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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion [Paperback]

Jonathan Haidt
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
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Book Description

2 May 2013

In The Righteous Mind, psychologist Jonathan Haidt answers some of the most compelling questions about human relationships:

Why can it sometimes feel as though half the population is living in a different moral universe? Why do ideas such as 'fairness' and 'freedom' mean such different things to different people? Why is it so hard to see things from another viewpoint? Why do we come to blows over politics and religion?

Jonathan Haidt reveals that we often find it hard to get along because our minds are hardwired to be moralistic, judgemental and self-righteous. He explores how morality evolved to enable us to form communities, and how moral values are not just about justice and equality - for some people authority, sanctity or loyalty matter more. Morality binds and blinds, but, using his own research, Haidt proves it is possible to liberate ourselves from the disputes that divide good people.

'A landmark contribution to humanity's understanding of itself' The New York Times

'A truly seminal book' David Goodhart, Prospect

'A tour de force - brave, brilliant, and eloquent. It will challenge the way you think about liberals and conservatives, atheism and religion, good and evil' Paul Bloom, author of How Pleasure Works

'Compelling . . . a fluid combination of erudition and entertainment' Ian Birrell, Observer

'Lucid and thought-provoking ... deserves to be widely read' Jenni Russell, Sunday Times

Jonathan Haidt is a social and cultural psychologist. He has been on the faculty of the University of Virginia since 1995 and is currently a visiting professor of business ethics at New York University's Stern School of Business. He is the co-editor of Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well Lived, and is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.


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Product details

  • Paperback: 528 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (2 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141039167
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141039169
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 12.6 x 2.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,040 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

A truly seminal book (Prospect)

A fascinating voyage of discovery through the social psychology of politics (Simon Jenkins Guardian)

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)

A remarkable and original synthesis of social psychology, political analysis, and moral reasoning that reflects the best of sciences in these fields (Edward O. Wilson)

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)

For the reader who seeks to understand happiness, my advice is: Begin with Haidt (Martin E P Seligman, professor of psychology, University of Pennsylvania)

[Haidt's] arguments are lucid and thought-provoking. They deserve to be widely read (The Sunday Times) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Jonathan Haidt is a social and cultural psychologist. He has been on the faculty of the University of Virginia since 1995 and is currently a visiting professor of business ethics at New York University's Stern School of Business. He is the co-editor of Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well Lived, and is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
By Alan Pavelin VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I think this is a very important book, which politicians (among others) will be advised to read, and which will teach you something about yourself.
The author, a social and cultural psychologist, declares himself to be a straight-down-the-line liberal (in the American sense) atheist, but seems to have changed his mind in the course of writing the book, or at least in the course of researching for it. The book is in three parts, each with its own conclusion. Part I is headed "Intuitions Come First, Strategic Reasoning Second", and demonstrates how, rather than using evidence and reasoning to reach a conclusion about what our opinions ought to be, we almost invariably start with our instinctive conclusion and then search around for arguments to fit that conclusion, ignoring counter-arguments. This is why debates, whether about politics, religion, or anything else, so often degenerate to shouting matches.
Part II is called "There's More to Morality than Harm and Fairness", and this is where the author seems to have undergone a personal conversion from his straight-down-the-line liberalism. He identifies five strands of morality, and finds that liberals (again, in the American sense) tend to concentrate on just one or two strands, such as fighting oppression, while conservatives embrace all five, including respect for authority which is low in the liberal priority list. He concludes that the Democratic Party (which he supports) needs to learn important lessons from this research. If I can emphasise one key point: everybody claims to agree with "fairness", but they mean different things by it. The Left tends to mean equality, the Right to mean getting what you deserve. I cringe every time I hear a politician call for "fairness", without defining what they mean.
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26 of 27 people found the following review helpful
By R T VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This review has taken longer to write than some, because there is a lot of material in this book and I wanted to do it justice. All those with polarised views should read this to see how we can live together better.

The basic idea of the book is that we are divided by our own moral codes which can make us self-righteous and judgemental. Jonathan Haidt sets out how we can live together without forgetting that the moral codes (or matrices to use his term) of others are equally valid and we do well to seek commonality and understanding before jumping in with our own absolute view of morality. Very much food for thought for those engaged in politics or religion.

Well laid out with summaries of each chapter (headed "in sum") if you want to get the gist of what has been said readily before getting down to the detail. There is an introduction which sets out his aims and a conclusion which means he has three goes at getting his views across!

More academic in tone with 50 plus pages of notes, 28 pages of references and 13 page index. The author is American and thus some of the comments and examples relate to USA but are applicable to UK as well. I found it readable but some parts heavier than others - this is where the "in sum" sections are helpful.
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32 of 34 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Starts well but falls off toward the end 5 Jun 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Haidt says we use reason to justify the values we instinctively hold, and seldom arrive at a set of values through reason. In his metaphor we are elephant riders whose purpose is to serve the elephant, and to justify its actions. I find this a very attractive idea. If someone argues strongly for beliefs you cannot possibly accept, yet does not appear to be mad or bad, perhaps this is why. He is riding a different elephant.

He explains how honest folk can never agree about ethics. I think this also explains how mutually exclusive arguments can be used to justify (NOT reach) shared conclusions. Consider Singer and Regan on vegetarianism (this is my example, not in the book). Singer's utilitarian beliefs explicitly reject natural rights, and Regan's natural rights based approach explicitly rejects utilitarianism. Yet they are colleagues, friends and vegetarians - despite the reasoning of each rejecting that of the other.

He also claims that conservatives value the same things that liberals value (caring, fairness, liberty), but also value other things which liberals value less (loyalty, authority, and sacredness). Liberals who don't realise this wrongly suppose that conservatives don't value the first three things, which can result in a dialogue of the deaf. He gives a description of the psychological questionnaire based techniques which led him to this conclusion. It all seems very persuasive. If you want to influence people politically you need to understand their feelings, because you will get nowhere if you rely on arguments alone.

He also makes the point that religion is mostly what people do, not what they believe, and its benefits are in social integration. Support for football teams etc has similar benefits.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life-changing if you want it to be 29 April 2012
By A. Skudder TOP 1000 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I found this to be a completely fascinating book. As well as presenting a theory about moral psychology it also covers the author's journey to reaching that theory.

This does mean that it takes a while to actually get to the point of explaining 'why good people are divided by politics and religion' because, for example, it outlines a theory and then mentions how that theory turned out to have a flaw and then describes how the author revised it and then lays out the new version, so you end up with several iterations of the theory. This is a 400-page book with the last 100 pages being references, acknowledgements, notes and bibliography, so really 300 pages of the proper book and it is not until the last few pages that the question of the title is really addressed, but that is not a problem because you really do need to build up to it.

There are two main metaphors used in the book. One is to picture the mind as a rider (representing the logical mind) on an elephant (representing the emotional mind). By coincidence I have now started reading abook about decision-making processes which covers a lot of the same ground regarding the relationship between logic and emotions, and draws on some of the same references. I'll admit that I found the metaphor a bit cute at first but eventually came to terms with it.

The other metaphor is the description on the human mind as being 90% chimpanzee and 10% bee to explain how we sometimes act for our personal benefit and sometimes for the benefit of the community.

This was where it got especially interesting as it picked up on some of Darwin's ideas about social evolution and developed them.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Iv always had trouble with social psychology, unable to truly pluralise society. ...Refreshing a cool beer (perhaps not on the hottest of days)?
Published 1 month ago by M. Lawrence
1.0 out of 5 stars Conservative bias
If you are a Republican this book will make you feel very good about yourself. According to Haidt you have a more balanced morality, a realistic view of "human nature"... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Zero
5.0 out of 5 stars Beware this endangers established paradigms...
Do not read this book if you wish to protect traditional paradigms about the nature of culture and its relationship, or lack thereof, to neuroscience, genetics and social bonding. Read more
Published 2 months ago by George F. Simons
5.0 out of 5 stars Things are not as the look
Comprehensive dissection of the way our righteous mind work. Really enjoyed it. I did have to hide the book's cover from my young children as they found it offensive. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Doctor G Berni
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding analysis of origins of political attitudes
Scholarly but also lively and accessible. Written by someone who, despite living in other cultures, still cannot quite break out of what he calls the WEIRD [western, educated,... Read more
Published 4 months ago by B. Cavell
4.0 out of 5 stars Not his best
I didn't like this as much as his book The Happiness Hypothesis but I still found it worth the read.
Published 4 months ago by Noerle
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary and insightful
It's not often that a book comes along that makes you see the world a different way. This is one of those books. Read more
Published 7 months ago by David
4.0 out of 5 stars Morality binds but it also blinds
Jonathan Haidt offers a credible explanation of the role of morality as being the extraordinary human capacity which has made human civilisation possible. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Makes me Feel Uncomfortable
Jonathan Haidt has written a very accessible book that skewers some of the noble reasoning behind our political and religious beliefs. Read more
Published 7 months ago by William Cohen
4.0 out of 5 stars very interesting set of ideas and research - but not always persuasive
Once upon a time Lawrence Kohlberg found that children of different ages responded in very different ways to moral dilemmas; then Elliot Turiel found that younger children had... Read more
Published 8 months ago by William Jordan
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