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

by Jonathan Haidt

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2,136575,501 (4.05)76
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."
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Showing 1-5 of 54 (next | show all)
I found this book annoying. The author presents a conservative point of view, and I am a liberal, so that's that! But actually even if the book had presented a liberal point of view, I think I would find it almost as annoying. The fundamental problem is that the subject is profound but the book's approach is slipshod. Probably that is inevitable. It's not like we've really made any progress in the matter since e.g. Plato's Republic. There has been a lot of profound thought on the subject but mostly it just buries itself off lost on some side trail. So Haidt's book does have the advantage of being rather shotgun. It doesn't go deep so it doesn't get lost. It's superficial and casually inadequate about a broad range of important topics. Perhaps it will annoy all readers, but if it motivates folks to dig deeper, to probe various topics more thoroughly... well, that'd make it a valuable book, certainly!

The idea that conservatives have a broader more complete range of moral concerns than liberals, this is just sloppy. It's a kind of moral gerrymandering. It'd be pretty easy to chop up this moral territory and combine those moral territories to end up with a very differently voting moral Senate. This business of totaling up the scores to figure out who has more and who has less.... well, Haidt I presume has the conservative genetic pattern that drives for answers, while I have the liberal genetic pattern that is more comfortable with open questions and feels stifled by simplistic answers!

No doubt genetics is huge and we humans are built from a bunch of neural modules that somehow negotiate the illusion of an integral personhood. But the whole approach of evolutionary psychology... I find it dubious to the point of absurdity. The whole idea that our rationality is totally post hoc, that we just act on instinct and make up stories so we can look good... of course there is an element of truth in this, but take note: scientists are just as prone to this, no, actually more prone. Scientists like to take a superior pose and they generally get away with it. They exude this aura of knowing more than others, of understanding others better than those others understand themselves. Nothing actually fits the paradigm of evolutionary psychology better than evolutionary psychology itself. Can you imagine folks more like alpha chimps than people such as Daniel Dennett or Richard Dawkins or E. O. Wilson?

Anyway it's a useful enough book, if you can avoid two potential traps: don't let the sloppiness annoy you so much that you just throw the book into the trash before getting through it - it's a handy survey; don't get seduced by the easy logic into thinking anything here is worth adopting. This is huge and profoundly important territory, and this book is just a very high level jaunt through at perhaps high school level. ( )
  kukulaj | May 29, 2021 |
Halfway through this book, and incredibly frustrated with the rhetorical reaching Haidt undertakes in order to claim that everyone can be equally right and what might look like bigotry has to be something morally valid instead, I decided to search the book for the word "racism". It appears 5 times (in a discussion of divisiveness in American politics, let me remind you) and each time the context is that only a close-minded liberal would think anyone would be racist. Did not continue reading. ( )
  atheist_goat | May 9, 2021 |
Get to know the other side

This book has been a fantastic way to learn how to not only understand the other side but speak the same language. A world tour on moral psychology, Haidt makes it accessible. ( )
  SeekingApatheia | Apr 13, 2021 |
I believe Jonathan Haidt has done something here that is truly remarkable. In the pursuit of wisdom, he has been able to suspend judgment long enough not only to listen empathetically but to learn from those he disagrees with. With the constant reinforcement of polarization in the media, this is becoming more and more and lost art. In the process, he offers a framework for understanding our religious and political divisions that has already helped me listen better and empathize more with others. You likely will disagree with him on certain points, but few other places will you find someone who listens and empathizes like he has.

This will be a book I read again soon and will probably purchase.

Ps. I was hesitant to read it since I had heard the 6 moral foundations framework before from others and in his TED talk (which is worth a look). However, The Righteous Mind is really three shorter books and the moral foundations part is just the middle third. In other words, there's much more here than I had heard in the summaries. I hope to give a fuller review after my second reading... ( )
  nrt43 | Dec 29, 2020 |
Listened to the first two hours. Lots of pop-sci references, with a heavy focus on self-promotion of studies that the author himself published. Parts of the beginning that discussed morality more from a philosophical point of view were at times enjoyable.

Haidt ends the second chapter with the promise that he would focus more on logic/reason rather than emotion/intuition. Then, the very next chapter starts with him describing a study utilizing hypnosis that had some "interesting results." Honestly, the juxtaposition of those two was so incongruous that at first I thought it might have been provided as an example of poor science. But I was wrong, and Haidt goes on to use the study to further a thesis.

Not recommended. ( )
  rsanek | Dec 26, 2020 |
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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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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."

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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.

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