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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion Hardcover – 29 Mar 2012

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Hardcover, 29 Mar 2012
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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Allen Lane (29 Mar. 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846141818
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846141812
  • Product Dimensions: 16.2 x 3.9 x 24 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (79 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 229,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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)

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.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Alan Pavelin VINE VOICE on 1 April 2012
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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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Skudder TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 29 April 2012
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Pipistrel on 16 May 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is an important book and one that will test readers' objectivity, for it draws conclusions about differences between conservatives and liberals (American sense) in how they make judgements. It reports years of painstaking research in evolutionary psychology, which in itself will put off those conservatives who prefer Genesis to Darwin. Haidt finds that liberals judge things on a narrower basis, which may upset them.
Testing large numbers of subjects with questions such as 'Is it wrong for a brother and sister to have sex as a one-off experiment, using contraceptives?' and 'A man's dog is killed in a road accident; is it wrong for him to cook and eat it?' Subjects were also asked to explain their answers. People did not consciously refer to abstract values when they made their decisions. They reacted instantly to the scenarios and often could not explain their responses. Haidt uses the metaphor of the elephant and its rider for this; our unconscious mind throws up intuitions, which our conscious mind then tries to explain and perhaps redirect.
Analysis of the results found that people use six bases for their judgements, which Haidt likens to a tongue with six taste receptors: care, fairness, loyalty, respect for authority and sanctity; these were the five of the initial hypothesis, but it emerged from the research that there is a sixth - liberty. Each of these is hypothesized to have had survival value for our ancestors, contributing to the flourishing and survival of the individual and the group.
The balance between individual and group has produced a species that behaves 90% like the chimpanzee and 10% like the bee. Haidt found that people's moral views were correlated with their political positions.
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