College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
My work in greyhound and horse rescue has shown me over the years something very clearly: animals understand a moral act done toward them (rescuing them from rugged and abusive situations), appreciate it, and return the favor in acts of protection, devotion and love. This book covers such aspects of four-legged morality as well as how animals care for, protect and sacrifice for each other. Several now famous studies have shown how voles are monogamous, vampire bats (yes!) practice reciprocal altruism (one bat has a bad night, a bat that had a good night will spit up some of his collected blood into the hungry bat's mouth--and later, the favor is returned when the tables are turned--yummy!), and I can tell you that horses instantly recognize a good person or a cruel one and remember a friend forever...and remember as well those who have done them a wrong turn at some point. From an evolutionary standpoint, it only makes sense. Neo-Darwinian sociologists stand in line these days to write books about how humans developed a sense of morality in order for the greater number of the group to survive due to group protection and caring and justice--why in the world would we think that other mammals had not developed the same tendencies in order to keep their species going as well?!
Haidt does an amazing job here of showing us how it is our intuition that often decides for us in regard to controversial (and even trivial) subjects, and then "uses" rationale as an ad hoc reasoning machine to justify the decision. Haidt also shows how this is not always a bad thing, that "gut instincts" can be truer and better than those come to entirely on rationale (if the latter were even possible, which, it seems, it isn't in most normal people.) Rationale can temper intuition, but if someone's mind is truly to be changed, it must be the intuition that is addressed first, not the rationale. If one can understand this, violent arguments can often be defused and the "opponent" can be understood as something other than "someone who is stupid" or who "refuses to accept MY logic." A must read!
leveled at this brilliant narrative concerning unnecessary length and lack of structure. As to the first, I wanted more, not less! I found the book remarkably compelling. As to the second, a stirring and intriguing story should not read like a sixth grade history book, but rather something like a novel. El-Hai accomplishes this wonderfully well here, weaving in and out of plot-lines, developing characters richly and fully along the way. This historical narrative is not nearly so much about Goering--or Kelley--as it is about those incredible accidental meetings of personalities and circumstances at the most telling times in history and how much of what becomes cultural consciousness is developed in dark rooms under conditions and by people of which most remain forever unaware. El-Hai's book is a mystery and suspense tale, told as though Poe or Hawthorne had penned an historical drama. It comes highly recommended from these quarters, especially for anyone who prefers a literary turn put to what would otherwise be dry classroom facts.