- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 12, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0307455777
- ISBN-13: 978-0307455772
- Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 1 x 7.9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1,386 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,531 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion Paperback – February 12, 2013
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“Splendidly written, sophisticated and stimulating. It may well change how you think and talk about politics, religion and human nature.”
“A landmark contribution to humanity’s understanding of itself. . . . Haidt is looking for more than victory. He’s looking for wisdom. That’s what makes The Righteous Mind well worth reading.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“An eye-opening and deceptively ambitious best seller . . . undoubtedly one of the most talked-about books of the year.”
—The Wall Street Journal
“Ingenious prose. . . . Beautifully written, Haidt’s book shines a new and creative light on moral psychology and presents a provocative message.”
“A remarkable and original synthesis of social psychology, political analysis, and moral reasoning.”
—Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
“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.”
“Excellent. . . . An impressive book that should be read by anyone who has the slightest interest in how political opinions are reached.”
—The Daily Beast
“Haidt’s work feels particularly relevant now. . . . Haidt’s perspective can help us better understand our own political and religious leanings.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“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 is going to be talking about.”
—Paul Bloom, Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology, Yale University
“Haidt’s research has revolutionized the field of moral psychology. This elegantly written book has far-reaching implications for anyone interested in anthropology, 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 Zero Degrees of Empathy and The Science of Evil
“A much-needed voice of moral sanity.”
“[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.”
“A well-informed tour of contemporary moral psychology…A cogent rendering of a moral universe of fertile complexity and latent flexibility.”
“Haidt’s a good thing.”
“Jonathan Haidt’s absorbing The Righteous Mind should come with a warning label: ‘contents highly addictive.’ Written in a breezy and accessible style but informed by an impressively wide range of cutting-edge research in the social sciences, evolutionary biology and psychology, The Righteous Mind is about as interesting a book as you’ll pick up this year.”
—The Globe and Mail
“What makes [The Righteous Mind] so compelling is the fluid combination of erudition and entertainment, and the author’s obvious pleasure in challenging conventional wisdom. . . . [Haidt’s] core point is simple and well-made: our morality, much of it wired into brains from birth, at the same time binds us together and blinds us to different configurations of morality.”
—The Guardian (London)
“An important and timely book. . . . His ideas are controversial but they make you think.”
—Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company
“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
“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, Professor of Anthropology, University of Southern California, author of Moral Origins
“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 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
About the Author
Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He obtained his Ph.D. in social psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992, and then taught at the University of Virginia for 16 years. He is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, and the co-editor of Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived. He lives in New York City.
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The Righteous Mind is hands-down the most important book I've ever consumed. Haidt's understanding of human morality and the science of communication and decision making are weaved together into an approachable, beautiful and potentially life changing symphony.
Enough has been said about why you should read this book so I want to use the rest of this review to tell you exactly what I experienced after finishing this book and how it became "The most important thing I've ever read".
I have struggled for years to communicate with some of my friends and family. So many words were wasted discussing politics, religion and conspiracy theories and all we ever accomplished was self-fulfillment. We never had resolution and we never succeeded in convincing the other side.
I'm a person who considers myself well-read and a champion for pragmatism and logic. You can probably imagine how frustrated I felt when I was consistently unable to win arguments about out-there, government's coming for us-so buy some guns, conspiracy discussions.
Something had to give, so I went searching and ended up on this book. I read it, digested it and decided to try and apply the principles to my communications. I was determined to "align with their elephant" first so I could then shift their mindset to my point of view.
Let's be honest: I was just trying to manipulate other people into seeing things my way.
Well, something incredible and completely unintentional happened: I realized I was wrong, a lot.
One of the foundational pieces discussed in the book is the fact that we, as humans, make decisions in the parts of our brain that aren't subject to critical thinking. If you want to sway someones opinion, Haidt suggests, you must first appeal to their elephant (the emotional part of their brain or "why they feel the way they do").
In the effort to start practicing this: I dedicated myself to asking "why do they believe this way?" first and only made suggestions after I felt that I could articulate what the other person was "feeling" about the subject.
A crazy thing happened: many times I would find myself changing my mind about a subject mid conversation. As it turns out, other people aren't quite as crazy as I thought, they just have different experiences than I do.
After I spent some time training my brain, I started to conversate this way without any conscious effort. I actually seem to have re-wired my brain. The implication of this can't be overstated.
I now see the world in completely different ways and I feel that I can actually empathize for the first time in my life.
I only wish everyone could read this book, understand their natural decision making process and be aware of what's happening to them when they have disagreements or strong opinions on a subject.
You need to read this book. Everyone does.
To the author: Thank you, Jonathan, for giving your life to understanding us a little better and for taking the time to write it all down and pass these lessons onto the rest of us.
Haidt starts by dividing the human mind into what he calls the elephant and the rider. The rider is the reasoning, rational mind, whereas the elephant is the irrational, impulsive and intuitive mind. He argues that human moral decisions are guided by the elephant, and that the rider just comes up with a rationalized, post-facto "reasonable" justification after the decisions have been made by the elephant. Of course, anyone who has been alive for more than a couple decades may have noticed this kind of "logic" in his fellow humans. It goes like this: "Here are my biases, now how do I make an argument to justify it."
Later in the book, he goes into more detail and lists the specific intuitions that may bias people towards certain moral conclusions: care/harm, liberty/oppression, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation.
However, he doesn't call them biases (that's my own terminology). He describes them as something like the taste buds of morality, whereupon one may develop certain "tastes" over a lifetime that cause one to be liberal (progressive) or conservative. Just like we may have a preference for sweet food, we might also have partially inborn and partially acquired intuition for, to make an example, loyalty, which may lead one to make statements like "My country, right or wrong" in the face of unethical behavior by one's government.
Haidt rejects rational thinking entirely. Indeed, he goes so far as to label those who engage in systematic rational thinking as "autistic" (pg 136). He labels modern, civilized countries as WEIRD (an insulting acronym he made up). He also has no interest in individual rights, such as America's Bill of Rights. Rather, he finds solace in the ignorance of impoverished villagers in northeast Brazil and primitive people of India who wipe their butts with their hands (really! see pg 122). He praises studies which show that ignorant people prefer collectivism and use their intuitions (prejudices/biases) when making moral decisions. Critical thinking? Rights? To Haidt, they're irrelevant. He's openly hostile to critical thinking. He disparages psychological studies of advanced ("WEIRD") countries as "statistical outliers" (pg 112).
Essentially, his ethics can be summarized as "cultural relativism", except that Western cultures are always wrong and those on the upper half of the bell curve (advanced, civilized societies) are WEIRD. Since humans are incapable of reason (according to Haidt), we can only navigate ethical and political decisions by intuitions. Whose intuitions should we follow, you ask? Well, that's unclear, although he does provide some helpful graphs of the intuitions of different political views towards the end of the book. I guess whoever shouts the loudest gets to make the rules.
I don't actually disagree with any of Haidt's psychological studies. I just come to entirely different conclusion. When Haidt finds ignorance and prejudice, he wants to build a code of ethics out of it. Where I find ignorance and prejudice, I want to educate people and help them to understand the points of views of others. How can this come about? Well, first one must accept that there is a real, physical reality out there, and that certain actions make sense in the real world and others don't. If you compare today's political discussion with that of previous generations, you can see how far we've fallen. For example, read "The Federalist Papers" and compare that to any modern day politician's anti-intellectualism, and you can realize how much America has lost since our founding in terms of critical thinking and honest debate.
The Enlightenment-style system of individual rights has advanced society enormously. Unfortunately, there are still pseudo-intellectuals like Haidt who want to drag us back into the stone age, or worse, towards fascism, religious fundamentalism, or communism. I find this book disturbing and could go on and on about problems I have with it, however I think I've said enough to get my point across.
Wow! Just finished, and I can't recommend it highly enough for any owner/operator of a human mind and/or conscience!
It's hard to explain how an empirically-based, research-oriented book could be well-written and take you on a tour of intellectual, social, and philosophical history and thought without somehow getting lost in the tall grass.
If you've caught yourself wondering how those "damn liberals/conservatives" could even think such things, take some time to find out why.
Make absolutely sure to get to the last couple of chapters.