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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion Paperback – February 12, 2013

4.4 out of 5 stars 865 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind

“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
“Splendidly written, sophisticated and stimulating. It may well change how you think and talk about politics, religion and human nature.”
“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.”
Washington Times

“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.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Haidt’s a good thing.”
The Atlantic

“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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Product Details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (February 12, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307455777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307455772
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (865 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,323 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Kevin Currie-Knight VINE VOICE on December 23, 2011
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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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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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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