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Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them by [Greene, Joshua]
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Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them Kindle Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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This is an important synthesising work of great depth and breadth. Time and again Greene nails what is centrally important -- Julian Baggini Financial Times With wit and clarity, Greene steers the reader through a mountain of evidence... A challenging and fascinating read. Independent on Sunday More than a decade in the making, Moral Tribes is a masterpiece - a landmark work brimming with originality and insight that also happens to be wickedly fun to read. The only disappointing thing about this book is that it ends. -- Daniel Gilbert Brilliant and enlightening... This book should be widely read and discussed. -- Peter Singer A decade ago, the wunderkind Joshua Greene helped start the field of moral neuroscience, producing dazzling research findings. In this equally dazzling book, Greene shows that he is also one of the field's premier synthesists. -- Robert Sapolsky There is a wealth of books in this area, but Greene has something new to bring to the debate... Thoughtful and thought-provoking Times Literary Supplement

About the Author

Joshua Greene is the John and Ruth Hazel Associate Professor of the Social Sciences and the director of the Moral Cognition Lab in Harvard University's Department of Psychology.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 2615 KB
  • Print Length: 434 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1594202605
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; Main edition (2 Jan. 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00G1SM1R0
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #55,933 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
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.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book makes a good case for using a nuanced version of utilitarianism as a guiding principle for public discussion of policy that could be considered to have a "moral" dimension. He makes the very frequent error, which goes right back to Plato, of assuming that once you have sorted out the public realm you can then dictate that morality to the individual. In a cold, uncaring, impersonal universe this is, of course, completely untrue and personal conduct can only be guided by what satisfies the individual, and what they can get away with without bringing down the wrath of society upon their heads. His worked example (using the American controversy over abortion law) of how an "objective approach" can be applied is an inadvertent demonstration of how difficult this is. Without necessarily disagreeing with the outcome it is rather remarkable that it is perfectly in line with his self-defined membership of the "liberal" tribe.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Firstly, I would like to say that book is exceptionally well-written, probably one of the most well-constructed piece of popular science writing I have read in quite a few years. As well, as being well-written it is also a very informative book, providing clear and concise explanations of relevant theories within the domains of psychology, neuroscience, philosophy and ethics. Of particular note, is Greene's account of moral duel process theory and his own modular myopia hypothesis which has the benefit of appearing to be both coherent and feasible.

However, make no mistake, the real purpose of this book is to, from the perspective of a moral psychologist and philosopher provide a 21st century defence of utilitarianism or 'deep pragmatism' as Greene prefers to call it. The goal of the author is to develop a meta-morality which transcends local tribal values.

To achieve this, Greene postulates that any candidate meta-ethical theory must provide a 'common currency' which is universal for people of different tribes with different values. For Greene, utilitarianism meets this condition because it i) maximises happiness and ii) has the property of impartiality.

The problem is that whilst Greene does a fairly good job of justifying the idea that generally happiness should generally be maximised, his defence for the second axiom of 'impartiality' is very poorly discussed and defended: According to Greene, all religions support the 'golden rule' and hence adopts the principle of impartiality. But the question remains - between which groups does this impartiality exist? Greene assumes that impartiality extends to everyone - with no respect to family, race, religion, profession, class and all the other categories which have defined human relations throughout millennia.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
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.
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