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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

4.05 of 5 stars 4.05  ·  rating details  ·  7,800 ratings  ·  959 reviews
A groundbreaking investigation into the origins of morality, which turns out to be the basis for religion and politics. The book is timely (explaining the American culture wars and refuting the "New Atheists"), scholarly (integrating insights from many fields) and great fun to read (like Haidt's last book, The Happiness Hypothesis).
Hardcover, 392 pages
Published March 13th 2012 by Pantheon (first published 2012)
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Michael Burnam-fink
Haidt is much better psychologist than political philosopher, and this book is both monumental and dangerously flawed.

On the good side: Haidt draws broadly from research in psychology, anthropology, and biology to develop a six-factor basis for morality (Care/Harm, Liberty/Oppression, Fairness/Cheating, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, Sanctity/Degradation), and show that moral judgement is an innate intuitive ability accompanied by post-hoc justifications. Morality serves to bind non-rel
"This book is about why it’s so hard for us to get along. We are indeed all stuck here for a while, so let’s at least do what we can to understand why we are so easily divided into hostile groups, . . Politics and religion are both expressions of our underlying moral psychology, and an understanding of that psychology can help to bring people together. My goal in this book is to drain some of the heat, anger, and divisiveness out of these topics and replace them with awe, wonder, and curiosity. ...more
Clif Hostetler
I was hopeful this book might provide me with some sociological tools and rhetorical tricks to clear away the views of those who disagree with my positions on politics and religion. Of course this book does not deliver on this unrealistic hope. What the book does provide instead is an explanation why not everybody agrees with my definition of morality. This knowledge does not make disagreements go away, so the best I can hope for after reading this book is to comprehend the intuitive motivations ...more
Sean Chick
If you are a Republican this book will make you feel very good about yourself. According to Haidt you have a more balanced morality, a realistic view of "human nature" (beware anyone who says they understand human nature), and some other good stuff I forgot about. He points the finger at liberals but seems unaware about the political dangers of conservatism. He discusses liberals with disdain. With conservatives there is a kind of awe and he rarely discusses their hypocrisies. Of course he conve ...more

Despite some painful infelicities of style, this book is compelling and generally well-argued. Two aspects irritated me -- I thought several of the author's chosen analogies were dreadful -- clunky and not particularly apt. The silliness of the metaphor that humans are Homo Duplex -- "90% chimp, 10% bee" -- is just so jarring that it distracts the reader from the argument. Similarly, I found his other recurrent metaphor, that for our rational and intuitive mental processes -- "The mind is divide
THESE BE THE IMMORTAL IMMUTABLE COMMANDMENTS OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY (ok they're not really immutable nor do they necessarily have religious backing but bear with me here. I just want an excuse to write an authoritative-sounding list out of my areas of expertise and just mere curiosity.)

1) Humans are not predominantly rational actors. In the majority of cases, rational justifications are made after the fact, and emotions and feelings are predominant in value judgments. Our bodily states can affect
Brad Foley
It's maybe not a stretch to say this book blew my mind, and in the best possible way. Some context: I'm a liberal far to the left of Obama, and I religiously read the New York Times and the Guardian - so I'm true blue pink. However, 30% of the country in which I live, including many well educated and erudite people hold views that I find completely incomprehensible, if not reprehensible. But, I think it's fair to say that they actually honestly believe they are right. Haidt promises to explain h ...more
This book is well-written, edited, and well-organized. Each chapter explores a concept, followed by a nice summary. The book is a mixed bag for me. Some parts are fascinating, while other parts are a bit technical and dry. But so much of it is original and fresh, that I give the book five stars.

Haidt proposes six foundations of morality; care/harm, liberty/oppression, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. Haidt claims that liberals (Democrats) are i
n.b. This is a “pre-review” — see full explanation below.

Recommended required reading:
Before I begin anything that bears even a slight resemblance to a review, I want to say that I am incredibly grateful that a friend (a real, live human one at that) suggested I read (or re-read, as it were) Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow before taking on Haidt's oevre. I wholeheartedly endorse the aforementioned recommendation, so do with that what you will.

Excuses, excuses:
I am absolutely commit
สฤณี อาชวานันทกุล
สนุกมาก เขียนโดยอาจารยนักจิตวิทยาศีลธรรม (moral psychology)ทีคนควาวิจัยเรือง "กำเนิด" ของสำนึกทางศีลธรรมมายาวนาน โจนาธาน เฮดท นำเสนอวาสำนึกทางศีลธรรมของคนเราไมใชสิงทีติดตัวมาแตกำเนิดลวนๆ แตกไมใชสิงทีเกิดจากการเลียงดู อบรมพรำสอน(nurture) อยางเดียว แตเปน "ทักษะ" (skill) ทีวิวัฒนาการขึนมาตอบสนองตอความตองการทางสังคมของมนุษย (ศีลธรรมไมมีความหมายถามนุษยไมสนใจจะอยูรวมกับคนอืนอยางปกติสุข)

เราฝึกทักษะศีลธรรมของเราผานการใช "ตอมศีลธรรม" หาอยางหลัก ซึงเฮดทบอกวาเรามีตังแตเกิดไมตางจากปุมรับรสชาติของลิน ตอมศีลธ
Marvin chester
On page 88 the author writes: "As an intuitionist , I'd say that the worship of reason is itself an illustration of one of the most long-lived delusions in Western history: the rationalist delusion."

Apparently he hasn't noticed that reason has taken us to the moon, given us longer and healthier lives, allowed us to travel the world, to communicate with loved ones over vaste distances, even allowed his book to exist ...

The author is a dim witted charlatan and spends the rest of the book making a
Check out Politics, Odors and Soap by Nicholas Kristof, over at the New York Times. He writes a very enthusiastic little review of yet another book on the intersection of cognition and politics. No big surprise, it's by Jonathan Haidt, who's doing the pioneering research into how the brains of liberals and conservatives are wired in fundamentally different ways. Oh, also see the review in the Wall St. Journal, Conflicting Moralities . The longer, "official" Ney York Times review is at Why Wo ...more
Brian Clegg
Don't be put off by the title of this book (or the subtitle 'why good people are divided by politics and religion'). Although they are technically correct they don't give a full sense of the glory of what is certainly the best popular science book I have read this year, and comes easily into my top ten ever.

Jonathan Haidt is a psychologist who specializes in morality. We are inundated with books about human behaviours and traits - and many of them are rather tedious - but this is a totally diffe
Jonathan Haidt give a nice social science explanation for how we align politically and how we are built to disagree. This is one of those books that seems to fit in the same evolutionary psychology space as Bob Wright's The Moral Animal. It is a combination of ethnography + evolutionary psychology + experimental psychology.


In 'The Righteous Mind', Haidt isn't seeking simply to explain why some people vote Left and others vote Right, or why some people believe in God A and other believe in God B.
John Brown
After this year's presidential election I emailed my sister, a smart, super-competent, true-blue, bleeding-heart, save the weeds and snails, liberal, who volunteered to do campaign work for Hilary Clinton in Colorado during the 2008 Democratic primaries and, of course, voted loudly for Obama.

"Are you kidding me?" I asked. "How can anyone who doesn't have a carrot for a brain want more of the same? I don't get it. Obama? How can so many Americans be that gullible? I'm totally baffled." And that p
This was an interesting read and though I disagree with Haidt in many crucial points, such as the role of reason in our lives, he presents in this book challenging ideas which cannot be taken lightly.

However, I believe Haidt deliberately ignored the role of education, and though he acknowledged the good role discussions play in removing personal biases when people pursue their goals and agendas, he ignored it in his theory of the Moral Foundations. Discourse and education can play a huge role i
Aaron Thibeault
*A full executive summary of this book is available here:

The old saying goes that we are never to discuss religion or politics in polite company. These topics are singled out of course because they tend to be the two that people are most passionate about, and which therefore have the greatest potential to cause enmity and strife. According to the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, the fact that we disagree over politics and religion is not necessarily such a ba
From a psychological standpoint, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion earns five stars. The book loses some of its appeal when Jonathan Haidt veers into political philosophy, however - especially when he raises the biased question "why are religious people better neighbors and citizens?"

Let me backtrack. The Righteous Mind is split into three sections. The first focuses on how intuitions come first and are followed by strategic reasoning, the second shows that
Jan Rice
First of all, some people get annoyed with Jonathan Haidt. I didn't have that reaction to The Righteous Mind. I guess I got rid of it with The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. It just seemed like he was selling something or trying to convert me to his point of view. He can rub people that way. If you have tried to read Haidt and have had that reaction, I suggest reading Thinking, Fast and Slow first. Daniel Kahneman has the ability to teach similar topics, in the fie ...more
Jay Kamaladasa
I had great expectations for this book after watching the author give an introduction in the Colbert report. However, the book didn't hold up to it's name. These are some of grudges I have against this book:

1.) The author doesn't tackle conservative vs. progressive morals. He tackles left wing vs. right wing morals.

This is a typical blunder made by the average American. And I would've overlooked it, as the book is geared towards an American audience. But the author is a professor in moral psych
This book has many qualities, but ultimately its negatives outweighed its positives for me. First of all, I must give poor marks to his driving metaphor of the elephant and rider. It seemed counterintuitive as an example and wasn’t helpful to me at all in illustrating or clarifying his main point (which I actually understood just fine) that “intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.”

Secondly, early on in the book Haidt tells an anecdote about his time in the field where he displays suc
Most of the commentary I've seen on this book focuses on the different moral foundations liberals and conservatives rely on. Considering the chasm separating liberals and conservatives these days, that focus is understandable. Crucial as this discussion is, the book is a really a work about moral psychology and spends relatively few pages discussing this chasm.

What this book has done for me is to rethink some of my fundamental assumptions about human nature. At the same time it confirmed others
Zachary Bonelli
(Originally posted at

Pretend for a moment that you grew up and now live in a completely different country. Let's call it Unrealia. Unrealia has two major political factions, Blarg and Frangle.

Now imagine growing up. The moment you can begin to process news and literature from a social standpoint, you notice something—every time the Blargs do something, it looks pretty awesome. And every time Blarg politicans talk on television, everything they say seems
This is probably the best book that I’ve read when it comes to explaining the origin of morality in humans and how it developed and shaped us as individuals and societies. It makes a great case for the theory that, when it comes to morality, intuition comes first and reasoning second. Our moral judgments are largely based on our gut feelings – or to be more scientifically accurate, based on how our prefrontal cortex reacts to a situation. The book also makes a (less convincing) case for group se ...more
Dave Schey
"The Righteous Mind" by Jonathan Haidt is certainly a book worth reading. The author, however, started losing my support when he seemed to be stressing that the reasoning mind (the rider) was a slave to support the intuitive mind (the elephant). Haidt suggests that the reasoning mind works only to find evidence to support the intuitive mind. I prefer the path Daniel Kahneman took in "Thinking, Fast and Slow." There, Kahneman talks about the dangers of going with just the intuitive mind. The reas ...more
Quentin S.
Jul 29, 2014 Quentin S. is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I'm on page 76 as I write this. (Still getting used to Goodreads navigation - it looks like this will show up as the actual review rather than an 'in progress' comment, though it is the latter.) This book looks like it's going to take me a long time, if I finish it.

I like what seems to be the attitude behind it, that we are all basically human whether we consider ourselves left, right, up, down, etc., and that dialogue is therefore preferable to demonisation. The trouble is, only 76 pages in, I
Haidt's The Righteous Mind is a really fascinating book. I don't know where you'd categorise it -- I've read people saying moral psychology, political philosophy, sociology, anthropology... As far as I can gather, Haidt gathers up research and thought from different fields in setting out this book. And what does he seek to explore? Well, not so much "why good people are divided by politics and religion", as the subtitle would have it, but the more fundamental question: why do people make differe ...more
Jonathan Haidt's look at the psychology of why politics and religion are so divisive - and getting more so - is fascinating.

For all of our vaunted reasoning powers as human beings, we actually are more accurately described as creatures of intuition. Dr. Haidt outlines dozens of studies that have shown that our initial "gut" reaction comes first and then our reason works to find justifications for our reaction. Linking this to politics, he says that "part of what it means to be a partisan is that
The full title is: The Righteous Mind - Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Jonathan Haidt has been studying, for some time, differences between Conservative and Liberal thought. I read an essay from him several years ago touching on some of the points more fully elaborated in the book and quite enjoyed it. The site has a test you can take to measure you along his six vectors of morality.

He is a Liberal and the book is written to Liberals to help them un
Aley Martin
Professor Haidt explains the divisions between the conservative and liberally minded individual and their reasoning behind their "teams" in politics and religion. As a liberally minded person, I found that there were some libertarian ideas that made sense to me and also that my conservative upbringing was tempered by my very own personal narrative and experiences after childhood.

Explaining that it is a mixture of genetic predisposition he nailed it when he said that liberals have less of a need
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Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business. He is the author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. He lives in New York City.
More about Jonathan Haidt...
The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom Meaning in Life and Why It Matters Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-Lived

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“Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.” 37 likes
“If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you.” 30 likes
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