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

4.21  ·  Rating details ·  47,191 ratings  ·  5,102 reviews
An alternate cover edition of ISBN 9780307377906 can be found here.

Why can’t our political leaders work together as threats loom and problems mount? Why do people so readily assume the worst about the motives of their fellow citizens? In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual underst
Hardcover, 419 pages
Published March 13th 2012 by Pantheon
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Jeremy The word "subtle" in the book description is referring to an explanation of human behavior. Some people like to argue about whether humans are fundame…moreThe word "subtle" in the book description is referring to an explanation of human behavior. Some people like to argue about whether humans are fundamentally selfish or selfless. The book description is implying that those explanations ("selfish" and "selfless") are not subtle. The reason they are not subtle is that it is too easy to form an opinion one way or the other. Anyone who tries to think outside the "selfish vs selfless" box and come up with a different explanation would be doing something *more* subtle, whether or not it's a good explanation. Haidt's different explanation is that humans are fundamentally "groupish". The book (the last third of the book) explains more fully what that means. I would summarize it by saying that people are selfless to their in-group and selfish to their out-group. This is not very interesting as I say it here, but I appreciated the book for the details that Haidt used to support this idea as a professional moral psychologist (that is, someone with experience researching the origins of human morality) and as an amateur philosopher (bringing david hume, thomas jefferson and emile durkheim into the discussion).

I think your real question is probably "Is the book clear?" and "Is the book practical?". I found the book clear, enlightening and delightful. The answer to fixing political division is not in the book. However, someone who reads it might have more understanding towards the people he or she disagrees with.(less)

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Michael Burnam-Fink
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, academic
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
Sean Chick
Oct 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Jay Kamaladasa
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
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
Feb 14, 2018 rated it it was ok
For a long time now I have been coming to the conclusion that if one is to believe capitalism is essentially a meritocracy - and if one is also to acknowledge that the inequities of capitalist societies mean that social mobility (particularly in the United States, for instance) is virtually non-existent, then one also needs some way of explaining how something that looks like it is without merit actually is the embodiment of merit.

And often this is where 'biology' comes to the rescue. Genes have
Clif Hostetler
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-events
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
Feb 12, 2014 rated it did not like it
At first I gave this book 3 stars because I felt like I might have been too critical. After thinking about it a while, I decided I was not merely critical enough. This book should be renamed "How to Justify the Action of Oppressing Human Beings In the Name of Getting Along." You can take any of Haidt's current examples of what to him "seems" like an oppressive act, as he assures you there is some merit to the thinking of oppressive individuals, and replace it with any of the most embarrassing at ...more
Roy Lotz
I expected this book to be good, but I did not expect it to be so rich in ideas and dense with information. Haidt covers far more territory than the subtitle of the book implies. Not only is he attempting to explain why people are morally tribal, but also the way morality works in the human brain, the evolutionary origins of moral feelings, the role of moral psychology in the history of civilization, the origin and function of religion, and how we can apply all this information to the modern pol ...more
Marvin chester
Jan 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
"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
Jul 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
There were many points as I was reading this that I had to check my assumptions and back down. Automatic groupings based on similarities tend to almost ALWAYS lead every single one of us to post hoc reasoning.

What do I mean?

Everyone jumps to conclusions based on their intuition. That feeling of rightness then leads us to find reasons and arguments why it is so.

Unfortunately, this is proven to be the means of how almost every single one of us uses reason. Over and over, we're constantly reminded
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
“[W]hen a group of people make something sacred, the members of the cult lose the ability to think clearly about it. Morality binds and blinds.”
― Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind


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 psych
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"We are 90% chimp and 10% being."

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion is much more than just about "Why good people are divided by politics and religion". It is a detailed, descriptive and a very interesting facts-based investigation and research into the origins of morality and righteousness. Morality is explained and defined in different ways in this book.

"There is more in man than the breath of his body."

"We, humans, have extraordinary capability to care ab
Aug 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The main selling point of the book is the controversial thesis that conservatives have a more sophisticated and complete "moral matrix" than liberals. Haidt says conservatives have a complete sense of taste whereas liberals can only taste sweet. This implies that liberals have a dangerously inaccurate version of reality that they are using when deciding what ideas to swallow and what to spit out.

Such a bold claim should be backed up with solid proof. Haidt needs to show where the "complete" mat
Brad Foley
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2012

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
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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
David Rubenstein
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
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I feel like one of the most valuable things you can strive to attain in this lifetime is a well rounded, informed mindset that expands your ability to see other points of view. With this, I gained just that :)
Brian Clegg
Mar 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan Rice
Nov 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Trish by: Bruce Katz
Ordinary people like myself occasionally glimpse pieces of truths we believe are important to explain how we live and understand the world but we never seem to get enough distance, or time, or examples to really state definitively what it is that makes us happy, or contentious, or willing to put ourselves out for another. Jonathan Haidt, fortunately, knows how to excavate the origins of our value systems, and has worked with colleagues to theorize and test what we believe and why and to discover ...more
Feb 28, 2022 rated it it was amazing
I wish everybody would read this book. If people were aware of and agreed with the insights of this book, perhaps it could increase the ability of different people across the political spectrum to communicate with each other.

”Intuitions Come First, Strategic Reasoning Second”

This is the key takeaway from Part 1 of the book. In other words, people tend to form moral intuitions in their gut, and then search for logical reasons to support it. And we are terrible at doing the reasoning objective
Matthew Ciarvella
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
I enjoyed Haidt's approach to the psychology and if you'd asked me my opinion of the book during the early psychology chapters, I'd have said this is a four star book.

But when Haidt starts going into the political philosophy of liberalism vs. conservatism, things start going downhill in a hurry. I'll agree that liberals don't respond to one of the points on his Six Foundations of Morality Theory; the Authority/Subversion scale. Okay, sure. But two of the points (Loyalty/Betrayal and Sanctity/Pro
Oct 11, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: best-of-2020
People on polar opposite sides of ideological debates tend to think of their opponents in terms of pathology rather than as people animated by different, yet still potentially legitimate, beliefs. Published in 2012, this book by Haidt is a great effort to turn down the crippling levels of polarization in U.S. politics. Unfortunately, it seems that things have only gotten worse since then, which I think has something to do with the rapidly evolving technological context of society. Nonetheless, h ...more
John Brown
Dec 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Tom LA
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wow. Wonderful, lucid, important and challenging work.

In these days, when it comes to political opinions, "You’re an idiot!” has everything necessary to be considered the ultimate representation of Internet discourse.

If you care to better understand why, within yourself, people who disagree with you on politics or religion tend to be categorized as human beings with a profound intellectual disability (maybe today more than ever), this is the perfect book for you.

At the very least, if you read
One more and more pressing thing around us, is hypercertainty inflation, almost regardless of the topic or interlocutor.
Dialogue, debate for the point of view of the others universe - are replaced by the emphatic clamor of personal visions, in an aggressive and militant way.
What determines our need to adhere to pro-life, pro-choice , or other labels ?

" Why don't we listen to the other one, and why don't we want to do it either ? Why do we need our opinions to be so firm ? "

This is exactly the
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 absolute
Charles Haywood
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
In today’s world, discussion about morals is a lost art. In part, this is because stupidity is on display everywhere, and encouraged to be so, even though most people’s thoughts and opinions are less than worthless, as a glance at Facebook or "The New York Times" comment sections will tell you. More deeply, it’s because America is dominated today by the nearly universal (but wholly unexamined) belief that the only legitimate principle of moral judgment is John Stuart Mill’s “harm principle”—that ...more
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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

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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.” 165 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.” 101 likes
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