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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion [Kindle Edition]

Jonathan Haidt
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (598 customer reviews)

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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.



Editorial Reviews

Review

“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.” –New York Times Book Review  

“Jonathan Haidt is one of smartest and most creative psychologists alive, and his newest book, The Righteous Mind, is a tour de force—a brave, brilliant and eloquent exploration of the most important issues of our time. It will challenge the way you think about liberals and conservatives, atheism and religion, good and evil. This is the book that everyone will be talking about.”—Paul Bloom, Yale University, Author of How Pleasure Works
 
“As a fellow who listens to heated political debate daily, I was fascinated, enlightened, and even amused by Haidt's brilliant insights. This penetrating yet accessible book will help readers understand the righteous minds that inhabit politics.” —Larry Sabato, University of Virginia, author of A More Perfect Constitution
 
“A remarkable and original synthesis of social psychology, political analysis, and moral reasoning that reflects the best of sciences in these fields and adds evidence that we are innately capable of the decency and righteousness needed for societies to survive.” —Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

“Here is the first attempt to give an in depth analysis of the underlying moral stance and dispositions of liberals and conservatives. I couldn't put it down and discovered things about myself!” —Michael Gazzaniga, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of The Ethical Brain

“Haidt’s a good thing.” –The Atlantic online 
 
“A well-informed tour of contemporary moral psychology…A cogent rendering of a moral universe of fertile complexity and latent flexibility.” –Kirkus

“[Haidt’s] framework for the different moral universes of liberals and conservatives struck me as a brilliant breakthrough…The Righteous Mind provides an invaluable road map.” –Miller-McCune.com 

“A much-needed voice of moral sanity.” –Booklist  
 
"An important and timely book…His ideas are controversial but they make you think…Haidt has made his reputation as a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, where he and his colleagues explore reason and intuition, why people disagree so passionately and how the moral mind works." —Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company

Highly readable, highly insightful…The principal posture in which one envisions him is that of a scrappy, voluble, discerning patriot standing between the warring factions in American politics urging each to see the other’s viewpoint, to stop demonizing, bashing, clobbering…Haidt’s real contribution, in my judgment, is inviting us all to sit at the table.” –Washington Times  

“Haidt's work feels particularly relevant now…The Righteous Mind isn't just election-year reading. Haidt's perspective can help us better understand our own political and religious leanings.” –San Francisco Chronicle

“Ingenious prose…Beautifully written, Haidt’s book shines a new and creative light on moral psychology and presents a provocative message.” –Science   

"A profound discussion of the diverse psychological roots of morality and their role in producing political conflicts. It's not too much to hope that the book will help to reduce those conflicts." —Richard E. Nisbett, University of Michigan, author of The Geography of Thought
 
"The Righteous Mind refutes the 'New Atheists' and shows that religion is a central part of our moral heritage. Haidt's brilliant synthesis shows that Christians have nothing to fear and much to gain from the evolutionary paradigm."—Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution
 
"Haidt's research has revolutionized the field of moral psychology. This elegantly written book has far-reaching implications for anyone interested in politics, religion, or the many controversies that divide modern societies. If you want to know why you hold your moral beliefs, and why many people disagree with you, read this book".  —Simon Baron-Cohen, Cambridge University, Author of The Science of Evil 
 
 “The Righteous Mind is an intellectual tour de force that brings Darwinian theorizing to the practical realm of everyday politics. The book is beautifully written, and it is truly unusual to encounter a book that makes a major theoretical contribution yet encourages one to turn its pages enthusiastically.” —Christopher Boehm, University of Southern California, author of Moral Origins.

“A rich, intriguing contribution to positive psychology. Recommended.” –Choice Magazine 

“Can help bridge the ever-widening gaps that occur in politics…This is not one of those books where a researcher boils down a complex subject into a simple tag line. Haidt takes readers on a journey through that complexity, so that we can understand the nuances and contradictions inherent in human morality.” –Psychology News

Review

“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.” –New York Times Book Review  

“Jonathan Haidt is one of smartest and most creative psychologists alive, and his newest book, The Righteous Mind, is a tour de force—a brave, brilliant and eloquent exploration of the most important issues of our time. It will challenge the way you think about liberals and conservatives, atheism and religion, good and evil. This is the book that everyone will be talking about.”—Paul Bloom, Yale University, Author of How Pleasure Works
 
“As a fellow who listens to heated political debate daily, I was fascinated, enlightened, and even amused by Haidt's brilliant insights. This penetrating yet accessible book will help readers understand the righteous minds that inhabit politics.” —Larry Sabato, University of Virginia, author of A More Perfect Constitution
 
“A remarkable and original synthesis of social psychology, political analysis, and moral reasoning that reflects the best of sciences in these fields and adds evidence that we are innately capable of the decency and righteousness needed for societies to survive.” —Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University

“Here is the first attempt to give an in depth analysis of the underlying moral stance and dispositions of liberals and conservatives. I couldn't put it down and discovered things about myself!” —Michael Gazzaniga, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of The Ethical Brain

“Haidt’s a good thing.” –The Atlantic online 
 
“A well-informed tour of contemporary moral psychology…A cogent rendering of a moral universe of fertile complexity and latent flexibility.” –Kirkus

“[Haidt’s] framework for the different moral universes of liberals and conservatives struck me as a brilliant breakthrough…The Righteous Mind provides an invaluable road map.” –Miller-McCune.com 

“A much-needed voice of moral sanity.” –Booklist  
 
"An important and timely book…His ideas are controversial but they make you think…Haidt has made his reputation as a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, where he and his colleagues explore reason and intuition, why people disagree so passionately and how the moral mind works." —Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company

Highly readable, highly insightful…The principal posture in which one envisions him is that of a scrappy, voluble, discerning patriot standing between the warring factions in American politics urging each to see the other’s viewpoint, to stop demonizing, bashing, clobbering…Haidt’s real contribution, in my judgment, is inviting us all to sit at the table.” –Washington Times  

“Haidt's work feels particularly relevant now…The Righteous Mind isn't just election-year reading. Haidt's perspective can help us better understand our own political and religious leanings.” –San Francisco Chronicle

"A profound discussion of the diverse psychological roots of morality and their role in producing political conflicts. It's not too much to hope that the book will help to reduce those conflicts." —Richard E. Nisbett, University of Michigan, author of The Geography of Thought
 
"The Righteous Mind refutes the 'New Atheists' and shows that religion is a central part of our moral heritage. Haidt's brilliant synthesis shows that Christians have nothing to fear and much to gain from the evolutionary paradigm."—Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution
 
"Haidt's research has revolutionized the field of moral psychology. This elegantly written book has far-reaching implications for anyone interested in politics, religion, or the many controversies that divide modern societies. If you want to know why you hold your moral beliefs, and why many people disagree with you, read this book".  —Simon Baron-Cohen, Cambridge University, Author of The Science of Evil 
 
 “The Righteous Mind is an intellectual tour de force that brings Darwinian theorizing to the practical realm of everyday politics. The book is beautifully written, and it is truly unusual to encounter a book that makes a major theoretical contribution yet encourages one to turn its pages enthusiastically.” —Christopher Boehm, University of Southern California, author of Moral Origins.

“A rich, intriguing contribution to positive psychology. Recommended.” –Choice Magazine 

Product Details


Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
522 of 557 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I do not exaggerate when I say this is one of the best (nonfiction) books I've read this year. Haidt is a great writer, and has a real knack for explaining a wide variety of things with clarity and wit. Here, Haidt is concerned to walk us through the world of morality and politics, explaining some of the reasons why very smart and good people disagree on such things as the value of equality, authority, tradition, and other thorny topics.

In 2006, Haidt wrote The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, part of whose thesis was that cognition is primarily based in emotion, with reason coming in after the fact, most often to justify what has already been 'decided' on. Section 1 of this book (one of whose chapters is titled "The Emotional Dog and Its Rational Tail, also the title of an earlier article by Haidt) picks up where Haid's previous book left off. There is evidence from neuroscience (Who's in Charge?: Free Will and the Science of the Brain, behavioral psychology Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart, and other areas (Thinking, Fast and Slow) that increasingly suggests that human reason is less a tool for figuring out what to do, and more a tool for justifying what we've already decided to do (based on emotion and other simple snap-judgment intuition) to ourselves and others.
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232 of 251 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rosetta Stone for Understanding the Left/Right Divide December 27, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I was first introduced to the striking findings of Dr. Jonathan Haidt's research when I heard him speak at a conference on ethics and human research. The combination of his engaging speaking style married to hard data from his psychology experiments was impressive, as was his ability to constructively engage both the liberal and conservative members of the audience. I was intrigued enough to read the book-length version of the lecture, and I was greatly rewarded. Haidt shows how our minds have evolved to make us prone righteous disagreement. He hopes that a better understanding of our predisposition to take uncompromising moral stands can be a starting point to reverse the increased contentiousness of our politics.

Reading Haidt's "The Righteous Mind" was in some ways like taking a college survey course in moral psychology. In particular, the early chapters take a reader through the controversies and the limitation of prior attempts to study the psychological underpinnings of why we think the way we do. Experiments in psychology are accessible and illuminating in ways that other fields can only envy, and Haidt's book is full of absorbing descriptions of the research. Throughout, this book is highly data-driven (it concludes with nineteen pages of references to the scientific literature). What sets it apart is Haidt's ability to weave into the science both his own research and his evolving understanding of his personal moral frameworks. This human element makes the book both accessible and engrossing. Haidt wraps each section of the book around a "central metaphor" and then demonstrates the fascinating studies that validate that metaphor.

Section 1: Central metaphor - Our minds are like a rider on the back of an elephant.
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145 of 158 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully written with compelling, provocative ideas January 15, 2012
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Published at the perfect time in American politics, The Righteous Mind belongs next to other scientific gems by Pinker (The Blank Slate), Sagan (The Demon Haunted World), Wright (The Moral Animal), Ariely (Predictably Irrational), and Wilson (Strangers to Ourselves). The main thesis is morality tends to operate by initial, intuitive reactions and only then do people respond with post-hoc strategic justifications. This seemingly small idea alters dominant theory and research on moral psychology. Why should you read this particular book?

1. Haidt does not try to persuade you with a smattering of self-selected studies. He carefully walks the reader through multiple philosophical traditions and quite an impressive body of research spanning ethology, behavioral economics, neurobiology, and psychology. The descriptions of these studies are stimulating and everything is in the service of setting up a revised conceptual model of morality. I love the fact that he wants to neutralize the readers natural defenses (reflexive mental processes outside of conscious awareness). Thus, he does not offer a definition of morality until p. 274. This is one example of Haidt's careful structuring of topics, examples, and data. There appears to be a motive for every decision. Something that is far too rare in a culture where speedy presentation and publication is the norm.

2. Haidt's personal journey, involving several changes in moral beliefs, is a secondary storyline. By presenting his own biases, the reader is able to focus on the persuasiveness of his arguments. Again, this is all in the service of reducing defensive reactions in readers and I believe it works quite well.

3. There is a perfect blending of philosophy and science.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great piece of social science
Great piece of social science. Explains why so many people vote against their own economic interest among other insights.
Published 9 days ago by jskamelia
5.0 out of 5 stars I feel I'm a better, more understanding person for having read this...
Thought-provoking ideas, well-researched supporting documentation, made me see the world differently, I feel I'm a better, more understanding person for having read this book.
Published 13 days ago by J. N. Losh
5.0 out of 5 stars This book changed the way I think
Ive always found it very suspicious that people on the left and right in politics always seem to have the same criticisms of each other; in the eyes of both the other is always... Read more
Published 16 days ago by Jacob
5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent book to consider why the heck we develop ideas ...
An excellent book to consider why the heck we develop ideas about things that divide us from others. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Marilyn Kok
4.0 out of 5 stars Great read
Fascinating read. When I read through this book I got instant gratification. Most of the major points can be applied to everyday life. Read more
Published 17 days ago by Hector Zelada
5.0 out of 5 stars A New Perspective
This book gave me a fresh awareness of how hard my internal "press secretary" works! An approachable and insightful book about moral psychology.
Published 18 days ago by Christopher L. Marshall
4.0 out of 5 stars Good, but a bit long
Did I enjoy this book: I picked this book because I’m deeply disturbed by the rancor in American politics. Read more
Published 24 days ago by The Every Free Chance Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars A great read
But beware it may let you see your own feet of clay. You may even be able to have a meaningful conversation with someone with different views.
Published 26 days ago by jhc
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
more people should read and heed
Published 1 month ago by Robert Johnson
2.0 out of 5 stars One to avoid.
The author constructs a test designed to reach a particular result. Then he writes a book about how that result was indeed reached. Read more
Published 1 month ago by N. Whitehouse
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More About the Author

Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business. He received his Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992 and then did post-doctoral research at the University of Chicago and in Orissa, India. He taught at the University of Virginia for 16 years, where he conducted the research reported in The Righteous Mind.

His research focuses on morality - its emotional foundations, cultural variations, and developmental course. He began his career studying the negative moral emotions, such as disgust, shame, and vengeance, but then moved on to the understudied positive moral emotions, such as admiration, awe, and moral elevation. He is the co-developer of Moral Foundations theory, and of the research site YourMorals.org. He uses his research to help people understand and respect the moral motives of their enemies (see CivilPolitics.org, and see his 2008 TED talk). He was the 2004 winner of the Virginia "Outstanding Faculty Award." He is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, and of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. For more information see www.JonathanHaidt.com.

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