Our brains were designed for tribal life, for getting along with a select group of others (Us) and for fighting off everyone else (Them). But modern times have forced the world’s tribes into a shared space, resulting in epic clashes of values along with unprecedented opportunities. As the world shrinks, the moral lines that divide us become more salient and more puzzling. We fight over everything from tax codes to gay marriage to global warming, and we wonder where, if at all, we can find our common ground.
A grand synthesis of neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, Moral Tribes reveals the underlying causes of modern conflict and lights the way forward. Greene compares the human brain to a dual-mode camera, with point-and-shoot automatic settings (“portrait,” “landscape”) as well as a manual mode. Our point-and-shoot settings are our emotions—efficient, automated programs honed by evolution, culture, and personal experience. The brain’s manual mode is its capacity for deliberate reasoning, which makes our thinking flexible. Point-and-shoot emotions make us social animals, turning Me into Us. But they also make us tribal animals, turning Us against Them. Our tribal emotions make us fight—sometimes with bombs, sometimes with words—often with life-and-death stakes.
An award-winning teacher and scientist, Greene directs Harvard University’s Moral Cognition Lab, which uses cutting-edge neuroscience and cognitive techniques to understand how people really make moral decisions. Combining insights from the lab with lessons from decades of social science and centuries of philosophy, the great question of Moral Tribes is this: How can we get along with Them when what they want feels so wrong to Us?
Ultimately, Greene offers a set of maxims for navigating the modern moral terrain, a practical road map for solving problems and living better lives. Moral Tribes shows us when to trust our instincts, when to reason, and how the right kind of reasoning can move us forward.
A major achievement from a rising star in a new scientific field, Moral Tribes will refashion your deepest beliefs about how moral thinking works and how it can work better.
©2013 Joshua D. Greene (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, all rights reserved. Excerpt from “My Favorite Things,” music by Richard Rodgers and lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II. © 1959 by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. Copyright renewed. Williamson Music owner of publication and allied rights throughout the world. International copyright secured. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
“Moral Tribes is a masterpiece—a landmark work brimming with originality and insight that also happens to be wickedly fun to read. The only disappointing thing about this book is that it ends.” -Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology, Harvard University; author of the international bestseller Stumbling on Happiness
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
study in the grounds--both reasonable and unreasonable, beneficial and destructive--that we have for gathering together into groups...which seem to end up somehow inevitably pitted against some "other." Cliques, clubs, organizations, political parties, cults, class-systems, and...teams. I have a story that relates very well to this book. I live near Seattle. "WE" (the Seahawks--I don't play, mind you, and I don't even watch, though I find myself included somehow) are playing the Broncos (hereafter "THEM") in the Superbowl next week. Some years ago, I bought a Broncos hat to wear to the barn when I interact with my horse--I hate football, and I bought the hat because it has a horse on it. (Witness my avatar photo above.) I have grown attached to the hat. I have also been threatened and taunted by Seahawks fan-atic-s for wearing it in public, and greeted heartily by strangers in stores from Denver who mistake me for a fellow Colorado "WE..." At present, I continue to wear the hat to the barn, but not if I need to run into the store afterward. And, if the Seahawks win on Sunday, I think maybe I will be able to wear it publicly in say, a year or so...if the Broncos win...I will never be safe wearing it again. (I had a student once actually physically assaulted for wearing a NY Yankees cap into a Seattle bar.) All this has made me aware of one thing: Nazi Germany is easy to understand once you get this element of human nature: we too often need someone to hate in order to feel decently about ourselves. The Nazis had the same mentality as football fanatics--or any other group fanatic. They just had a lot more freedom to persecute the "THEM."
Moral conflict and ideological division may be one of the most serious problems facing the world today. Joshua Greene, renowned philosopher and neuroscientist, doesn't present any magic bullets to address this problem, but he does offer what may be the only solution, something he calls "deep pragmatism." Deep pragmatism is essentially utilitarianism dressed up in fashionable clothing, but Greene makes a compelling case that this way of thinking may be the only "common currency" that can be used between competing moral tribes in the modern world. Greene peers under the hood to reveal how our evolved mental machinery guides our moral judgments, and the picture he presents is not flattering. Our moral cognitive mechanisms are "gadgets" honed by natural selection. Their function is not to glimpse an eternal "moral truth," but rather to propagate the genetic material that constructed them. These gadgets come pre-installed with glitches and shortcomings, and one thing is certain: they were not built to handle complex modern dilemmas like global warming, effective governance, and criminal justice. Thus, Greene argues, if we want to transcend the boundaries of our moral tribes, we must learn to transcend this "automatic" moral machinery and shift to "manual mode," the parts of our brain that can set goals, evaluate evidence, and think rationally. It's not easy to look with suspicion at our deep seated moral intuitions, but Greene makes a convincing case that we should. We must construct our political and moral worldviews not on gut feelings but on reason and evidence. Packed with fascinating facts from psychology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology, you'll learn all the cutting-edge information from the emerging field of moral cognitive science. And your vision of morality might get turned upside down.
I have read tens of philosophy books, but this is the one that made me feel the most enlightened after reading it. It helped clear away the cosy rationalizations of tribal moralities that I self-righteously indulge in, like every one else, and it does not claim to replace those by another absolute moral truth. At the same time, after demonstrating the hopeless relativity of moral emotions, Joshua Greene does fully acknowledge their worth as an "automatic mode".
A scientific understanding of the dual processes at work in moral decision-making leads to a reappraisal of the much-maligned utilitatrian viewpoint as the only realistic inter-tribal "moral common currency"
The little fable told at the beginning is nice, but you definitely shoul reread it after completing the book.
This is a book you have to think over, I read it twice and will certainly read it again.
This book connects loose ends from all disciplines into a coherent whole. It is hugely important that the ideas in this book become disseminated throughout all cultures. I'm happy that it exists.
Very interesting treatise. Thought provoking but a better textbook than a general audience read. Having some philosophical context helps tremendously.
Interesting but uninspired take on utilitarianism. Doesn't do justice to critiques of that ethical approach, but the reason to read the book is the way he integrates Kahneman's ideas from "thinking fast and slow" into the ethical realm of inquiry.
I live in Thailand, and love to listen to audible.
I like the narration, he sounds natural and I could concentrate on the ideas. I thought the narration was excellent. As for the book, it is life changing. You will really get insight into life and it is amazing how the author went on his own journey, breaking the code of human behavior. It's a real breakthrough! A must read. I hope the author knows how many people appreciate his work. In Moral Tribes you will find out why people feel righteous indignation against others, why punishers have to be consistent, and how rights can be shortcuts to "I am right." It's all told with interesting stories and humor. Funny! Fun to listen to! I loved it! I am so glad he admires Jonathan Haidt, author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Read that first. Then in Moral Tribes you will go further into explanations of why we have liberals and conservatives. It's really amazing.
This is a interesting subject but unfortunately the author is really tied up in many collectivist fallacies. He states that if humans follow their self interest they would all die pretty quickly (tragedy of the commons is mentioned a lot). So I have to conclude he thinks it is in human's self interest to die quickly. Of course what he does is narrow the concept of 'self interest' to 'grab all you can', which is setting up a straw man. Later in the book he kind of goes back on this statement by showing cooperation is in human's self interest and is therefor baked into the cake.
He also stated that when two troops of monkeys meet one another and one is stronger than the other, naturally the stronger will kill the weaker, since they would not like to take chances. This is not the case in reality however, so he might want to check his facts. He touches on that when he later mentions that committing aggression involves risks.
What most annoyed me is the notion about the idea that cooperation equates handing over resources to government. He begins with northern herders and southern herders and different mentalities and cultural norms about individualism and cooperation. He does not realize that the government is not a pit in which you throw money if you want to cooperate, but it is a special group of people for who inverted moral rules apply (murder for money gives you a medal, theft is taxation and is good) without any physical difference to back this up. Trade = cooperation, the government however is force. It is a group of people in society that claims a monopoly on violence. In his words: government is just another group of herders, just a group that is more violent and has the right to subjugate in the eyes of the subjugated. When he says cooperation is good, he does not mean voluntary trade is good for the participants in the trade. He means: handing over resources to the group of herders who claim to represent the invisible state, equals cooperation. But the government is just a group of herders engaging in robbery. Cooperation is when people get together to voluntary cooperate, government is an elite who exploits the masses through taxation and threat of imprisonment and death.
The systematic analytical style may be fine for in depth reading but is extremely tedious to listen to. There's no way to skip the repetition either by skimming.
"A tough long listen. Like chewing on gristle."
I don't think I could stomach another Mel Foster narration. His diction was clear and he had a constant intonation that was not monotone but ultimately it was dead. I empathise with Joshua Greene's viewpoints as they are finally revealed but I doubt I would try anything else by him.
It was pretty dull all the way through.
The diction was clear and consistent but there was no passion for the content. Very occasionally the intonation or rhythm betrayed the fact that this was being professionally recorded.
God no. It was like pulling teeth.
It felt like Mr Greene was trying to appeal to right wing republicans with his use of their intellectually derelict catch phrases. Speaking of the low paid, poor, sick and disabled as 'the foolish and lazy' without qualification until very near the end.
The conclusions - particularly in reference to rights - were inconsistent with the actual point of the 14 hour diatribe of rationalist moralisation. Many sweeping statements such as 'nobody wants to suffer' are not backed up with hard evidence. What about the Buddhist monk who sits in extreme cold, religious zealots who fast, walk in bare feet, crawl on hands and knees around mountains, blow themselves up, flog themselves. How about the native american sun dance festival? Many hedonistic activities lead to suffering too. I can think of countless examples where people cause themselves suffering deliberately or otherwise.
Many of these people are not trying to achieve 'happiness' but something more - usually a shift in consciousness that changes perception and experience. People who chase happiness invariably bring suffering upon themselves in one form or another. Yes, this may mean an experience with a higher quality but happiness is the wrong term. Any passing understanding of Buddhism or even Catholicism could illustrate this.
The book misses this point entirely. It was like watching a fly with no wings dancing in circles. This sort of approach to trying to resolve the tribal clashes we currently see being enacted will do absolutely nothing to help. The ultimate message was 'let's put our differences aside and just get along', '...lets all just be utilitarian and pragmatic.' It is both patronising and stale. Mr Greene is clearly an intelligent man but I felt his application of the disaster of common sense completely misses the mark on what the real issues are. Man cannot live by bread alone.
It is illogical to spend so much time analysing and rationalising over imaginary scenarios and yet to say we don't need to try and properly understand and define happiness because we all know what it means and we all know that we all know what it means.A more in depth anthropological investigation may reveal to Mr Greene that some cultures do not operate on the same conscious level as western democracy and that the assumption that western democracy is the pinnacle of human development is not only wrong but the very reason the world is becoming more dangerous.
These assumptions create the us and them. I seriously wonder how much time Mr Greene has really spent immersed in other cultures and countries. Mr Greene also marginalises and berates viewpoints that differ from his own on several occasions. While I agree with his opinion he is not using a pragmatic non tribalist approach. He is in fact very tribal and aggressive with his language against those he fundamentally disagrees with.The point that some people earn 100 times plus more than others and that nobody can possibly believe that they work 100 times harder than someone else is an important one. This is what the book should have been about.
This is a book that was waiting to be written! A superb discussion of the last 2,500 years of moral theory fused with the recent findings in evolutionary psychology. The ultimate moral stance of the thinking Last Man, and a must listen for all utilitarians! Extraordinary, and beats Haidt, Sam Harris and others by miles.
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