Carlo's Reviews > The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt
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's review
Oct 31, 2012

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bookshelves: psychology, religion, politics, non-fiction
Read in October, 2012

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 in developing both a set of ideologies and a personal narrative with which we examine our own beliefs and values. His "demonstration" about the shortcomings of reason, with the usual story of a consensual incest between a brother and sister, is not as strong a demonstration as the conclusion he tries to reach, namely that intuition always plays a much stronger role in our lives than reasoning.


Came across two pieces in the NYT (one by by Gary Gutting and and the other by Michael P. Lynch) about this book along with Haidt's reply, and I can say that I stand by my rating of 3-stars. Here are the links for the three articles respectively.

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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Trevor (new)

Trevor I will have to get to this eventually - I was asked to read it by someone else on the same day as I received your recommendation - but I have to say your review doesn't really encourage me.

message 2: by Carlo (last edited Oct 15, 2012 04:00PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Carlo I am terribly interested to know your take on this, Trevor. I know you liked The Happiness Hypothesis and his metaphor of the rider and the elephant. He elaborated more on that here (I liked many of his insights here too), but I have found his dismissal of reason (that it is the servant of the intuition) hurried and unjustifiable.

message 3: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan As far as the role of education in helping reason overcome intuition there was a recent study by Dan Kahan presented in a paper titled “Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government” where more than 1000 study participants were queried about their political views and asked a series of questions designed to gauge their mathematical reasoning ability. Participants were then asked to solve a difficult problem that required interpreting results of a feigned scientific study. Sometimes the study was described as measuring the effectiveness of a skin rash cream. In other cases the study was described as measuring the effectiveness of a law banning private citizens from packing heat in public.
Performance varied widely on the same basic problem depending on whether it involved guns or skin cream. When presented with the politically volatile formulation of the question highly numerate liberals and conservatives were more susceptible to letting politics skew their reasoning than were those with less mathematical ability. The study strongly supported Haidt’s seeing-that/reasoning-why argument which was extended in his response to Lynch and Gutting in the NYT and it did it in an experiment grounded on mathematical reasoning rather than the more fuzzy values hypotheticals Haidt used in his experiments.

message 4: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan Rice I was just rereading your review, Carlo plus looked at your links--thanks. Since reading The Righteous Mind, I've been able to study a little more philosophy, which really helps. It's difficult understanding a philosopher's position when confronting it only as used in someone's argument.

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