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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, engaging and powerful,
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book (with no intention that I'd review it!). I enjoyed every minute of reading it.
It's on an extremely important topic - the nature of morality. And the contribution Prof Greene makes is an extremely novel one: based on his own psychological studies, he argues that our moral judgments are often a battleground between an intuitive, emotional reaction, and a slower, more deliberative and logical reasoning process. Suppose you can kill one person in order to transplant their organs to save five others. "Don't do it!" says your gut; "But doing so will save more lives!" says the slower, more deliberative part of your brain.
The kicker comes in the final part of the book where he argues that we should normally trust that slow deliberative process over our intuitive judgments. His work in psychology therefore impacts moral philosophy, providing a grand argument for utilitarianism - the idea that one should always do whatever will maximise the sum total of wellbeing in the world.
Greene is a stellar psychologist who's precipitated a massive debate in moral philosophy. And he's managed to present his research in a clear, friendly and engaging way. If you want to learn about cutting-edge research on the nature of morality - and have your own moral views challenged! - then read this book.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How and why "we can improve our prospects for peace and prosperity by improving the way we think about moral problems",
When I was a child growing up in Chicago, adults in my family respected and trusted decisions based what they called "horse sense." I recalled that as I began to read this book in which Joshua Greene discusses what he calls "common sense." Two different phrases that have essentially the same meaning: judgment that is sound, fundamental, basic, sensible, etc. He acknowledges that moral problems divide people and views consequent problems as a tragedy. "This book is about understanding and, ultimately, solving those problems." How? First, by understanding what morality is and isn't, "how it got here, and how it's implemented in our brains." Next, it's about "understanding the deep structure of moral problems as well as the differences between the problems we face today. Finally, it's about taking this new understanding of morality and turning it into a universal moral philosophy that members of all human tribes can share."
Greene invokes three organizing metaphors: The Parable of the New Pastures, the dual mode camera (actually presented as a simile), and Common Currency. All three are best explained within the narrative, in context, but I feel comfortable indicating now that Greene makes brilliant use of figurative language (a) to suggest the nature and extent of a cause-and-effect process by which "the tragedy of common sense morality" as well as (b) to explain how effective use utilitarianism can transform that process with a series of principled compromises that transcend what had previously been "tribal gut reactions," what he calls "point and shoot morality."
These are among the dozens of business subjects and issues of special interest and value to me, also listed to indicate the scope of Greene's coverage.
o The Function of Morality (Pages 22-25)
o The "Magic Corner" (29-30)
o Minimal Decency (35-39)
o Members Only (48-55)
o The Psychology of Conflict, and, Tribalism (66-69)
o Biased Fairness (83-97)
o The "Trolley Problem" (113-121)
o Emotion Versus Reason, and, The Dual-Process Brain (134-141)
o A Splendid Idea (149-150)
o (Mis)understanding Utilitarianism (156-171)
o Does Science Deliver the Moral Truth? (185-188)
o Why Aren't We Psychopaths? (225-228)
o Utilitarianism Versus the Gizmo (245-253)
o Justice and the Greater Good (284-285)
o "Heads I Win, Tails You Lose": Rights as Rationalization (301-305)
o Six Rules for Modern Herders (350-353)
This book is by no means an "easy read" but it generously rewards those who read it with an alert mind and open heart. I share Joshua Greene's concerns about what he characterizes as "the tragedy of common sense morality" and wish I shared his optimism that his quite sensible proposals not only can but [begin italics] will [end italics] enable a sufficient number of people to question the laws written in their hearts and replace them with something better. Perhaps he is correct that "something new is growing under the sun: a global tribe that looks out for its members, not to gain advantage over others, but simply because it's good." I doubt if I will live long enough to see that happen but can at least hope my ten grandchildren will.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic - a book that was waiting to be written,
A superb summary and fusion of 2,500 years of moral philosophizing and the scientific advances in evolutionary sciene of the past 150 years. Surely, this must represent the conclusions drawn by any thinking person regarding ethical questions in politics? Deep pragmatism as the ultimate philosophy of the Last Man. Steven Pinker has called this 'a landmark in our understanding of morality', and one cannot but agree!
Greene carefully debunks all the false and superficial objections to utilitarianism (most of the time based on misinterpretations of 'extreme case scenarios, such as the so-called 'trolley problem'), as well as the fallacies of the rule worship of deontogical theories. (Eg those still clung to by Haidt and others.)
There is also a nuanced and comprehensive discussion of the scientific advances in evolutionary psychology/ economic psychology of recent years. A must read for all utilitarians and those interested in economic psychology!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth reading,
If you enjoy books such as Thinking Fast And Slow and The Righteous Mind you should definitely read Moral Tribes. Its author, Joshua Green, is a moral psychologist who directs the Harvard University Moral Cognition Lab. The book covers a lot of recent research into how we make 'moral' decisions, but its main focus is on how to resolve inter tribal disputes where each tribe has different ideas about what is right, just and fair. For example disputes between a collectivist based society and one organized on neoliberal principles.
Green's main point is that the (often subconscious) mechanisms that we have evolved to handle local (inter tribal) conflicts do not work at the intra tribal level, and that for these we need to adopt a cognitive based meta-morality. This he suggests should be based on utilitarianism, because maximising happiness is something that most of us can agree on as a common goal.
I did not find his arguments in favour of utilitarianism totally convincing, but to be fair to Green he is aware of the criticisms that can be made of it. He puts utilitarianism forward not as the universal solution to all moral questions, but as the most pragmatic tool available for resolving conflicting between tribes as what is the most moral outcome.
For another (more detailed) review I suggest that your see the one on the Amazon.com website with the title: An Interesting Work of Synthesis that Falls a Bit Short.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars informative and enjoyable,
This review is from: Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them (Kindle Edition)
As a moral psychologist I study the kind of things discussed in this book, but it is rare to find them presented with such lucidity. This book is not just a learning experience, but a thoroughly enjoyable journey through our minds. Highly recommend.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Happy with delivery, not so much with the book,
This review is from: Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them (Paperback)
I disagree with the author's opinion that utilitarianism is our way to salvation, but I am otherwise happy with the book and the delivery.
4.0 out of 5 stars Tribal tendencies,
Attempts a grand synthesis of neuroscience, psychology and philosophy to show us ‘when to trust our instincts and when to switch to manual mode and trust in reason and how the right kind of reasoning can move us forward’. Important ideas, but the material will need to be re-packaged for a wider audience. and consideration of the whole subject of Wisdom would also have added useful insights.
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Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them by Joshua Greene