6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Life-changing if you want it to be,
This review is from: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (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.
Along the way the book provides a way to classify moral matters into six categories, which the author calls moral foundations, and presents the results of large-scale studies to show how people of different political beliefs possess (or use, or are guided by) different foundations in different proportions.
This is, of course, just a theory and in a field where absolute proof isn't likely, but it is all plausible enough to be useful, and for a leftie like me a little bit depressing because I am used to seeing my side as being the goodies and the other side as being the baddies. Instead I have the challenge to consider that the other side might have valid reasons for thinking what they do (while still being wrong of course).
The religious aspect is also disturbing reading for a confirmed atheist like me, because the book makes a good case for religion having a positive impact on the development of human society - regardless of whether gods exist or not.
At the very least this book has made me think more about the relationship between my points of view and those of my political opponents. It has the potential to be life-changing if you totally buy into the theory and use it to guide some decisions. For example, the centre-left could make a careful study of the moral foundations to find ways that their manifesto could address all six and not just concentrate on two to make itself more appealing to more people.
Even without deciding to let this change your outlook completely, there is plenty to dwell on and it is very clearly written and summaraised at every step.