Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them Hardcover – 2 Jan 2014
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After two and a half millennia, it's rare to come across a genuinely new idea on the nature of morality, but in this book Josh Greene advances not one but several... Moral Tribes is a landmark in our understanding of morality and the moral sense. --Steven Pinker
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
With wit and clarity, Greene steers the reader through a mountain of evidence… A challenging and fascinating read. --Independent on Sunday
This is an important synthesising work of great depth and breadth. Time and again Greene nails what is centrally important --Julian Baggini, Financial Times
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.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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.Read more ›
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
An interesting and thoughtful book that more people should read to understand how tribes form and what we should be aware of.Published 7 months ago by sylvia maude
I bought this book as it was in a one day Kindle sale and I am very glad I did. The title is pretty clear in spelling out what the book is about. Read morePublished 14 months ago by garygill
I bought other books on similar topics at the same time as this one. I found this obtuse and inaccessible. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Valerie Brogan
Enlightening reading, I'm enjoying the analysis and reasoning of how people function and explanations of why and how we make the choices we do in life. Read morePublished 15 months ago by S
Greene starts with a fable - about four different tribes who've found a way to live that suits them internally but who then quarrel as their ways of life come into conflict around... Read morePublished 15 months ago by William Jordan
This book is one of the best books I read last year (2014). Joshua Greene manages to integrate a myriad of profound ideas into a coherent argument for just how our moral minds... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Jens Kjeldgaard-Christiansen
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... Read morePublished 20 months ago by Bruce Lloyd