The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
by Jonathan Haidt
2014 / 528 pages
read by Jonathan Haidt 11h
rating 9 / nonfiction – psychology / ethics
Good book – it’s going to have to go on my list of best 2015. Fascinating stuff. I’m not sure I agree with all of it – I’m not sure I fit the norm in all of his little tests. That’s okay – the book explains a whole lot. And it’s comprehensible – a true layman’s presentation – and Haidt has a nice sense of humor.
Haidt is not a partisan anything – he has no political axe to grind. He’s a generally liberal moral psychologist who has been studying people’s beliefs and behaviors for a long time. He finds that conservatives in the US have a broader gamut of moral underpinnings (foundations – values) to rely on than liberals. These are things like caring and authority and loyalty and freedom and fairness and so on. But beware fundamentalists – they have very few different types of underlying values.
Okay – I’m a moderately well-educated liberal, not an atheist by any means, and I like to imagine I can think for myself, but – do I? Really? Or is it simply the illusion of really “thinking” and what I’m doing is justifying intuitive responses – group think, evolutionary and/or genetic responses.
I’m not sure I have the background to really understand this book. It’s quite interesting but I have a feeling there’s a big hole in Haidt’s thinking and I can’t find it – but then – do I have the background to say that?
The Righteous Mind is divided into 4 parts – Part 1 is the biological element, evolution, internal and external factors etc. How do we make ethical choices? Apparently we decide intuitively first and figure out the rationale later. Yup – I see it happen all the time. What about removing the log from our own eye? He uses the metaphor of an elephant and it’s rider – the elephant is a person’s intuitive response to a situation, the rider is his rational thinking. (But minds change – how?)
Plato and Glaucon:
Very interesting metaphor of an rational man riding an intuitive elephant. – that’s good – read it for that! 🙂
Part 2 is about morality beyond the ideas of harm and fairness – folks outside liberal academic circles.
Hume and emotional response vs Kant and the rational approach –
Another interesting metaphor – values are like the tastebuds on a tongue. The taste-buds/ foundations:
1. The Care/Harm foundation; 2. The Fairness/Cheating foundation; 3. The Loyalty/Betrayal foundation; 4. The Authority/Subversion foundation; 5. The Sanctity/Degradation foundation; and 6. The Liberty/Oppression foundation.
Part 3 is about the limits and blindspots of morality – Morality can find and blind – religion – moral communities – after agriculture – political teams – right or left. But we are not just selfish beings – occasionally the hiving instinct seems to jump into play.
Charles Darwin Emil Durkheim – hugely important.
We can do “hiving,” like bees is the third metaphor: – we can group together without thought for personal wellbeing – I suppose it would be called “groupish selfishness.”
Underlying the whole narrative – or overlaying it perhaps – is how all this applies to contemporary political thinking. Haidt says that conservatives tend to value loyalty, freedom and authority more than liberals while liberals tend to value fairness and compassion. – okay – my little issue – so where did this varying values appreciation come from? Innate? Genetic? Nurturing?
Those are more like notes but there’s a lot in the book.
Wall Street Journal