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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.
In the third final part, there was a fair amount of material that I found a bit too academic. But you can hardly blame a psychology teacher, a very good one at that, from teaching. The discussion on religion, and the author's position towards the debate does indeed support one of the book's themes: morality blinds; even our dear author did not quite escape the in-group/out-group dichotomy.
A must read!
Peter Foster, in his at-times over-zealous book, Why We Bite The Invisible Hand, quotes quite liberally from Jonathan Haidt, and although Haidt is too “progressive” for him, the cited passages did enough to prompt me to buy Haidt’s masterpiece, The Righteous Mind. The missing piece in the Ardrey/Climate/Friedmann/Marx/Mohammed jigsaw puzzle suddenly fell into place. Morals are a primary evolutionary instinct, and contain, define, and sustain beliefs. Beliefs are simply expressions of moral precepts. Morals, beliefs, and indeed instincts, are as much outcomes of evolutionary maturations as the mind itself. To be honest, it’s so clear in hindsight but I would not in a million years have realised it on my own. I owe Dr Haidt a tremendous debt of gratitude.