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Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them
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Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  429 ratings  ·  78 reviews
The Boston Globe
“Surprising and remarkable… Toggling between big ideas, technical details, and his personal intellectual journey, Greene writes a thesis suitable to both airplane reading and PhD seminars.”

Our brains were designed for tribal life, for getting along with a select group of others (Us) and for fighting off everyone else (Them). But modern times have forced t
Hardcover, 432 pages
Published October 31st 2013 by Penguin Press (first published January 1st 2013)
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May 26, 2014 David rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to David by: Peter Mcloughlin
Humans have evolved the ability to be cooperative, in order to help our own survival in difficult times. This ability usually prevents us from being completely selfish. We cooperate with other members of our group, our "tribe", and solves the dilemma between "Me" and "Us". The problem is, that this same mechanism generates a different dilemma, a competition between "Us" and "Them". We find that we generally have the same moral outlook as others in our "tribe", and we do not even consider the mor ...more
I'm going to go ahead and assume that there are summaries out there that will tell you what this book is about, so I'm just gonna tell you why I think it was pretty great.

1. It's enormously readable - True to his affiliation as a utilitarian, Greene keeps his arguments clear and fairly concise. When he's gonna go more into depth on something that isn't crucial to understanding his overall point he tells you to go for it and skip ahead.
2. He summarizes the arguments of a lot of authors/books tha
Eduardo Santiago
Dec 25, 2013 Eduardo Santiago rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: morality junkies
As a fresh take on utilitaniarism it’s first-rate: new perspectives, new research, insightful questions. But ultimately he’s just preaching to the choir because the single most important question of our age is not even mentioned: how to reach those who don’t realize they are immoral? That is, people whose brains—through no fault of their own—consider Loyalty To Tribe and Obedience To Authority to be moral, rendering them vulnerable to charismatic psychopaths like Rush Limbaugh or evangelical pre ...more
Peter Mcloughlin
The tragedy of the commons was proposed in 1968 by Garrett Hardin it involves the conflicting interests between the individual (me) and the group (us). Humans solved this dilemma many hundreds of thousands of years ago. Our minds according to Joshua Greene are packed with moral gizmos in our brain that make us excellent cooperates and solve the dilemma of Me vs. Us which is Common sense morality. Common sense morality is the kind of heuristics we have and emotional responses to others that makes ...more
So when my mom got this book I was sure it was going to be either about how Group A is right, and everyone else should GTFO, or about how really dead down we all agree on everything and conflict is really the vault of insert group name here. It turned out to be neither of those things. Instead, it's an extremely interesting look at why some actions make humans uncomfortable, why that impulse isn't always correct, and how to make ethical decisions without completely relying on "gut feeling".
John Schwabacher
Joshua Greene is the director of the Moral Cognition Lab at Harvard. Cool job title!

He starts by arguing that many of our emotions developed as moral instincts designed to help individuals deal with society, addressing the "tragedy of the commons" problem.

Next he points out that different societies can develop different workable tradeoffs: more or less indivuality, collectivity, etc. A higher level problem then arises when these societies collide: each has built up structures to help individuals
Apr 03, 2014 Richard marked it as to-read
Recommended to Richard by: KQED Forum
Shelves: cognition, nonfiction
Sounds very good, although I haven't finished thinking about the last two books on moral cognition I've read, much less my reading survey on evil.

Interesting tie-in between contradictory impulses [err, not quite right] in response to trolley problem and Kahneman's System One and System Two thinking. Relates to Consciousness/AI and Who-do-we-want-to-be-when-we-grow up.

Good hour-long radio interview with author:

Review in GuardianUK: http://www.theguardian.c
Joshua Stein
There's a lot to be said about Moral Tribes but I will divide the comment roughly into two parts: (1) the smart commentary on moral psychology and (2) the weak commentary on ethics. It is worth noting that the strong points and weak points should be unsurprising given Greene's background; he's a renown neuroscientist. It seems to make sense that his recapitulation of his groundbreaking work would be terrific and engaging, and that the book would weaken in discussions of other domains.

The openin
Libros Prohibidos
Interesting and advisable. Complete review (in Spanish):
Sara Van Dyck
Greene, Joshua. Moral Tribes.

Brilliant, fascinating. What follows is my common-sense, less-informed thinking on his propositions.I have a question about Greene’s ”Rules” of morality. In principle I guess they are great , certainly well-researched, carefully reasoned. But who are they for and how will they help? They could be used by other academics, other liberals, other thoughtful, conscientious people such as you and me – at least when we can get out of automatic mode. But looking at people’s
Leif Denti
I enjoyed this book. It is generally well argued and lays out a pretty clear map over the moral philosophy and psychology field as of today. Greene does a good job in arguing for the distinction between the Tragedy of the Commons (within-group moral reasoning), and what he calls the Tragedy of Common Sense Morality (between-group moral reasoning). In essence: we are good at cooperating and empathizising with each other when it comes to our own in-group, but bad at cooperating and empathizising w ...more
Really, really excellent—though challenging in parts. This book follows closely on the heels of three other social-science screeds it cites heavily: Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion," Daniel Kahneman's "Thinking, Fast & Slow," and Steven Pinker's "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined," all of which I've read and highly recommend.

Greene's main assertion is that our moral instincts are pretty good at keeping us in
Justin Powell
Essential reading for those interested in morality and specifically utilitarianism, or as he calls it in this book, "deep pragmatism".

One of the biggest problems with this book (a problem that isn't even the fault of the book or its author) is the fact that those who most need to read it, social conservatives, are also the most likely NOT to read it. They are the supposedly "closed-off" to new experience as Jonathan Haidt would say. Of course everyone should read this, but the ones who most lik
Pete Welter
Making decisions that affect people or groups with different world views has always been challenging, but in our increasingly polarized culture, the topic becomes even more relevant.

Given two groups of people with different moralities - such as different religions, or individualist vs. communal - how can we make decisions that all of us can live with, and in fact, thrive with?

Joshua Greene brings his expertise in both philosophy and psychology to this discussion. If you enjoyed Thinking, Fast a
Robert Miller
The author embarks on the enormous task of defining morality and then arguing how it should apply to modern society. Starting with "Tribe" mentality, which encompasses the moral behaviors between individuals and the collective members of a tribe, he identifies the first hurdle of "Me versus Us"- as issues pertaining to individual tribes; second, he examines the relationship between multiple tribes using a "Its Us versus Them" perspective. Recognizing the inherent problems between both entities, ...more
Aseem Kaul
There's a great deal to love about Moral Tribes, which is just about the most intellectually stimulating book I read in 2013.

Here's my brief (possibly somewhat inaccurate) summary of what Greene is saying:

1 Human beings face two types of moral problems: the problem of small-group cooperation (Me vs. Us) and the problem of global cooperation (Us vs. Them). Where small-group cooperation fails we end up with the Tragedy of the Commons. Where global cooperation fails we end up with what Greene call
Greene takes pains to source philosophy, social and cognitive sciences, psychology, and other material pertinent to having a reasoned conversation about why different groups of people can disagree about things each is so sure is moral and right[eous]. By chapter 5 he's plainly depicted the landscape of our biological proclivities, inherited perspectives, decision making, and biases. He's set upon that landscape metaphysical and reasoning tools with which you expect him to construct and reveal gr ...more
A dense, often closely argued book. Greene is trained in both philosophy and psychology. While written for the general reader, it is not an easy read and he expects readers to stretch their intellectual muscles. Greene uses scientific research, often his own, to confirm or dis-confirm philosophical reflection on morality and to show that moral thinking occurs on two different levels, depending on whether we're making moral judgments within the context of the group to which we belong or with rega ...more
Charlie N
I enjoyed this book tremendously. The arguments about morality and ethics that have troubled philosophers are here given an empirical perspective. Moral feelings are analyzed as psychological apps that have been evolved to solve the prisoners' dilemma game endemic to the evolution of cooperation. These feelings and commandments ("don't cheat on taxes or your spouse," "don't murder your neighbor," etc.) can be trustworthy guides to behavior within your group. Indeed, that situation is precisely t ...more
Dan Downing
Professor Greene joins the ranks of synthetic thinkers who have presented their important and novel work to an audience beyond those found in the dreary pages of mostly derivative and repetitive journals.

The present work probably will not sell as many copies as the worst cook book of the year. This is tragic. Greene has not produced the last word in psychological philosophy or moral systems. He has presented us with a deep and comprehensive look at how our moral brain may work, and how we might
Corinne Vaatainen
Brilliant! Presents Us vs Them instead of Us vs Me. Addresses "metamorality" i.e. helping groups with different moralities deal with differences. Greene presents a method by which our race, now divided into often warring moral tribes, might find more common ground.

I quickly wanted an answer to the question: how do we decide which of these groups - or more likely, which elements of each group's worldview - should win the day in cases of moral conflict? When faced with moral dilemmas should we res
John Kaufmann
Great book. I might have given it a 4.5 rating if it were an option. The book builds upon others' work on the role of emotions in morals, the role of cooperation, and the dual modes of thinking - i.e., thinking fast and slow. The author describes how these strategies evolved help us to deal with the Tragedy of the Commons, of resolving Me vs Us, and of protecting Us against Them. Excellent stuff if you're not familiar with it, and a good resummarization and tying together if you are familiar wit ...more
Heather Pagano
I'm a sucker for a book that combines cognitive science with philosophy, and the combo in Moral Tribes did not disappoint. I also love a book that gives me a new framework for understanding, and this book had some powerful ones. Concepts like manual mode vs. automatic mode, and the tragedy of the commons vs. the tragedy of commonsense morality, have indelibly changed the way I view and understand the world around me. And Greene's analysis of the trolley problem was an absolute delight to read!

starts out objective, but then becomes political
Vikas Agarwal
In this book, the author aims to create an all encompassing moral philosophy that can be used as a common ground between the various "Moral Tribes" as they exist today : Democrats and Republicans; Liberals and Conservatives and so on.

In the first part, the author describes the Natural Mechanisms or emotions that have enabled Human beings to put "Us" over "Me". Or How emotions such as guilt, anger etc. have enabled us to put collective interests of our tribes over our personal interests.

The Seco
At times this book is quite tedious.
At times it's absolutely brilliant.

Forget the title: this is a modern pitch at Utilitarianism with some very deep analysis and research.
عبدالرحمن عقاب
قبل أيامٍ من قراءتي لهذا الكتاب، كنت أقرأ في كتابٍ عن تاريخ العلوم، وفيه انتبهت إلى تلك الكتب التي حوت الأفكار التي هزّت العالم، وشكّلت منعطفًا في تاريخ الفكر البشري. كان بعضها-وربّما غالبها- كتبًا تحوي ما يقلّ عن 200 صفحة . فقلت في نفسي : هذا جميل، والله.
فكرةٌ مبهرة رائعة مبتدعة في صفحات، تُقرأ سريعًا أو على مهل!
ثمّ جاء دور هذا الكتاب ليجعلني أترّحم على تلك الأيام التي لم أشهدها بالتأكيد. فهذا زمن "الثرثرة" بحق. ولعلّ توفّر الورق وسهولة الطباعة، و بعضٌ من جشع ومطامع مالية فيها بعض الإجابة.
Jan 12, 2014 Tucker rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: ethicists
This book addresses a number of important, longstanding questions and appears to solve them in one big, simple theory. I spent the better part of a weekend wading through the text and rather exhausted myself in doing so, as it substantially rearranged my mental furniture. How successful Greene's solution is will have to be born out over time as people (including me) continue to work with the theory. For the moment, however, it absolutely deserves the positive reviews it's gotten in the popular p ...more
It could be a good book, it just didn't captivate me in the first few pages.

I am a big fan of Steven Pinker, who is a colleague of Greene's, and I've also read Thinking, Fast and Slow and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. So perhaps I'm tired of this genre and not ready to give a similar book a chance.
Marcus Lira
This is not exactly a bad book: The author did some interesting research and the breadth of his knowledge is quite vast. However, it soon becomes too preachy for its own good, and the author's preference of utilitarianism as a form of meta-morality comes across as a source of bias rather than the product of careful analysis.

Although the first half was somewhat interesting, I couldn't make it to the end and eventually ditched it in the penultimate chapter for the reasons mentioned above. If anyth
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