in setting out this book. And what does he seek to explore? Well, not so much "why good people are divided by politics and religion", as the subtitle would have it, but the more fundamental question: why do people make different moral decisions with the same information?

He pulls in a lot of research as he goes through this. The fact that disgust makes people more conservative; if you can portray something as dirty (Jewish people, gay people, whatever kind of sex you disapprove of, people of colour, people with disabilities) then you're halfway to calling it immoral already. Particularly for people who tend to be more conservative anyway. In fact, more easily disgusted people are usually more politically and socially conservative. (I'm an aberration; now I think about it, I wonder if that's because I have obsessive-compulsive tendencies causing my fear of germs and disgust responses, rather than actually thinking that way naturally.)

A lot of this, I've come across before, but not synthesised into a full theory like this. (Paul Bloom uses a lot of the same ideas, for example. Particularly in his Coursera course on Moralities of Everyday Life). Mostly, it worked for me. Some of Haidt's analogies and examples are a little clunky. The elephant (emotion)/rider (rationality) metaphor gets increasingly ridiculous the more he uses it, despite the aptness of the metaphor in some ways. Likewise the 'taste receptor' analogy for moral issues. I don't know how much he tested this out on people outside his field, but I think he does need to look for feedback on his imagery.

I tried to watch myself for knee-jerk reactions while reading this. Reading other reviews made me smile wryly, as other people reacted immediately to what they perceived as the thrust of Haidt's argument without reasoning it through. The fact that Haidt divides morality up into six regions which are more or less relevant to every culture really annoys people right off, particularly when he then shows that research has liberals focusing on three of these areas while conservatives focus on all six. As a matter of fact, Haidt seems to hold fairly liberal views himself. He's not criticising the goals of the liberal movement so much as a short sightedness that's preventing liberal politicians making the gains they could.

It's basically a validation of the positive sides of conservative and libertarian ethics. It's mostly an American Democrat writing about American Republicans, and trying to uncover the way they think and the reasonable basis for their beliefs and moral decisions.

What I don't think he's doing is saying that liberalism is bad, that conservatism is automatically the answer, or that the core values of liberalism are wrong. He's looking at the positive aspects of both sides, seeing them as a yin and yang system, rather than diametrically opposed systems on their own.

I'm gonna confess that my politics probably fall fairly close to Haidt's, so I'm not the best person to pick holes in his argument. To me, some of it felt clumsy due to the imagery he employed, but most of it made sense. I'm now reading Sam Harris, who advocates reason and scientifically proven morality, which doesn't fit into Haidt's system well at all. I'm looking forward to seeing how that goes.

I will just note that from this, Haidt is capable of considering other people's views. He makes a good response to Dawkins' atheism, for example, and does a good job of laying out Dawkins' position. Harris, on the other hand... This may be me projecting, but he has a kind of arrogance in the way he writes (and in the way he speaks -- I've watched both of them lecture) that turns me off. I'm having a very hard time not knee-jerking in response. ( )
2 vote shanaqui | Jul 3, 2014 |
This book was a choice of my non-fiction group at our public library. I agree with one of the members who said, “If I’m going to read a textbook, I want college credit.”

Yes, it did read like a textbook. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t get something out of it. It was just a hard slog.

The author is earnest, and the text is well sourced. It’s just that he is accustomed to writing for academics, not for readers who prefer a book that is less dense and more entertaining (for lack of a better word).

The member of the group who recommended The Righteous Mind said she got a lot more out of the book the second time she read it. Unfortunately, I don’t believe most people would finish the book once, much less twice. ( )
  NewsieQ | May 20, 2014 |
First, this is not a book about religion. Haidt is attempting to establish a rational basis for morality. Using research from psychology, anthropology, and biology, he develops a six-factor basis for morality: Care/Harm, Liberty/Oppression, Fairness/Cheating, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sanctity/Degradation. His thesis is that moral judgement is what he calls "an innate intuitive ability" which is then justified by post-hoc arguements. Morality serves to bind society together, and moral skills have their basis in various evolutionary mechanisms developed over time.

To take an example, Haidt claims that Liberals draws from only the first three moral factors (Care/Harm, Liberty/Oppression, Fairness/Cheating) most strongly from Care/Hrm, while Conservatives draw evenly from all six. It is this differing moral basis that lead to deeply felt clashes between Liberals and Conservatives. ( )
  bke | Mar 30, 2014 |
This is one of the most important books of our time. Haidt goes into great detail to explain the evolutionary origins behind human habits and thinking that lead to discord and disagreement.

Although he is an atheist and a liberal, Haidt did not set out to validate his world view. In fact, he actually affirms the role of religion as a net plus (albeit in evolutionary terms) for society. He also points out where many liberals miss the boat when it comes to moral thinking and claims that they view the world in an unbalanced, though well-meaning, way.

Of the many studies he conducted and discusses, the one that struck me the most was the one where liberals and conservatives were asked to explain how the "other side" would view an issue. His results aligned with my personal experience. Conservatives, in general, understood what the views of liberals are. Liberals, however, generally had an inaccurate understanding of a conservative perspective.

This is not at all to say that this book is an affirmation of conservative views etc. It isn't. Haidt does not jettison his personal views. Instead he explains how people are usually so entrenched with their world view and "team" that, even if they ultimately have the same goals as the "other side," they aren't hearing them because at a very deep, intuitive level they can't "hear" them. We start building our defensive arguments before we have even really heard or considered the facts.

This book is an example of something I often tell me students about. You know experience of learning a new word and then almost magically seeing it everywhere? That is what reading this book is like. It is absolutely mindblowing to see how clearly Haidt's Six Foundations of Moral Thinking can be transposed onto just about any controversy or disagreement. I am astounded- and even angered - to see how mass media and political entities have mastered the art of manipulation through the use of trigger words and constructions. Haidt actually has a Web site where you can see lists of words and the particular moral foundation with which they connect.

Ultimately, I am encouraged by research like this. I am aligned with Haidt's final comments in the book which present the hope that, if we can work to truly understand the perspectives of others and also literally observe how our minds are working (and short-circuit gut level defensiveness), we can attain remarkable levels of cooperation and progress. ( )
1 vote Scarchin | Nov 12, 2013 |
This is a frustrating book. We spent much of the year discussing it at Swarthmore College and while I was quite prepared to be appreciative of the intent of the book and much of its core argument, I found myself more and more irritated in small and large ways as the year's conversation wore on. Part of it is that Haidt, like many of the more faddish new devotees of neuroscience and cognitive science, habitually overreaches his arguments in several respects, particularly in the latter half of the book. He's trying so hard to knock a kind of straw man's version of rationalism off its perch in the first half of the book that he ends up leaving no room for what Daniel Kahneman calls "slow thinking". E.g., Haidt doesn't just say that much of what we assign to rational thought is not particularly rational thought, but essentially completely boxes out anything but a kind of shallow evolutionary psychology as an explanation of any cognitive or behavioral action. Among other things, this makes it hard to explain his own work (e.g., why isn't evolutionary psychology of this kind just another kind of righteousness that is solely motivated by inherited cognitive predispositions?) but also makes it hard to explain why anybody should in fact ever want to go beyond righteousness as he describes it. E.g., he has no normative conception of what moral behavior ought to be and leaves himself no way to get there, but the entire argument of the book drives towards trying to convince people to override their evolved predispositions.

The second big issue follows from the first. Much of the book ultimately amounts to trying to convince educated American progressives that they have to learn from conservatives, who Haidt believes operate on a wider spectrum of appeals to the "moral tastebuds" that human beings have evolved to have. But this first off is based on a prediction that liberals are losing out in American politics because they have such a narrow set of preferences, a prediction that isn't a particularly good reading of the longer arc of American politics since 1945 or even since 2000. It is ultimately either a liberal overreaction to two terms of George W. Bush or it is an elaborate bit of concern trolling by a conservative pretending to sympathy with progressives. But in the larger comparative sense (which Haidt claims to want to pursue) it is not at all clear that political movements that favor all the "tastebuds" tend to succeed, or that such movements tend to be "conservative" in any sense. The first half of the book tries quite seriously to ask whether its psychology can justifiably be called 'universal' but then Haidt completely forgets about that test in the second half. With a bigger "N", it's not clear at all that his assertions about why political movements succeed in relationship to whether they work the full range of deep or innate moral inclinations hold any water outside the United States in the last two decades or across human history at an even bigger scale. ( )
4 vote TimothyBurke | Oct 8, 2013 |
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I could not understand how any thinking person would voluntarily embrace the party of evil, and so I and my fellow liberals looked for psychological explanations for conservatism, but not for liberalism.
In psychology, theories are cheap.
Libertarians are basically liberals who love markets and lack bleeding hearts.
When libertarians talk about the miracle of "spontaneous order" that emerges when people are allowed to make their own choices, the rest of us should listen.
Emphasizing differences makes many people more racist, not less.
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Book description
Why can’t our political leaders work together as threats loom and problems mount? Why do people so readily assume the worst about the motives of their fellow citizens?

In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding. His starting point is moral intuition - the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong.

Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right. He blends his own research findings with those of anthropologists, historians, and other psychologists to draw a map of the moral domain, and he explains why conservatives can navigate that map more skillfully than can liberals. He then examines the origins of morality, overturning the view that evolution made us fundamentally selfish creatures.

But rather than arguing that we are innately altruistic, he makes a more subtle claim - that we are fundamentally groupish. It is our groupishness, he explains, that leads to our greatest joys, our religious divisions, and our political affiliations. In a stunning final chapter on ideology and civility, Haidt shows what each side is right about, and why we need the insights of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians to flourish as a nation.

Download the accompanying reference guide.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0307377903, Hardcover)

Why can’t our political leaders work together as threats loom and problems mount? Why do people so readily assume the worst about the motives of their fellow citizens? In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding.
 
His starting point is moral intuition—the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong. Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right. He blends his own research findings with those of anthropologists, historians, and other psychologists to draw a map of the moral domain, and he explains why conservatives can navigate that map more skillfully than can liberals. He then examines the origins of morality, overturning the view that evolution made us fundamentally selfish creatures. But rather than arguing that we are innately altruistic, he makes a more subtle claim—that we are fundamentally groupish. It is our groupishness, he explains, that leads to our greatest joys, our religious divisions, and our political affiliations. In a stunning final chapter on ideology and civility, Haidt shows what each side is right about, and why we need the insights of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians to flourish as a nation.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:35 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A groundbreaking investigation into the origins of morality, which turns out to be the basis for religion and politics. The book explains the American culture wars and refutes the "New Atheists."

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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