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.
©2012 Jonathan Haidt (P)2012 Gildan Media LLC
"Haidt is looking for more than victory. He's looking for wisdom. That's what makes The Righteous Mind well worth reading…. a landmark contribution to humanity’s understanding of itself.” (The New York Times Book Review)
Yes! Because the information is helpful.
The narration of this Audible audiobook by the author is just OK, however I think it could have benefited from a professional reader/performer. Tone and tambour of professional voice and knowing when to put the proper inflectional twist can add life and interest when the facts become a bit dull.
The narration of this Audible audiobook by the author is just OK! He annunciated the words clearly and the meter moved along nicely. The voice is not unpleasant but it lacks liveliness.
Yes, the metaphor at the start of each of the three parts I found useful.
One of the biggest problems of the modern political scene is the right cannot seem to communicate with the left and the converse is also true. Whether we all get together at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter or at an office gathering, we all have that certain relative or office friend you know you cannot discuss politics with, without sending them into what seems like a torrent angry words, bordering on foaming at the mouth, and an implacable wall of not hearing a word you say. This book written by, social and cultural psychologist, Ph.D. Jonathan Haidt, explains why certain issues are a “hot button issue” on either the right or the left. He does this by providing a metaphor for understanding the interaction of the unconscious mind and the conscious mind when it formulates its sense of right and wrong, known as morals in PART ONE of the book. This section is how the individual mind works. How it marries the emotional feeling unreasoning part of our brain with the rational conscious articulate part of our brain. In PART TWO, he provides a different metaphor to explain why morals have different priorities and vary in focus from person to person. Thus at the heart of any dispute between generally honest and moral people, a heated difference in approach can rise to the point where we stop listening to one another. By keeping in mind these differences in approach are not motivated by sinister concerns, we can overcome the divide, and perhaps work toward a common solution. In PART THREE, another metaphor provides a context in which we can understand that we behave differently when we act as an individual and when we act as a group. The emotional need to belong to a group for both survival and comfort is hard wired and can overcome our better individual judgment in the heat of collective passion of herd solidarity.
Unless you are academically inclined and enjoy reading about experiments designed to get at the root of what drives our behavior, this book can be a bit of a slog at times. However, considering the useful prospective I have extracted from this book and apply to both real life situations and evaluating written material, it is well worth the effort to master the material in this book. When you are on the receiving end of a relative’s diatribe of full troughed, “I hate all taxes and the government that imposes them – rant – rant- rant, there is not one good tax in the last 100 years;” to be able to stop and deflate that expansive gas bubble with one question was priceless. The individual on exhibit is not some cheap hearted, flinty, miserly person. He is in fact a good business man, loving husband, good father, and respected member of his community. But the moral imperative that drives his psyche are a desire to be fair and anger at cheating. When he is feed too many examples of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system, he becomes blinded to his desire to be fair, and totally ignores his sense of Christian caring and a desire to not harm others. What stopped this man’s rant you ask? I simply ask him if he would abolish the social security tax and move his then to be destitute parents in with him. All of a sudden government was not so bad. His blinders were off! We could then discuss rationally, like two human beings, flaws in government welfare policy that could do with some revision to ensure the taxes were going to the truly needy and deserving and the “free riders” were driven out. The reverse of this example is also true. Among some of my leftward leaning friends, when they get their hair on fire over the evil selfish greedy right, “shredding of the social safety net to line their already rich pockets;” I know their moral imperative is driven by a sense of caring for others and to prevent harm from happening to the unfortunate good people. With them, I simply reach into my experience bag from when I was a workers compensation claims adjustor, for an example of a claimant who would use crutches to go into a scheduled medical examination, then exit the exam, toss his crutches into his truck bed, and then drove to a farm where he returned to roofing the barn. I then ask, “Is it fair to allow the undeserving to steal benefits intended for the truly needy from the system?” All of a sudden the flaming hair goes out and a more reasonable tone replaces empty rhetoric.
What this book did for me? It made me aware that there are two or more sides to most issues. Opponents need not be demonized as evil or stupid just because they differ in your approach to an issue. In recognizing the moral underpinning of their argument and granting their motivation the respect it deserve for their position, I am able to do two things. One is to disrupt the blind rant that really says, “NO ONE LISTENS TO MY MORAL OUTRAGE!” Two lay the basis for dialog when the fires of rage have been quenched. When you recognize the moral underpinning of the rage, you defuse it by in effect saying, “I recognize the morality of your position now let’s talk about a practical solutions like human beings.” Then I am more likely to garner respect and a willingness to hear where I am coming from, and be open to what I am saying. The book “Think Like a Freak” by Ph.D. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, (reviewed elsewhere) addresses these same problems using the term incentives and persuasion as tools for change.
Finally, the book makes clear, that people who keep on hitting the key moral receptors that drive an angry reaction are looking to drive movements and form an unreasoning mass in a slavish hive like mentality against a target of rage. When we unconsciously allow ourselves to be manipulated in such a way, it does not lead to good public policy, or privet dispute resolution.
By using the tools this book provides it has made me a much better consumer of thoughts and ideas, either oral or written. It has also made me better at persuasion when I disagree with those thoughts or ideas. Our moral values are our personal sacred cows. The quickest way to produce discord in the society is to offend others sacred cows. When you offend another’s sacred cow you offend their personhood and foreclose dialog.
In writing this review I hope to persuade the reader/listener to get this book and consume the content. I have done so by providing two storytelling examples of how the book has benefited me. Hopefully, I have piqued your interest to learn more about the various receptors that underpin our moral values and that drive our action and conversation in life. When confronted with an individual in the throes of moral outrage we have a choice. We can throw the bucket of gas of our own moral outrage on the conflagration and burn it all down; or we can choose the bucket of, “I hear your moral outrage” provide recognition and reason to it, then extinguish the flames and engage in dialog. It has worked for me and I cordially invite you to see if it will work for you. I highly recommend the take away from this book even as I acknowledge a wish it could have been as entertaining in its presentation.
Personal note: I have both the audio and hardback book. I prefer the cover art on the version published in the United Kingdom’s version in 2012. The cover on the US version in 2013 is plain, dull, and a bit pedantic. The British version will poke you right in the eye. At the bottom of the US Amazon page select United Kingdom to get to the British Amazon. Once there look up 2012 hardback version of “The Righteous Mind” and you will see what I am talking about. They also show the US 2013 version so you can compare the two’s cover art and make up your own mind.
The author chose to narrate his own material. His excitement for portions of the text constantly leaves him with mumbled, out of breath finishes to sentences. This is a remarkable problem in that it is so correctable. The author's material is brilliant, and he surely knows it so well that he doesn't notice the mumbled readings, but is there no editor to demand improved diction and retakes?
I love espionage, legal, and detective thrillers but listen to most genres. Very frequent reviews. No plot spoilers! Please excuse my typos!
I first read the dead tree version of Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind when it was released in 2012. 9 months ago I purchased the audiobook and found when listened to in conjunction with the online materials as the narrator recommends it was as easy to understand and the original book. Late in 2013 another social psychologist, Joshua Greene, wrote the book Moral Tribes which he intended as an attempt to challenge some of the conclusions of Haidt's The Righteous Mind. The Righteous Mind is based on years of serious studies that are will documented and properly analyzed while Moral Tribes is a long, flailing, immature argument with \based almost entirely on Greene's personal political philosophy. Both books have high reader ratings on Audible and Amazon, but The Righteous Mind is clearly far superior to Moral Tribes.
Both Haidt and Greene describe themselves as left of center politically and both are PhD social psychologist. Haidt's book is not primarily about political beliefs: it is about six categories of moral concepts that groups of people (tribes in Greene's language) hold. But the relative importance of the six categories of moral concepts do translate into political philosophy and Haidt's studies of group moral values do lead to discussions of political differences, so that is why Haidt's interviews and speeches are mostly about political differences.
The Righteous Mind is based on numerous studies of human beliefs of morality. The studies are fascinating. It is a wonderful book apart from the political conclusions. The Righteous Mind is a hugely important book that can help us better understand ourselves and others. And it can help us to work together constructively despite our differences. I wish everyone would read this important book!
Mind-opening, excellent, enlightening
Writer obviously had different social and political views than I, but his ability to explain it from 3 distinct lenses - biological, social and experiential was tremendous. It is written before this election, but in a way it completely speaks to it. (Not sure facts are 100%) but 80% of Americans live in a county that was won or lost by you candidate by 70% or more. Why?
I would love to see a follow-up to this book where they do a deep dive into the why the blue counties are so blue and the red counties are so red and the drives for people to think what they think. I don't want to hear race...it is so much more than that. This book touches on a little on the different thought process/priorities from cities to more rural areas.
Glass blower and audiobook junkie. Books are my schoolroom and my entertainment!
I'm so glad I heard this book during the 2016 U.S. election season. We are a divided people, and if we're going to move forward we need to find our way back to an understanding of each other. If you want to try to understand people who think differently than you, buy this book. You'll probably come away knowing more about yourself too.
Even if you don't agree with all his conclusions, the information in here's too important to skip over! I have heard some other evolutionary psychology books, so I wondered if this would just be redundant, but it wasn't. It really brings the evo psych knowledge to bear on political and social problems. Also the most convincing argument for group selection I've heard. But I think this would also make a great introduction if you've never heard any evolutionary psychology before. I intend to foist it on my unsuspecting husband next road trip.
Jonathan Haidt (pronounced like 'height', btw, not 'hate') gets an extra star on the performance because he actually verbally describes photos, charts, and graphs (!) as well as making sure they are available online. He must be an audiobook listener himself.
This book is moderately paced, thoroughly researched and unbiased (as much as humanly possible). Jonathan Haidt has made the world a little more peaceful. He has enlighten me, a Christian conservative, to the flaw--I must say sin--of judging all liberals as "Crazy Sinner".
I believe "All truth is God's truth." Although, Haidt and I may still disagree that the Christian God is an actual entity rather than just a beneficial social construct, Haidt has earned my respect and gratitude for revealing to me that even for the Christian, the rider serves the elephant.
I have and will recommend this book to everyone. However, I must admit, many of my fellow Christians will not take me up on the recommendation. They will unfortunately miss out on the divine truths within Haidt's secular work.
Well presented wide ranging application of moral philosophy principles. Compelling listen for those seeking to better understand and respond to recent social trends and political outcomes.
Urban planner. Environmentalist. Geek.
This book only earned its fifth star from me a week after I finished it and I realized it had changed the way I think about other humans.
Reading political arguments on Facebook, I've started thinking about everyone's position in terms of the underlying values Haidt identifies. It is particularly valuable to me to understand the impact that "sacred" ideas have on people's thinking. Surface-level logic won't help to budge a person if it contradicts what's sacred to them, so either arguments need to work with that, or strong emotional tools are necessary that can reach and adjust that sacred value itself. It's a simple but profound insight that will influence how I do my job for years to come, so a book that accomplishes that deserves five stars.
The first few chapters alone are worth the price of the book. If you ever want to convince anyone of anything, understanding the power of our emotional instincts and how our logical mind works to rationalize them is necessary.
I will quibble with a few things. It is unclear whether the author believes there truly are six distinct moral frameworks that have separately and physically evolved in the mind, or whether this is just a useful artificial system of categories to help understand a much more complex underlying moral system. The conflation of what's real and what's a useful abstraction leads to some sloppy thinking. He assumes that each moral framework are set up as binaries (good v. bad) without defending why the brain would work that way. So, for example, he suggests our sense of sacredness can only exist if we have a sense of disgust to contrast it. Maybe, maybe not. The fact he offered no evidence suggests the idea is so embedded in his thinking he doesn't realize it's an empirical question.
Heidt is also, at times, slips into relativism, suggesting (I think without meaning to) that understanding why someone believes something is right or wrong is to justify that moral belief. Better understanding why people believe what they do is valuable for moving issues forward. It does not require that we respect or agree with throwing acid in women's faces or treating lower classes with discrimination. While he himself makes this point late in the book, he avoidably crosses the line into relativism more than once early on.
He spends the latter part of the book defending the value of religion as a group adaptation to allow humans to work together more effectively. Some of his evidence here feels flaky, like the powerful common feeling ravers feel while dancing. While ravers like to suggest they are building a stronger sense of common humanity, because that idea makes them feel good, I have first-hand experience to suggest that this is bullshit. His conclusions are compelling and suggest a need for atheists to think about accomplishing what religion does by other means, but as the cliché goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. More work needs to be done on the evidence.
Semi retired small business person/ college professor/ investor.
This should be required reading before people are allowed to voice opinions in the political process. (Kidding since that would restrict free speech) Still such a requirement wold hopefully tone down the hate that has become standard fair in political circles. It was refreshing to be reminded that the other side is not evil, just different in their approach to what is morally right. Interesting to learn how our brains work in this department and how we can strive to be more thoughtful before our subconscious completely takes over. Fascinating reading into how we both innately feel and learn what is right and wrong.
A very worthwhile read if you are one of the very few who actually want to understand why people who think differently from you think as they do. Lest you think I an too hopeful I have decided on the headlines of the book reviews in two different publications. The NY Times will headline "Research shows liberals care more about others than conservatives". The National Review will headline "Research shows liberals have an unbalanced moral foundation".
Finally this book explains why an economic conservative, libertarian, recent Christ follower such as myself is so conflicted on what is moral.
First, review of the book, then the audiobook.
The book itself is a mind-opener. Mind-opener seems a mediocre word, but I don't know of any superlative. This book is a life-changer for me, my view of this world has totally changed. It is easy for anyone to say someone else is close-minded when they refuse to see things from one's perspective, but actually that person is equally close-minded. This book actually made me realize my close-mindedness and made me see how the other side of liberalism/conservatism (or left/right) thinks.
On the audiobook, the narration is by the author himself. He did an excellent job. His tone is calm yet not too laid-back. He even describes his images/visuals/diagrams in the book, even blind people can read his book (including the visuals) through his narration.
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