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

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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 understanding.
His starting point is moral intuition—the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong. Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right. He blends his own research findings with those of anthropologists, historians, and other psychologists to draw a map of the moral domain. He then examines the origins of morality, overturning the view that evolution made us fundamentally selfish creatures. But rather than arguing that we are innately altruistic, he makes a more subtle claim—that we are fundamentally groupish. It is our groupishness, he explains, that leads to our greatest joys, our religious divisions, and our political affiliations. In a stunning final chapter on ideology and civility, Haidt shows what each side is right about, and why we need the insights of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians to flourish as a nation.

419 pages, Hardcover

First published March 13, 2012

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About the author

Jonathan Haidt

32 books3,069 followers
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.

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Profile Image for Michael Burnam-Fink.
1,487 reviews221 followers
September 14, 2012
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-related groups, i.e. society, together, and moral skills have been favored by various evolutionary mechanisms over human history. This theory is, frankly, really good and really well developed.

Haidt then goes on to show that Liberalism draws from only the first three moral factors while Conservatism draws from all six. This explains both the differences between liberals and conservatives, and why conservatives beat the stuffing out of liberals at the polls. This is also incontrovertible.

But Haidt is unwilling to follow his theory to its ultimate question: Can a democratic political system that privileged the rights of the minority procedurally sustain decision-making based on all six moral factors? Care/Harm, Liberty/Oppression, and Fairness/Cheating are universal factors; everybody uses them, and we mostly agree on when they are upheld or violated. Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sanctity/Degradation are intrinsically provincial factors; they're different for every culture, and every individual.

A moral order for a pluralistic society which takes the latter three factors seriously must either force people to uphold a morality they do not believe in, or segregate people based on their different interpretations of morality. Perhaps I'm particularly sensitive to such concerns because I'm a liberal Jew, but forcing false beliefs on and/or ghettoizing people seems profoundly wrong. Conversely, giving a Moral Minority the ability to gum up the works whenever they feel their rights are under attack is killing good governance.

Where conservatism fails is that we are no longer living in separate communities. It's one global economy, one atmosphere, one water cycle, one oil supply, etc. Haidt faults liberalism for damaging American moral capital in the 60s and 70s, but he doesn't explain how conservatism can become big enough rule the globe.
Profile Image for Sean Chick.
Author 4 books1,040 followers
June 7, 2017
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 conveniently says we are all hypocrites and should not worry with it. There lies the reason why he is so kind to the contemporary right, which is a clan of hypocrites without equal. Haidt believes we do not reason so much as we rationalize, which really makes one wonder how we managed to even invent the wheel or start using fire. It also explains why he never includes "truth" in his limited moral universe. The Persians made it the center of their morality. I guess it would just complicate things, so like any hack, he ignores it, much the same way evolutionary psychologists often dodge the issue of suicide. It also makes it easier to accept contemporary conservatism, which has grown alongside tepid moral relativism.

The above thoughts make him seem like a man at home in the world before the English Civil War administered the first blows for egalitarianism. In other words, this is perfect neo-liberal dreck for our vapid post-modern world. A fashionable book that in time will be mocked and at best studied as a curiosity, the main curiosity being why this man is taken so seriously. I suppose he just went to the right schools, just like the guys who sent us to Iraq, deregulated the banks, etc.

Most of all, Haidt simply does not understand either side of the political fight. If Republicans love authority, why do they disdain the government? On the flip side the same holds true for government loving liberals. That is because the question is not how much government we shall have. The question is over who shall rule. Conservatives throughout history are defined by their acceptance of gross inequality, which is why any authority that approaches fairness is opposed by them. Haidt grasps this somewhat when discussing fairness and equality but not with the same success as Corey Robin.

UPDATE: Years later and still ticking as my most popular review. It is not my best written or most nuanced. As such it requires an update, since it was very much a product of 2013. Has my opinion changed? I can make my case against the book with less vitriol, and a few lines do not really work so well. For instance, my point about rationality is a stretch. I saw Haidt as part of a gradual process, aided on the left and right, to debase the value of rationality. I could go on, but I think our declining faith in reason as an ideal, if not a full blown reality, is in part why you get FOX News and campus protests. My point though could have been better made, but I won't change the review. The old dog has been around for too long now.

More to the point, the book still suffers from some flaws in research. It has a bias and more to the point has a limited understanding of morality. Haidt dodges questions of truth and hypocrisy because they would undermine his argument. I have no time anymore for arguments, left or right, that ignore their internal contradictions or other view points that would question their basic premises. Haidt's work is not without merit, but it is already showing its age.

Yet, this review of Haidt shows its age. It was written when I was firmly on the left. I am not any longer, having seen the rise of anarchist views and resurgent critical theory. In 2013 I had seen years of right-wing hypocrisy, arrogance, and idiocy (Bush years, Tea Party). The left has responded in kind with its own blend. As such, the nation cannot hold together since both sides utterly hate and distrust each other. Our government system cannot handle such discord. It could not in 1861 and it will not today. In 2013 I may have appeared to be on the left, but since then much has changed, and I find myself being cast out by those in my camp for disagreeing with tactics and goals. I am a man without a party or a tribe and soon the wolf and the lion will be at each other's throats.

Gone are the days online or in person when debate could be heated, but without hate. Just read the comments. Conservatives came to attack this review, and they almost always do so by using some ad hominem attacks. I was called a liar, told I was unreasonable with a "bloated sense of compassion." One person wrote "I'm only enraging the situation by disagreeing with your obnoxious liberal elephant and will only make it more combative." My answer? "Not at all. Unlike what we see today on campus, I am all about debate." This is where we are today. We no longer trade ideas online. Instead we look to score points, certain of how "the other" will react.

The war starts among the people before it ever gets formalized. Bleeding Kansas and the Boston Massacre were preludes. We are seeing our own preludes in 2017.
Profile Image for Jay Kamaladasa.
56 reviews41 followers
April 19, 2013
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 psychology; he should've known better.

To illustrate what I mean; in America, conservatives fight for free markets, the freedom to bare arms, and less government intervention. However in countries that have not embraced capitalism as much, the liberals (or progressives) are the ones who fight for free markets, less government intervention and individualist ideals such as the right to bare arms and freedom of speech.

It would've made much more sense in a philosophical context if the argument was about progressives (who want change) and conservatives (who want the things the way they are). But then the narrative would be too simple: of course we don't live in a perfect world, so we have to change society and it's prejudices and beliefs. Then the real question is what do we do to bring about change? This of course is a difficult question, and I don't expect an answer from one single book. But it's sad to see the author moving away from this simple approach for the sake of being in the "middle ground"; which brings to the second point.

2.) The author tries too hard to stay on the "middle ground".

Have you ever witnessed fights where you absolutely know that one party is being unreasonable, and someone comes along and tries to be "fair" to both parties? Obviously the unreasonable party profits and the reasonable party loses because the negotiations were trying to be "fair" to both parties. It's a simple case of the "Anchoring effect."; whoever anchors the furthest from the truth, wins.

The author's six moral foundations is an excellent example for this. He defines Care, Liberty, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity as the six pillars of morality. In his haste to become neutral he assumes that these should be given equal weight. Really? Does he not know what Authority and Loyalty has done for us human history? Forget the mass genocides, and mass cult suicides, he should at least be aware of the classical psychology experiments like the Stanford Prison experiment, the Robber's cave experiment, and the Milgram experiment.. But no, the author gives the same value to Authority that he gives to Care.

This is not a simple side argument, this is his main thesis. He derives everything else he says in the book from this comparison. And obviously, as we say in the scientific community; garbage in, garbage out.

3.) The author's epiphany comes from his visit to India, where he associated conservatism with likeable people. He probably didn't stay long enough to see the dark side of the culture.

Unlike the author, I was born in the East. And I can tell you first hand that the morals which seem to paint a pretty picture of eastern culture, is just a pretty picture - nothing more, nothing less. Hiding behind that pretty picture is a culture of corruption, a culture where shame and guilt are the driving forces of society and a culture where an individual is judged by his/her group (race, creed, school, hometown etc). A culture where you must bow down to someone just because they are older than you, or are in a higher paygrade than you.

I understand there are problems with the current individualist culture in the West. But believe me, the East is not the solution. Far from it, it's a backward step in human progression. The solutions to the problems of the West should come from the minds that have already evolved passed the hive-mind.

Having said all that, the book is a good read. It's written beautifully with a style commonly found in most best selling non-fiction books these days. It get's you thinking, even if it's in the wrong direction. And it does point towards why there's a rift between left-wing and right-wing American political groups. I agree with the author that a lot of left-wing supporters just go with the tide and need to realize where the right-wing groups are coming from. What I don't agree is placing the philosophical ideal of conservatism on the same ground as the philosophical ideal of progressivism.
Profile Image for Trevor.
1,291 reviews21.7k followers
February 15, 2018
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, for over a century, provided a way to explain complex social inequalities and to make the victims responsible for their victimhood. This book fits within that long tradition.

Now, a key scientific idea that should guide such investigations is Occam's Razor - that is, any explanation ought to start with the fewest number of assumptions and then only add entities (such as genes, say) when it was shown categorically that they are necessary to explain facts that can't be explained in any other way. That is, if you were trying to explain human behaviour in society, for instance, you might pause before talking about genes, if for no other reason than that they add a level of complexity to your answer that you might well be able to do without.

The part of this book that particularly stopped me was this quote about research he conducted in both the US and Brazil.

"Unexpectedly, the effect of social class was much larger than the effect of city. In other words, well-educated people in all three cities were more similar to each other than they were to their lower-class neighbors."

You might think that after reaching this finding he would consider the role that social class plays in forming moral reasoning, that he might look more closely at why people from lower social classes might find it attractive to believe in a wider range of moral imperatives than do those from the educated middle classes and see what benefits this provides working class people. But that is almost the last time he mentions social class at all, other than to point out about 100 pages later, that working class people are likely to vote Republican and against their own economic interests because they are voting in line with their moral interests. Yes, undoubtedly the case - but why is that so? Why is that related to social class? Why are the working class most likely to vote against their economic interests? You see, I can't accept the bio-babble that certain genes have shuffled their way down to the bottom rungs of society and that makes these people more authoritarian and more religious and so therefore more likely to vote Republican.

The other thing that simply isn't explained here is why society has changed so comprehensively in the last 30 years. You know, after WW2 the Keynesian consensus was so well entrenched that even Milton Friedman is quoted as saying, "We are all Keynesians now". And yet, today that might as well have been a million years ago. Today greed is good and dogs eat dogs - there is a universal war on the welfare state - if this is down to genes and innate moral feelings, they really must evolve very, very quickly - even faster than the 50,000 years talked about so extensively in this book.

Another alternative might be to look at how social structures impact on moral feeling and behaviour. This would have the benefit of operating at the same level as the phenomena that is trying to be explained. Who benefits from the existing arrangement of society, what tools do they have at their disposal to justify that arrangement, how might the ideas that have become increasingly accepted by various groups in society over the last few decades (something the author himself acknowledges by saying how much more partisan the US has become over that time) help us understand these shifting preferences?

To me, one of the major shifts in society that has run concurrent with this shift towards more partisanship and heightened conservative feelings of the working classes, has been the vastly increased inequity in society. Rather than turn to genes to explain this, I would look to what Bourdieu refers to as symbolic violence. If one section of society is to have more than another section then it can only sustain this in one of two ways - it can either use literal violence (something that has happened extensively throughout history and remains ultimately the reason for a police force and a state) or it can use symbolic violence - that is, make it clear to everyone that the reason why the goods of society are unequally divided is because some people have more natural ability and have applied more effort (that is, have more merit) and therefore they deserve more of the good things.

This book is full of psychological examples presented to prove certain points along the way. The one I will use to explain my point about the power of merit in justifying inequality is a game they get students to play in psychology classes. They have two players and one of them is given $10 and told they can divide that amount anyway they see fit between themselves and the person they are with. The catch is that the other person can reject the offered division and then neither of them will get anything. A neoliberal economist would say that even if the division is $9.99 to $0.01 the second person should accept the offer since they are better off with one cent than without it. And yet, this isn't how the game pans out. People punish those who offer them less than what they think of as a fair division - say 60:40 - and often the first person will offer 50:50. But this is an odd version of the game - a kind of null case. The money in this game has appeared out of thin air and so the first person's claim to it is viewed as having been purely a thing of luck. As soon as there is any suggesting that the first person might have 'deserved' the money, then the dynamic between the players changes immediately. Then the second person expects much less of the goods, and would feel outraged if they were offered a 50:50 split. Now they actively want the other person to have their 'fair share' of the reward - that is, most of it.

So, when Trump says, "My father gave me a very small loan in 1975, and I built it into a company that's worth many, many billions of dollars." This isn't just a man blowing his own trumpet, or even him just twisting the truth for his own aggrandisement, it is, in fact, virtually a necessity in modern day social discourse. You have to be 'self-made' or the moral justification for your having so much is undermined by your lack of merit - according to the rules that govern our society as a meritocracy, you have to be able to show natural ability coupled with hard work as the basis for your wealth, and invariably, no matter what advantages people start out with, that is the story they tell.

I think work by people like Jean Anyon into how different social classes are educated and the levels of authoritarianism that are manifest in those different educational experiences, or bell hooks' work on how African Americans learn to operate in a system of dual consciousness coupled with a kind of self-loathing that perpetuates white supremacist modes of oppression upon black bodies, or Goffman's work on the presentation of self in society, or Bourdieu's on how social classes manifest distinction and thereby social cohesion - similar to the findings related here back to Durkheim, although without the bio-babble - provide much more compelling and interesting visions of social phenomena since they are explained is social terms, not biological ones.

And as I implied at the beginning of this review, I've never liked supposed biological explanations for complex social phenomena and I immediately bristle when they are presented as the simplest explanation for the state of society. Occam's Razor should immediately demand their removal until they can be shown to be not just 'helpful' but necessary to explaining those phenomena. I don't believe that has been done here.

Profile Image for Clif Hostetler.
1,074 reviews711 followers
September 8, 2021
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 of both myself and others, and then comprehend why those motivations can lead to morals that steer reasoning to opposite conclusions.

The author, Jonathan Haidt, is a psychologist who has specialized on the nature of morals. This book could have been more accurately titled "The Moral Mind." The book is divided into three parts. The main point of the first part is what Haidt calls the first principle of moral psychology: Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second. The second part of the book explores the second principle of moral psychology: There's more to morality than harm and fairness. The third part presented the principle that morality binds and blinds.

Part One

This author weaves together a history of moral psychology and the author’s own story to create a sense of movement from rationalism to intuitionism. The author throws in historical anecdotes, quotations from the ancients, and praise of a few visionaries. The author then set up metaphors (such as the rider and the elephant) that recur throughout the book. He then discusses the evidence to “tune up” the reader’s intuitions about moral psychology.

The message here is that value judgments are seldom products of rational deliberation. We are hardwired by evolution to function first with our emotional brain at an intuitive level, and what follows may claim to be rational reasoning that explains our judgment but is actually rationalization of quick intuitive decisions. The inherited human brain is also social in nature and must exhibit behavior that is compliant with a person’s social environment (i.e. group or tribe). This explains why people don’t necessarily vote for their own self interests. Instead they vote in compliance with the values and belief system of the group they most closely associate with.

Part Two

The main point of this section of the book is that conservatives base their morality on six types of considerations or value judgments: care/harm, liberty/oppression, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. Liberals base their morality on three areas: care/harm, liberty/oppression, and fairness/cheating. Haidt says this gives conservatives an advantage when campaigning for votes because they can appeal to their supporters in six ways and liberals can appeal to only three.

Part Three

Haidt in this section drives home the point that the tendency for humans to form morals has been ingrained into humans by evolution. Humans are products of multilevel selection, which made us both selfish and groupish. Haidt describes it as being 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee. He suggests that religion played a crucial role in our evolutionary history--our religious minds co-evolved with our religious practices to create ever larger moral communities, particularly after the advent of agriculture.

Quotations of Interest to Me

I was surprised to learn from the following quotation that conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives. After the following quotation in the book Haidt explains the reasons for the lack of understanding on the part of liberals.
"In a study I did with Jesse Graham and Brian Nosek, we tested how well liberals and conservatives could understand each other. We asked more than two thousand American visitors to fill out the moral Foundations Questionnaire. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out normally, answering as themselves. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as they think a "typical liberal" would respond. One-third of the time they were asked to fill it out as a "typical conservative" would respond. This design allowed us to examine the stereotypes that each side held about the other. More important, it allowed us to asses how accurate they were by comparing people's expectations about "typical" partisans to the actual responses from partisans of the left and the right. Who was best able to pretend to be the other?
The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who described themselves as "very liberal." The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives. When faced with questions such as "One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal" or Justice is the most important requirement for a society," liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree."
The following quotation is not really part of the main focus of this book, but I found it interesting because it illuminates an irony about many Christians who emphasize "correct belief" (i.e. orthodoxy) whereas modern polling shows "correct belief" not to be a reliable predictor of neighborliness and good citizenship. Haidt is quoting from Putnam and Campbell's 2010 book, American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us.
"Why are religious people better neighbors and citizens? To find out, Putnam and Campbell included on one of their surveys a long list of questions about religious beliefs (e.g., "Do you believe in hell? Do you agree that we will all be called before God to answer for our sins?") as well as questions about religious practices (e.g., "How often do you read holy scriptures? How often do you pray?) These beliefs and practices turned out to matter very little. Whether you believe in hell, whether you pray daily, whether you are a Catholic, Protestant, Jew, or Mormon ... none of these things correlated with generosity. The only thing that was reliable and powerfully associated with the moral benefits of religion was how enmeshed people were in relationships with their co-religionists.It's the friendships and groups activities, carried out within a moral matrix that emphasizes selflessness. That's what brings out the best in people.
Putnam and Campbell reject the New Atheist emphasis on belief and reach a conclusion straight out of Durkheim: "It is religious belongingness that matters for neighborliness, not religious believing."
The following is Haidt's definition of moral systems:
"Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technology, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to oppress or regulate self interest and make cooperative societies possible"
This definition makes morals dependent on the social environment. There is no one single definition of morality that is true in all cultures.

Some Links of Interest

The following links came from the Book's Website.
Here is a pdf file of Chapter 9, the chapter on multi-level selection.
Here is a pdf file with all figures and images from all chapters
Here is a pdf file will all of the references (the bibliography)
Here is a pdf file with all of the end notes
You can read the introduction to the book here, and you can read a condensed version of Ch. 12 (on politics and polarization) at Reason Magazine.
Here is the out take from ch. 6 on Virtue Ethics, as referred to in Haidt's NYT Stone essay
The following short review of this book is from the PageADay Book Lover's Calendar for November 28, 2014:
Hopefully, you managed to avoid talking politics during yesterday’s feast. Unfortunately, it’s much harder to ignore the antagonism of the larger political sphere. At the heart of our irritation and often outrage toward other people’s belief systems is a lack of understanding. In this cogent, thought provoking book, Jonathan Haidt not only explains the psychological and moral bases of various belief systems, but he also goes on to propose viable bridges among them. It’s heartening to imagine that the national discourse could one day learn from his example.
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, by Jonathan Haidt (Pantheon, 2012)
Profile Image for Roy Lotz.
Author 1 book8,176 followers
January 14, 2023
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 political situation—among much else along the way.

Haidt begins with the roles of intuition and reasoning in making moral judgments. He contends that our moral reasoning—the reasons we aver for our moral judgments—consists of mere post hoc rationalizations for our moral intuitions. We intuitively condemn or praise an action, and then search for reasons to justify our intuitive reaction.

He bases his argument on the results of experiments in which the subjects were told a story—usually involving a taboo violation of some kind, such as incest—and then asked whether the story involved any moral breach or not. These stories were carefully crafted so as not to involve harm to anyone (such as a brother and sister having sex in a lonely cabin and never telling anyone, and using contraception to prevent the risk of pregnancy).

Almost inevitably he found the same result: people would condemn the action, but then struggle to find coherent reasons to do so. To use Haidt’s metaphor, our intuition is like a client in a court case, and our reasoning is the lawyer: its job is to win the case for intuition, not to find the truth.

This is hardly a new idea. Haidt’s position was summed up several hundred years before he was born, by Benjamin Franklin: “So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable creature, since it enables one to find or make a reason for everything one has a mind to do.” An intuitionist view of morality was also put forward by David Hume and Adam Smith. But Haidt’s account is novel for the evolutionary logic behind his argument and the empirical research used to back his claims. This is exemplified in his work on moral axes.

Our moral intuition is not one unified axis from right to wrong. There are, rather, six independent axes: harm, proportionality, equality, loyalty, authority, and purity. In other words, actions can be condemned for a variety of reasons: for harming others, for cheating others, for oppressing others, for betraying one’s group, for disrespecting authority, and for desecrating sacred objects, beings, or places.

These axes of morality arose because of evolutionary pressure. Humans who cared for their offspring and their families survived better, as did humans who had a greater sensitivity to being cheated by freeloaders (proportionality) and who resisted abusive alpha males trying to exploit them (equality). Similarly, humans who were loyal to their group and who respected a power hierarchy outperformed less loyal and less compliant humans, because they created more coherent groups (this explanation relies on group selection theory; see below). And lastly, our sense of purity and desecration—usually linked to religious and superstitious notions—arose out of our drive to avoid physical contamination (for example, pork was morally prohibited because it was unsafe to eat).

Most people in the world use all six of these axes in their moral systems. It is only in the West—particularly in the leftist West—where we focus mainly on the first three: harm, proportionality, and equality. Indeed, one of Haidt’s most interesting points is that the right tends to be more successful in elections because it appeals to a broader moral palate: it appeals to more “moral receptors” in the brain than left-wing morality (which primarily appeals to the axis of help and harm), and is thus more persuasive.

This brings us to Part III of the book, by far the most speculative.

Haidt begins with a defense of group selection: the theory that evolution can operate on the level of groups competing against one another, rather than on individuals. This may sound innocuous, but it is actually a highly controversial topic in biology, as Haidt himself acknowledges. Haidt thinks that group selection is needed to explain the “groupishness” displayed by humans—our ability to put aside personal interest in favor of our groups—and makes a case for the possibility of group selection occurring during the last 10,000 or so years of our history. He makes the theory seem plausible (to a layperson like me), but I think the topic is too complex to be covered in one short chapter.

True or not, Haidt uses group theory to account for what he calls “hiveish” behavior that humans sometimes display. Why are soldiers willing to sacrifice themselves for their brethren? Why do people like to take ecstasy and rave? Why do we waste so much money and energy going to football games and cheering for our teams? All these behaviors are bizarre when you see humans as fundamentally self-seeking; they only make sense, Haidt argues, if humans possess the ability to transcend their usual self-seeking perspective and identify themselves fully with a group. Activating this self-transcendence requires special circumstances, and it cannot be activated indefinitely; but it produces powerful effects that can permanently alter a person’s perspective.

Haidt then uses group selection and this idea of a “hive-switch” to explain religion. Religions are not ultimately about beliefs, he says, even though religions necessarily involve supernatural beliefs of some kind. Rather, the social functions of religions are primarily to bind groups together. This conclusion is straight out of Durkheim. Haidt’s innovation (well, the credit should probably go to David Sloan Wilson, who wrote Darwin's Cathedral) is to combine Durkheim’s social explanation of religion with a group-selection theory and a plausible evolutionary story (too long to relate here).

As for empirical support, Haidt cites a historical study of communes, which found that religious communes survived much longer than their secular counterparts, thus suggesting that religions substantially contribute to social cohesion and stability. He also cites several studies showing that religious people tend to be more altruistic and generous than their atheistic peers; and this is apparently unaffected by creed or dogma, depending only on attendance rates of religious services. Indeed, for someone who describes himself as an atheist, Haidt is remarkably positive on the subject of religion; he sees religions as valuable institutions that promote the moral level and stability of a society.

The book ends with a proposed explanation of the political spectrum—people genetically predisposed to derive pleasure from novelty and to be less sensitive to threats become left-wing, and vice versa (the existence of libertarians isn’t explained, and perhaps can’t be)—and finally with an application of the book’s theses to the political arena.

Since we are predisposed to be “groupish” (to display strong loyalty towards our own group) and to be terrible at questioning our own beliefs (since our intuitions direct our reasoning), we should expect to be blind to the arguments of our political adversaries and to regard them as evil. But the reality, Haidt argues, is that each side possesses a valuable perspective, and we need to have civil debate in order to reach reasonable compromises. Pretty thrilling stuff.

Well, there is my summary of the book. As you can see, for such a short book, written for a popular audience, The Righteous Mind is impressively vast in scope. Haidt must come to grips with philosophy, politics, sociology, anthropology, psychology, biology, history—from Hume, to Darwin, to Durkheim—incorporating mountains of empirical evidence and several distinct intellectual traditions into one coherent, readable whole. I was constantly impressed by the performance. But for all that, I had the constant, nagging feeling that Haidt was intentionally playing the devil’s advocate.

Haidt argues that our moral intuition guides our moral reasoning, in a book that rationally explores our moral judgments and aims to convince its readers through reason. The very existence of his book undermines his uni-directional model of intuitions to reasoning. Being reasonable is not easy; but we can take steps to approach arguments more rationally. One of these steps is to summarize another person’s argument before critiquing it, which is what I've done in this review.

He argues that religions are not primarily about beliefs but about group fitness; but his evolutionary explanation of religion would be rejected by those who deny evolution on religious grounds; and even if specific beliefs don’t influence altruistic behavior, they certainly do influence which groups (homosexuals, biologists) are shunned. Haidt also argues that religions are valuable because of their ability to promote group cohesion; but if religions necessarily involve irrational beliefs, as Haidt admits, is it really wise to base a moral order on religious notions? If religions contribute to the social order by encouraging people to sacrifice their best interest for illogical reasons—such as in the commune example—should they really be praised?

The internal tension continues. Haidt argues that conservatives have an advantage in elections because they appeal to a broader moral palate, not just care and harm; and he argues that conservatives are valuable because their broad morality makes them more sensitive to disturbances of the social order. Religious conservative groups, which enforce loyalty and obedience, are more cohesive and durable than secular groups that value tolerance. But Haidt himself endorses utilitarianism (based solely on the harm axis) and ends the book with a plea for moral tolerance. Again, the existence of Haidt's book presupposes secular tolerance, which makes his stance confusing.

Haidt’s arguments with regard to broad morality come dangerously close to the so-called ‘naturalistic fallacy’: equating what is natural with what is good. He compares moral axes to taste receptors; a morality that appeals to only one axis will be unsuccessful, just like a cuisine that appeals to only one taste receptor will fail to satisfy. But this analogy leads directly to a counter-point: we know that we have evolved to love sugar and salt, but this preference is no longer adaptive, indeed it is unhealthy; and it is equally possible that our moral environment has changed so much that our moral senses are no longer adaptive.

In any case, I think that Haidt’s conclusions about leftist morality are incorrect. Haidt asserts that progressive morality rests primarily on the axis of care and harm, and that loyalty, authority, and purity are actively rejected by liberals (“liberals” in the American sense, as leftist). But this is implausible. Liberals can be extremely preoccupied with loyalty—just ask any Bernie Sanders supporter. The difference is not that liberals don’t care about loyalty, but that they tend to be loyal to different types of groups—parties, demographics, and ideologies rather than countries. And the psychology of purity and desecration is undoubtedly involved in the left’s concern with racism, sexism, homophobia, or privilege (accusing someone of speaking from privilege creates a moral taint as severe as advocating sodomy does in other circles).

I think Haidt’s conclusion is rather an artifact of the types of questions that he asks in his surveys to measure loyalty and purity. Saying the pledge of allegiance and going to church are not the only manifestations of these impulses.

For my part, I think the main difference between left-wing and right-wing morality is the attitude towards authority: leftists are skeptical of authority, while conservatives are skeptical of equality. This is hardly a new conclusion; but it does contradict Haidt’s argument that conservatives think of morality more broadly. And considering that a more secular and tolerant morality has steadily increased in popularity over the last 300 years, it seems prima facie implausible to argue that this way of thinking is intrinsically unappealing to the human brain. If we want to explain why Republicans win so many elections, I think we cannot do it using psychology alone.

The internal tensions of this book can make it frustrating to read, even if it is consistently fascinating. It seems that Haidt had a definite political purpose in writing the book, aiming to make liberals more open to conservative arguments; but in de-emphasizing so completely the value of reason and truth—in moral judgments, in politics, and in religion—he gets twisted into contradictions and risks undermining his entire project.

Be that as it may, I think his research is extremely valuable. Like him, I think it is vital that we understand how morality works socially and psychologically. What is natural is not necessarily what is right; but in order to achieve what is right, it helps to know what we’re working with.
Profile Image for Charlene.
875 reviews503 followers
February 1, 2016
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 atrocities committed by human being in our past. You will find that his explanations of, "They meant well" and "What they were really trying to do was (insert good intention which requires the exploitation or subjugation of other human beings not in the ingroup)," could apply to the absolute worst atrocities of the past. So, if you are interested in finding a middle ground at the expense of the most vulnerable members of our society, this book will make you feel great. If you choose to read it, you will be treated to the tired old argument that suggests that if someone gives to charity (btw Haidt- that would be a charitable act toward only those people they find acceptable) they must be a better human being than someone else who does not donate money or time to a designated "charity" but instead marches in the streets or takes other time consuming action that result in SOCIAL CHANGE for the groups who needed it most.

This book was disappointing on so many levels for me. I love the studies he talked about. I was sure I was going to love the book before I even turned to page one. But each turn of the page demonstrated how easy it is for some to use "science" as a means to help people justify the continuation of horrible behavior that has been going on for far too long. I am shocked at the good ratings this book received.
Profile Image for Marvin chester.
21 reviews29 followers
January 23, 2013
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 convincing case of it. Calling his subject moral psychology he pretends to offer us universal truths when, in fact, he is dealing only with parochial matters; currently fashionable political concerns in the U.S. As if he discovered it, he dwells repeatedly on the well recognized phenomenon that opinions are rarely reached through reason but rather the reverse; once held, reasons are found to justify and defend opinions.

In the matter of moral prejudices emotion governs reason. More accurately, it governs rationalization rather than reason. The author confuses the two. But, since emotions dominate, he concludes - as many before him did - that to change opinion you must make your appeal emotionally; giving credence to the moral standing of opposing opinion. To change opinion you must perceive and appreciate the moral stance behind opposing opinion. Good advice but hardly original. To demonize your opponent cannot bring about peace and compromise. For political liberals that means recognizing that conservatives are not without morality.

To unveil conservative morality he parces morals into five, later morphing into six, categories. This strikes me as a scheme as good as any other. I can imagine parsing it otherwise, though. As to his demonstrating his thesis with graphs I am highly suspicious of his results. No error bars are given. No details on the data. Nor on the randomness of his sampling nor even does he list the questions he used. (He does mention some of them.) Considering that close to a third of his 420 pages is devoted to addenda - mostly chapter notes - a few details of his investigations could have been included. Such a mountain of notes often reveals, not scholarship, but rather a desire to impress untutored readers. So I discount his research. The essential thing that it does is to grant morality to conservative thinking. A good gesture towards peaceful accord.

There. I've spared you the pain of reading 318 confused and poorly written pages with over 100 of addenda. Lucky you.
Profile Image for Eric_W.
1,920 reviews354 followers
September 28, 2012
"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. We are downright lucky that we evolved this complex moral psychology that allowed our species to burst out of the forests and savannas and into the delights, comforts, and extraordinary peacefulness of modern societies in just a few thousand years. . . I want to show you that an obsession with righteousness (leading inevitably to self-righteousness) is the normal human condition. It is a feature of our evolutionary design, not a bug or error that crept into minds that would otherwise be objective and rational."

I hardly feel qualified to make any kind of judgments on this book having little background in philosophy, especially moral philosophy, so I especially appreciate Haidt's lucid summary of the development of moral philosophy through examples and hypotheticals.

I remember several years ago having a visit from the local anti-abortion denizens, nice people, very concerned about youth, etc. They steered the conversation to abortion, their favorite topic. Being of a liberal and hopefully rational and reasoned mindset myself, I described a book I had recently read,The Facts of Life: Science and the Abortion Controversy by Harold J. Morowitz, James Trefil, a small, excellent analysis of the abortion debate that contains a plea for looking at the issue rationally. I described their suggestion that we need to decide what constitutes "human" and then see when the fetus acquires the capability (cerebral cortex) to be human, etc. etc. To which the response was, "well, I don't believe that." All debate and discussions ceases when that statement arrives. Now, I could have said, well, you old biddy, I don't give a fuck what you believe, I'm trying to find some common ground here." But, my mother having raised me as a good little boy who is always polite to old people, I merely sat there rather stunned. That's the problem. How do you create a discussion of issues when either side can just say, well, I don't believe that.

This is not just a conservative or right-wing problem. Try having a rational or reasonable discussion about the merits of circumcision, climate. autism, raw milk or veganism. I guarantee the true believers will immediately assemble with truckloads of vitriol. We all suffer from what Haidt calls "confirmation bias," that is, our gut tells us what to believe first and then we seek out justifications for that belief.

Haidt's book reaffirms what has become fairly obvious: we divide ourselves into tribes and those tribes consist of like-minded people which we use to validate our intuitive predispositions. His stated goal is to attempt to find a way to bridge the divide between two different moral world views., and to find a way for each side to at least understand the other's perspective.

Both left and right are motivated by the moral foundations of care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. But they differ qualitatively: liberals tend to care more about suffering and violence; conservatives care about harm done to others but not as intensely. Conservatives, on the other hand, place more emphasis on fairness, i.e. getting what you deserve. Both sides value liberty but have differing definition as to what constitutes the oppressor. Similarly, with fairness, each side values it but define it differently: liberals view it from the standpoint of equality while conservatives look to proportionality, i.e. fairness is being rewarded for your accomplishments and if you work harder you should be rewarded proportionally.

The biggest divisions relate to sanctity, authority and loyalty. You can easily guess where the preferences of conservatives and liberals lie. Haidt suggests that liberals will fail to gain wider acceptance until they come to terms with those three moral values and find someway to create their own vocabulary validating them. I would add that liberals will have to be more accepting of groups, particularly religious ones (as much as I despise them,) which serve an evolutionary need to discount selfishness and promote group adherence and benefits.

To some extent that's why I am so puzzled by the right's celebration of Ayn Rand who promoted the antithesis of group-think by celebrating independence and selfishness, i.e. think of yourself first and what benefits accrue to yourself through your actions. She hated coercion both governmental and religious, in particular, yet both encourage group adherence and loyalty.

I just wonder how much of what Haidt says come from his intuitive side (the elephant) and how much from the rational or reasoning part (the rider.)

Here's a quote that struck me: "And why do so many Westerners, even secular ones, continue to see choices about food and sex as being heavily loaded with moral significance? Liberals sometimes say that religious conservatives are sexual prudes for whom anything other than missionary-position intercourse within marriage is a sin. But conservatives can just as well make fun of liberal struggles to choose a balanced breakfast—balanced among moral concerns about free-range eggs, fair-trade coffee, naturalness, and a variety of toxins, some of which (such as genetically modified corn and soybeans) pose a greater threat spiritually than biologically."
Profile Image for Bradley.
Author 6 books3,964 followers
June 3, 2021
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 of bias, of selective reasoning, of checking our assumptions, of realizing that not only our memories but our very foundation of knowing a thing is based on a lie.

And it's not like we do it on purpose. We try very hard to do the right thing all the time.

Unfortunately, Haidt makes a very convincing and well-researched argument showing us how we are all led by our noses. I don't particularly like his descriptive analogies, but their meanings are solid.

The breakdown? We are all led by our taste. Our moral foundations.

Right from wikipedia, the first five are:
Care: cherishing and protecting others; opposite of harm
Fairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating
Loyalty or ingroup: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal
Authority or respect: submitting to tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion
Sanctity or purity: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions; opposite of degradation

Haidt adds:

Liberty, as in the opposite of oppression.

This means an awful lot for our current climate. Each side claims supremacy in each of these moral bullet points but often one side will do one better than the other in certain areas.

Liberals lionize Care.

Liberals and Conservatives focus on different elements of Fairness. Social justice over Economics.

Conservatives lionize Loyalty, while often Liberals point to the nasty effects of it. (But it is still absolutely necessary, with precautions.)

Authority and Respect also come up in very different ways between the groups, too. Conservatives assume that a breakdown of Authority leads to anarchy, while Liberals (broadly) see the abuses of

Authority and focus on Respect. This last is usually about equality.

Sanctity is a strange one. It's the one that ties closest to religiosity on both sides. Disgust at the horrible things people do, the degradation of public institutions, the incalculable loss of life and liberty. I see a lot of outrage here and it's almost always a pure gut-punch that rarely gets post hoc reasoning. It's almost always virtue signaling for either side.

And then there is Haidt's own contribution: Liberty. Usually associated with Freedom.

Conservatives tie it to maintaining a moral way of life, maintaining institutions, and their economics.
Liberals ask, "Liberty for whom? Whose Freedom is maintained? Who gets left out?"

The fundamental CONCERN for liberty is the same. Each side wants liberty and freedom. But here's where it gets funky:

Which side believes they are beset with impurities that must be expunged? Which side is BEING expunged?

If you can point to BOTH SIDES, then you might actually be rising above bias confirmation.

Of course, nowadays, party members are actively told never to converse with the opposing party. In fact, the very idea of finding common ground is usually used as a way to ostracize a party member. So what happens? An individual is forced to find their moral grounds ONLY from the party that they must maintain fealty to.

And all the while, real communication breaks down. The greater similarities fall away in gross mistrust and purity signaling. This is true for both sides.

The Us VS Them is now in full swing and it is almost NEVER based on facts or reason. It is tribalism. It is intuition based on previously formed moralisms that are the foundations for every decision we make.

It doesn't make it right, but it does make a lot of sense.

It's a good argument for bringing back a kind of religion. One that is actually based on the welfare of all its members, that breaks down divides between social groups, that actually provides a safe space for all kinds of people to talk.

Odd, right? We can even leave deities out of it. But we must respect it. This is how we have always gotten along. Uber individualism just doesn't work. We all need people to survive.

And come on -- it's TIME TO DE-ESCALATE.
Profile Image for Darwin8u.
1,559 reviews8,686 followers
January 18, 2016
“[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 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. Haidt's bigger purpose is to explain how we are all hardwired to use reason NOT to MAKE our moral decisions/choices, but rather to use reason to BUTTRESS the choices (about God, politics, etc) that we've already made.

While I think his approach is a bit too simplistic, I still use his Moral Foundations Theory to explain why my father and I might have some overlap in values but different political views. I like the whole matrix of:

1. Care/harm: cherishing and protecting others.
2. Fairness/cheating: rendering justice according to shared rules. (Alternate name: Proportionality)
3. Liberty/oppression: the loathing of tyranny.
4. Loyalty/betrayal: standing with your group, family, nation. (Alternate name: Ingroup)
5. Authority/subversion: obeying tradition and legitimate authority. (Alternate name: Respect.)
6. Sanctity/degradation: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions. (Alternate name: Purity.)

Do I agree that liberals rank certain of these values higher than conservatives? Yes.
Do I agree that conservatives might value some of these foundational values more than liberals? Yes.
Do I agree that this list is the end-all, be-all of our Moral compass? No.

I think this is a good beginning. It is another social science draft that gives another way to look at how we think, how our thinking has evolved, and how we interact with each other. Any theory involving the human brain is bound to be a bit of a game in the dark. I think there are answers and many of the answers are compelling, but not all answers will be final or correct.

Look, there were certain parts of this book that just felt right, so I will spend a bit of time building a rational reason why it feels right and then post that reason on Goodreads.
Profile Image for Andy.
1,373 reviews464 followers
February 8, 2022
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" matrix produces better results with specific examples. But when he does try to go over real policy issues toward the end of the book, he concludes with a wishy-washy statement that everyone's right and both sides should listen to each other. OK, fine; but that isn't consistent with one side having a more complete morality than the other. So then we have to twist the words around to say that the conservatives don't have a better or more complete morality, just a different one, but that contradicts the main point of the book.

I was surprised that truth/dishonesty was not somehow an important dimension of morality. Haidt is writing this as a scientist and truth is the principal moral value of science; see Bronowski: Science & Human Values
Science & Human Values by Jacob Bronowski .
But I guess it's handy to avoid discussing the immorality of lying when you're just B-S-ing.

P.S. For what it matters, I'm neither liberal nor conservative according to his little questionnaires.

Addendum 2019:
Better books on this topic:
Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right
The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin
Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right
Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America's Class War
Profile Image for Swrp.
662 reviews
August 31, 2020
"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 about things beyond our capacity."

"The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor."

This book provides a deeper understanding of the human being's thinking. It's focus is to understand each other's personality and our way of thinking, and to coexist peacefully. [NOT fight, segregate and discriminate (and build walls).]

"I am a small rider on a very big elephant."

"We are all stuck here for a while, so let's try to work it out." Love is the answer, above everything else.

Thought provoking, and a fun read!
Profile Image for Maziyar Yf.
490 reviews238 followers
January 28, 2023
جاناتان هایت در کتاب ذهن درستکار نشان می دهد که روانشناسی اخلاق که حوزه تحقیق خود نویسنده هم هست نقش اصلی در درک سیاست و مذهب را دارد . او تلاش کرده پاسخی برای کنار نیامدن با همدیگر پیدا کند . این که چگونه به گروههایی متخاصم تقسیم می شویم که هریک خود را درست می دانیم . کتاب هایت سه بخش اصلی دارد و هر بخش آن چهار فصل دارد . از آن جایی که هر بخش کتاب هم نسبتا طولانی ایست و هم تحقیقات زیادی را شامل شده ، نویسنده در انتهای هر بخش خلاصه ای از آنرا هم بیان کرده که برای افرادی که مانند من خواهان مطالعه ای منظم و طبقه بندی شده هستند بسیار مفید است .
ذهن درستکار به اندازه ای مطلب مفید دارد که به هیچ گونه نمی توان آن را به صورتی خلاصه شرح داد یا برای آن ریویو مختصری ای نوشت . در کتاب او هم فیلسوفانی مانند دیوید هیوم ، امانوئل کانت ، استوارت میل ، جرمی بنتام حضور دارند و هم داروین زیست شناس و نظریه تکامل او . هایت سری به سیاست هم زده و بخش های نسبتا زیادی از کتاب را به سیاست داخلی آمریکا و برتری بیشتر جمهوری خواهان بر دموکرات ها اختصاص داده و البته راه کارهایی هم برای کاهش سلطه آنان ارائه داده .
راهی که جاناتان هایت پیموده با تاکید او بر اول ادراک سپس استدلال شروع می شود ، آنچه او اولین اصل از روانشناسی اخلاق می نامد . او با استفاده از مدل شهودگرایانه اجتماعی ، ذهن خردگرا را توهم نامیده و آنرا به چالش می کشد . آنچه هایت در بخش اول به آن استناد کرده بیشتر دیوید هیوم و نفی خردگرایی او و پذیرش شهود گرایی بوده . مثال او هم همان فیل و فیل سوار معروف است که در کتاب فلسفه خوشبختی هایت بارها از آن استفاده کرده . هدایت فیل دست فیل سوار نیست و او اثر کمی بر فیل دارد . بنابراین اگر عقل و استدلال را مانند ��یل سوار و شهود و احساسات را همانند فیل بدانیم ، عقل یا فیل سوار نیست که قدرت و اختیار تصمیم گیری دارد . بخش اول کتاب او چهار فصل اخلاقیات از کجا می آیند ، سگ شهود گرا و دم عقلانی اش ، فیلها حکمرانی می کنند و به من رای دهید را شامل می شود . نتیجه ای که هایت گرفته همان ارجح یا اول بودن ادراک نسبت به احساسات است . او منکر اهمیت استدلال در تغییر نگاه نشده اما ریشه عمده اتفاقات روان شناسی اخلاق را در شهود دانسته است .
دومین اصل روانشناسی اخلاقی را هایت اخلاقیات چیزی فرای آسیب نرساندن و انصاف است نام گذاشته . او در این بخش ذهن درستکار را به یک زبان با شش گیرنده چشایی تشبیه کرده . مراقبت - آسیب ، آزادی – ظلم ، انصاف – تقلب ، وفاداری – خیانت ، اطاعت – مخالفت ، تقدس – تنزل بنیان های اخلاقی یا همان گیرنده های چشایی هستند . او در این بخش به تناوب از نظریات امیل دورکهایم استفاده کرده و آرای او را به واسطه نمایش علت ارزش مبانی متحد کننده وفاداری ، اطاعت و تقدس مهم دانسته . مهمترین نتیجه این بخش را می توان تردید نسبت به وحدت گراهای اخلاق دانست . هایت خواننده را به تردید درباوری که اخلاق را تنها یک مجموعه یکسان برای تمامی مردم دنیا می پندارند فرا خوانده . هایت با استفاده از همین شش بنیان به دموکرات ها هشدار می دهد که تا زمانی که تنها سه حس چشایی مردم ( مراقبت – آسیب ، آزادی – ظلم و انصاف – تقلب ) را تحریک کنند شانس زیادی برای رقابت و پیروزی در برابر جمهوری خواهان که با استفاده از هر شش حس با ملت صحبت می کنند ندارند . فراتر از اخلاقیات ، جوانه های چشایی یک ذهن درستکار ، مبانی اخلاق سیاست ، مزیت محافظه کار ، چهار فصل بخش دوم کتاب ذهن درستکار هستند
اکنون هایت آماده است که پس از بخش اول یعنی ادراک و استدلال و بخش دوم اخلاقیات فرای آسیب رساندن و انصاف است بخش پایانی کتاب را شروع کند . او در این بخش بررسی می کند که گوناگونی اخلاقی چگونه مردم را از یک دیگر جدا کرده و آنان را به مخالفان سرسخت هم تبدیل می کند . او این بخش را اخلاقیات پیوند می دهد و کور می کند نام گذاشته . نویسنده انسان را موجودی دو طبقه ، 90% شامپانزه و 10% زنبورعسل می داند . او مذهب را هم عاملی مهم و حیاتی در تاریخچه تکاملی انسان و خلق جوامع اخلاقی بزرگتر می داند . در این بخش کتاب چارلز داروین و امیل دورکهایم نقش اساسی دارند . مهمترین نتیجه هایت از این بخش را می توان مفهوم سوئیچ کندو دانست . در حالی که انسان را اساسا موجوداتی خودخواه می دانند اما مکانیزمی وجود دارد که با آن می شود منفعت طلبی را رها کرد و تبدیل به عضوی از یک جامعه بزرگتر شد . این گونه می توان در گروه ها زندگی کرد و متحد شد که این همان مفهوم انسان دو طبقه دورکهایم است : ما اکثر مقاطع زندگی خود را در یک دنیای معمولی زندگی می کنیم اما بیشترین لذت خود را در لحظات محدودی خواهیم داشت که در آن بخشی از یک نهاد و بدنه کلی شده ایم .
هایت تلاش کرده تا علت تفاوت های مذهبی و سیاسی مردم را شرح دهد . از نگاه او افراد تنها به دو گروه خیر و شر تقسیم نمی شوند . انسان ها موجوداتی عمیقا شهود گرا هستند و هدایت آنها به دست احساساتشان است . از جهت دیگر هنگامی که در دل گروهی دیگر قرار می گیرند تلاش می کنند تا گروه خود را به پیش ببرند . برای انسان ارتباط برقرار کردن با فردی که در ماتریس اخلاقی متفاوتی زندگی می کند بسیار دشوار است .
در پایان کتاب ، هایت خواننده را به پرهیز از بیان دلیل و استدلال منطقی در گفتگو دعوت کرده . از نگاه او با صحبت کردن از هر شش بنیان می توان حس چشایی ذهن او را تحریک کرد و سپس چند نقطه مشترک پیدا کرد . اعتماد ساخت و با ستایش از یکی از خصوصیات طرف اعتماد را بالاتر برد . این گونه است که می توان با هم کنار آمد .
Profile Image for Brad Foley.
27 reviews26 followers
June 19, 2012
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 how this paradoxical state of affairs could be - and I think he delivers, drawing on his own extensive research, and the research of others. And at this point I think I should say, while my instincts are Far Left, I think I value evidence more than ideology; and thus this book, with it's page-after-page of experiments and results was overwhelmingly convincing to me. This isn't to say that the terrain Haidt describes won't change (and possibly change a lot over the next 20 or 30 years) but it feels like moral psychology is well on its way to being biologised (a good thing to my mind) and is approaching fully scientific status.

And this is where the conundrum hits. Haidt describes the innate variation in the moral "tastes" of individuals in a population. These dimensions are emphatically not ad hoc entities. Much of the book (past the first fluffy chapter) is devoted to describing how Haidt and others came to construct and validate these moral "tastes", through extensive ongoing questionnaires and experiments. I won't spoil it, but the experimental sections were a whole lot of fun to read. Some (lefties) base moral judgments on only 2 dimensions - liberty and care. Others (most conservatives) use an additional 3 or even 4 dimensions of morality - in-group loyalty, authority, sanctity, and fairness. Others (say Libertarians) emphasize a different subset of these values (fairness and liberty).

When we argue morally, many times we argue past each other, because we assume things about what is right or wrong, and take for granted some kind of shared logic. But when someone makes an argument to me that appeals to (for instance) the sacred status of the priesthood, or the divine right of kings, my response is normally incredulity. Because to my mind these things have no moral status (or even a negative moral status).

Where I think the book becomes challenging, then for me personally, is that if I believe all the former (and I do) it becomes imperative to actually exercise my understanding of others' arguments. Partly, this is so that I can formulate better counterarguments. Partly, this is because (as Haidt suggests) I might find that other people see things that I miss. For instance, many rituals that I find, well stupid, and maybe harmful, serve purposes of group cohesion that I simply don't understand - to my detriment. Other rules concerning purity and sanctity likewise serve social functions that we tinker unawares with to our detriment.

A good example here is probably the idea of gay marriage. I think I have come to see that the conservative horror at the idea has more grounds than I would have believed. Gay marriage isn't simply extending a right, in fairness, to a group that deserves it (though it's that, too). It really does change the whole meaning of marriage quite a lot. For most people marriage is a sacred institution. It might be that we need to argue that accepting gay marriage actually changes marriage, *as a sacred institution*, for the better. (My use of "sacred" here is theologically content free).

This is all very interesting, but tricky. And frankly I think Haidt gives too much away sometimes. I especially took exception to his chapter on Libertarians and health care. But, I think (I hope) I do so on narrow points of economic feasibility (health care is arguably different from other commodities.) But this is the point. Hopefully if we learn to really see things from other points of view, we can be respectful, and move the dialogue to a point where we're arguing based on evidence and not mutually incompatible (and blind) biological instinct.
Profile Image for Thomas.
1,457 reviews8,560 followers
January 29, 2013
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 there are six moral foundations (Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Liberty/Oppression, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sanctity/Degradation), and the third hones in on the belief that morality binds and blinds. By the end each part made sense in relation to one another and came together to pack a strong moral philosophy punch. Though the book had some dense sections - like the history and biology of moral philosophy - Haidt included interesting scenarios, research, and anecdotes to alleviate the doldrums.

My favorite aspect of the book was how Haidt looked at morality in many different ways; by the end, he writes that one thing he hopes readers will take away from his book is that there is not just one form of morality that applies to everyone. While I learned about some of the subject matter in my AP Psychology class last year, I had never heard of the six moral foundations before. The 100 pages of notes at the back of the book reveals how much work he put into his research.

But I didn't particularly agree with or admire how he framed conservatism as the better ideology in terms of incorporating all six moral foundations. Liberals also understand that if "you destroy all groups and dissolve all internal structure, you destroy your moral capital." Though he does a good job of stating that we need the opinions of both sides to form a more cohesive nation, he fails to elaborate on whether it's really possible to operate on a perfectly equal blend of every moral foundation. If we force people to obey authority and to submit to whatever is deemed sacred in that particular society, are we not therefore harming certain individuals and cheating others out of their rights? He praises religion and refutes New Atheism, but doesn't present the chaos religion can cause. What if we have a religion that operates to some extent on all six moral foundations, but endorses the extermination of Jews and prejudice against gays? Then what?

Overall, I recommend The Righteous Mind for anyone searching for a thought-provoking book regarding psychology, politics, philosophy, and religion. Jonathan Haidt did a great job of remaining almost absolutely neutral, though with a book like this I can't blame him for leaning toward one side instead of the other.

*review cross-posted on my blog, the quiet voice.
Profile Image for David.
865 reviews1,299 followers
June 30, 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 divided like a rider on an elephant, and the rider's job is to serve the elephant" -- to be severely deficient. And the less said about the unfortunate phrase "taste buds of the righteous mind" the better. Not to mention crimes against the language like "groupishness", "Durkheimogens", or the "hive switch".

However, though I did find these stylistic tics annoying, in the end they are minor flaws in a book which was fascinating, highly readable, and thought-provoking. I found it considerably more interesting than I did "The Happiness Hypothesis". The first third of the book, about the origins and dimensions of moral intuition, is very much the author's home turf, and he writes about it lucidly and authoritatively. The second section, which attempts to explain the development of human moral sense in evolutionary terms, was not fully convincing (to me). But it was thought-provoking and well-written -- the arguments are laid out clearly, so the reader can judge them on their merits. On the topic of religion, Haidt's arguments are considerably more interesting, and expressed with far greater civility, than the shrill invective doled out by the anti-God group of Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris.

The last couple of chapters in the book, in which the author examines the polarization and loss of civility that has crept in to American political life in the last decades, are fascinating. In particular, his explanation for the difference in moral priorities between liberals and conservatives rings true. Both sides battle it out, on a variety of social and political issues, each convinced they occupy the moral high ground, increasingly dismissive of their opponents. Whether or not you believe Haidt's claim that this very human trait of moral superiority is a logical result of evolutionary pressure, its potential to be destructive in the political sphere is obvious.

The author (wisely) offers no magic solution to the ever-more bitter polarization of the American electorate, concluding instead with what is essentially a call to the better angels of our nature. The question posed by Rodney King, back in 1992, has never been more relevant - "Can we all get along?"

I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Sylvie.
575 reviews22 followers
April 16, 2017
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 such an extraordinary amount of white male privilege that he had me suspicious about his conclusions the rest of the time. After spending some time in a male-dominated, strictly hierarchical world, Haidt began to see “the beauty in a moral code that emphasizes duty, respect for one’s elders, service to the group, and negation of the self’s desires.” Hmm, I wonder if he would have felt that way had he been a woman and unable to do his research.

At first, I thought that that initial tone was why something seemed to nag at me throughout. I mean, sure, it was weird to present a theory about the six innate foundations of morality, but say that liberals only used three and conservatives six, but he’s a scientist, right? And one that was loudly trumpeting his liberal viewpoint. Yet, he never seems to fully explore how people might be interpreting the questions in his surveys or consider other ways for interpreting the three foundations that liberals are supposedly “deficient” in (loyalty, authority, sanctity). I understand there may be more to morality than harm and fairness, but he gives these additional factors equal weight and I didn’t really see the rationale why.

So I guess I wasn’t really surprised when he reveals at the end of the book that at some point he became a conservative. Wow, that could have been a great illustration of his point about political divisions and understanding the other side had it not been buried in the concluding section. Instead, it just came off as intellectually dishonest and had me doubting all his research.

Which is a shame because there are definitely parts of the framework that he presents that got me thinking and that I will use going forward. But I had hoped this would be more of a road map for understanding and compromising with those of opposing viewpoints and it wasn’t. You’re left sort of thinking there isn’t any hope to meet in the middle or be able to reason with people you consider to be wrong.
Profile Image for Amir Tesla.
161 reviews669 followers
June 6, 2017
عاااااالي ضرب در بي نهايت.
فوق العاده بود اين كتاب، فوق العاده. خيلي وقت بود يه كتاب پنج ستاره مصرف نكرده بوديم.
ريويو فارسي در حال ساخت...
Profile Image for David Rubenstein.
804 reviews2,536 followers
June 18, 2012
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 interested in the first three of these foundations, and don't bother with the latter three. Conservatives (Republicans) care about all six of these foundations, almost equally. As a result, conservatives have a more sure footing in morality, and understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives. Again, neither liberals nor conservatives are "better"--but care about different things because their moral thinking is different.

A few days ago I finished the book How We Decide, which describes how the emotional/intuitive mind plays the lion's share in making decisions, while the rational mind forms reasons for our decisions. Jonathan Haidt agrees with this idea, and develops a metaphor throughout his book; an elephant and a driver, in which the elephant plays the role of intuition, and the driver, symbolizing reason, tries to keep the elephant in line.

I thought that the most interesting part of the book is Haidt's explanation for why people practice religion. Religion is such a universal phenomenon, that it practically begs for an explanation using adaptation through natural selection. Religion evolved--both as a biological adaptation and as a cultural meme--in order to cement the sense of belonging and trust among groups. People within these groups are more likely to care about each other, to help each other to survive, and to combat other, alien groups.

Jonathan Haidt interleaves the story of his political tendencies; he started out as a pure liberal, but experiences in his life--and thinking about politics and psychology--led him toward a conservative vein. But Haidt does not say that he favors liberal or conservative thinking. What he does favor, is trying to understand other people's ways of thinking. The most important part of the book lies in the idea that one cannot hope to persuade someone to change his mind, without first understanding his way of thinking. Dale Carnegie used a quote from Henry Ford, "If there is any one secret of success it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from their angle as well as your own." To illustrate the point, the last page of the book has a wonderful cartoon:
Profile Image for Catherine.
314 reviews77 followers
July 14, 2018
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 :)
Profile Image for Tim.
133 reviews56 followers
May 17, 2023
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 objectively. I think this is obviously true and underappreciated.

Haidt points out that David Hume basically grasped this 250 years ago: “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions”. (Part of the fun of the book is the mini tour through the history of moral philosophy, discussing and critiquing key figures like Hume, Jeremy Bentham, Immanuel Kant, and John Stuart Mill.)

This is why it is so difficult to persuade people about political beliefs. Our political beliefs don’t come from logical reasoning. This is exacerbated by the tribal nature of politics and our instinct to signal to our in-groups how loyal we are, which can make it very costly for people to revise their political opinions.

That isn’t to say we shouldn’t keep trying to use reason to defend our beliefs and persuade others, but we should have some humility that our beliefs are not as science/logic/reason based as we like to think they are, and have some grace that others are just like us – trying to figure out the world through a combination of their gut instincts and imperfect reasoning skills.

”There is More to Morality Than Harm and Fairness”

This is the key takeaway for Part 2. Modern people of the left (I'll call them "liberals" subsequently even though that term can be ambiguous) in developed countries are primarily driven by 2 moral foundations: care/harm (feeling the pain of others), and fairness/cheating (desire for justice). But conservatives rely on a wider set of foundations, including: loyalty/betrayal (valuing patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group), authority/subversion (valuing deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions), and sanctity/degradation (being driven by feelings of disgust or contamination).

Haidt goes on to offer an olive branch to conservatives. He is a liberal, but he admits that these additional foundations are baked into us for good reasons and are still relevant today. He makes a convincing case.

Take loyalty/betrayal, for instance. I’m personally closer to the liberal view, with a libertarian streak thrown in. So I’ve never really thought of, for instance, patriotic love for your country as a very positive thing. Why should we think of ourselves as more important or better than people from other countries? And can't patriotism be abused to by governments to prevent you from questioning them?

But Haidt made a few points that are worth considering. First, we are wired to having feelings of group loyalty because groups that had tighter group bonds evolutionarily outperformed other groups. Second, while loyalty to your group does mean that you feel less positive toward outsiders, typically the benefits to the in-group are greater than the negatives to the out-group. Strong group bonds are more about positive associations to the in-group than negative associations towards the out-group. If you think of our society as a bunch of different groups, if each group builds strong bonds, then overall everyone can benefit. And thirdly, we shouldn’t think of patriotism as the only group bond that exists. There can be a complex web where each individual has many different groups they feel loyalty towards: family groups, work groups, friend networks, social clubs, sports team followers, neighborhoods. Patriotism is just one more layer on this complex web. If you think of patriotism as just one more group bond among many, where some of your other group bonds might include foreigners, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to lead to hate and xenophobia towards foreigners. I think conservatives understand this deeply and intuitively, but people like me with more cosmopolitan/universal moral frameworks have a harder time understanding it.

A couple quibbles

Haidt described his findings in a chronological pattern, explaining the work he did, then how later events caused him to revise his theories, and what the revisions were. I would have preferred he just explained what his current-best-opinion of his findings are, instead of taking us through the work. For example, first he says there are five moral dimensions, then later he says, no actually there are six, and I’m changing the definition of the fairness/cheating foundation. The book could have been more concise and clear if he just had one set of foundations he explained and defended.

Also, it annoyed me that some moral foundations did not have a universal meaning. For instance, he explained that fairness/cheating means something different to conservatives, who value proportionate rewards and punishments, than to liberals, who value equality. I was picturing that each moral foundation should be like an indivisible element that means the same thing to everyone. Then liberals, libertarians, and conservatives are like molecules, where you can explain them by just combining the elements differently. That would have been cleaner. But Haidt’s framework doesn’t quite work that way, and I’m not sure why it can’t.


I recommend you read this book if you are interested in politics. Many people on the left are annoyed by this book, but I don’t think it is at all insulting to them just because it is nice to conservatives at times. It might help you understand your political opponents a little better.
Profile Image for Brian Clegg.
Author 202 books2,565 followers
March 26, 2012
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 different beast. Not only is it a real page turner but it is full of 'Oh! Is that why?!' moments when the reader gets an explanation for some strange behaviour of human beings that they have never fully understood.

I ought to say that this isn't like a book about general relativity, say, where even though there are alternative theories, the core has been vastly tried and tested over the years. What is presented here is the work of Haidt and his team and there may well be psychologists who disagree with his model in its entirety. But the great thing is that, if there are, his model explains why they do.

I don't want to over-inflate the importance of this, but I felt a bit like I did as a teenager when reading Isaac Asimov's Foundation trilogy. The idea that the Foundation's mathematics could predict the way human society behaved into the future was entrancing. But, in the end, it was fiction. Reading Haidt's ideas I got a similar jolt, but based on sensible relatively simple observations. It's almost too right to be wrong.

The Righteous Mind suggest that we make moral decisions intuitively and then justify them using rational argument. It presents six dimensions (care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion and sanctity/degradation) as the framework in which we make these moral decisions. And shows how the two main political wings differ in that the left almost entirely bases its thinking on the first two dimensions (with a touch of the third), while the right tends to use all six much more evenly. This apparently simple observation results in some truly impressive insights.

Every politician should be forced to read this book before taking office. And everyone who believes that people from the opposite end of the political spectrum is evil, wrong and stupid should also read it. As should every wild-eyed scientific atheist who proclaims that religion is entirely bad and without redeeming features. And every fundamentalist religious supporter who believes liberals and atheists should be burned.

Perhaps the most fascinating part of the book is the way that Haidt, a left wing intellectual atheist, comes to realize that his own position and views are blinkered, just as much as any right wing religious bigot. Truly brilliant.

Review first published on www.popularscience.co.uk and reproduced with permission.
Profile Image for Jan Rice.
522 reviews444 followers
December 30, 2012
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 field of cognitive science, that is, without raising the reader's defenses. Since I had already read Kahneman when I read Haidt for the first time, I could see similarities and keep my defenses low.

It's worth doing so because this is a good book. In fact, in much the same way that there is evolution even though some people don't believe in it, this book points to some likely facts about the way the world is (i.e., the world of people and opinions and social systems) that will be the case even if you or others "disagree."

This new book by Haidt is offering support for the view that human beings' rationality is not the ultimate pinnacle of development. He is not a rationalist. He is an evolutionary psychologist, and, as such, he thinks rationality is a relatively late development. Moreover, rationality isn't the single most reliable way we can decide what's right and wrong, at least not without a lot of hard work. In fact given its head (er--no pun intended) rationality will simply come up with justification for what the individual already wants, or wants to believe. That is an important point in a book on moral psychology.

Most of the time people who think and who claim to be searching for truth are only searching for justification for what they already believe. People will only search for truth under three circumstances: (1) If, before deciding on their opinions they learn they will be accountable to an audience. (2) They don't know the audience's view(s). (3) They believe the audience is well-informed and interested in accuracy. Isn't that amazing!

The upshot of Haidt's not being a rationalist is that he concludes morality originates from human nature--evolved from it, in fact. In his view, then, one cannot reason oneself into morality. Haidt gives some attention to philosophy, showing that Hume's views, for example, are those that current findings support, as opposed to Kant's rationalist views.

Haidt thinks liberals (using that term the way Americans do) limit their views of morality only to issues of compassion and fairness, while the views of cultural conservatives, on the other hand, also include such values as respect for authority, group loyalty, and sanctity versus degradation. It's not that liberals don't have those other values, they just don't articulate them, and don't usually give them official value. He shows by bringing anthropology into the discussion that those other values are real. Therefore he thinks conservatives are better able to understand liberals than vice versa.

A sizable reason for this book is the hope that liberals will stop looking at conservative values--and at conservatives--as deranged and sick. He has had the experience of broadening his world view and hopes others can, too. He'd like us to be able to look at ourselves. I'm afraid, though, that conservatives look at liberals as sick, too, judging from my opportunities to interact with them via social media.

His book is researched-based. He doesn't just give us his views; he supports them with findings.

I particularly liked learning about the speed with which evolution can occur. In breeding fox cubs, it took only nine generations for physical signs of domestication to appear--including changes in fur color! He also gave a picture of how combination genetic/cultural evolution happens with humans. We do something to change our environment, for example, raising dairy herds in cold sections of Europe, followed by the adaptive breeding of lactose tolerance in the community. He doesn't believe human evolution came to a screeching halt 50,000 years ago but that it is still happening.

He explains how we interact within groups, how we evolve as individuals within groups, and gives the theory for between-group evolution. In essence when becoming civilized we domesticate ourselves, and he has some interesting things to say about that.

As I sit here writing this review and also thinking about these school shootings and other gun massacres we have been troubled with, it occurs to me that it is a failure in that process of civilization. The result is "lone wolves."
Profile Image for Trish.
1,352 reviews2,412 followers
August 5, 2017
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 the origins of those beliefs. I am thrilled this information is ready for us to use, allowing us to leapfrog decades of daily lived experience.

Best of all, Haidt writes in a clear but casual and unstudied way so that the information is easier to absorb. He does not compress all the studies he is telling us about to the least number of syllables or conclusions, but writes as though he were speaking in a spirit of open enquiry. This is particularly important because he is examining the roots of our belief systems, those things that may lead us to diametrically opposed political points of view. At the very end he answers a question I’ve had for quite some time—about the differences and similarities between the liberal and libertarian points of view—that I have never been able to grasp.

This book came out in 2012, so anyone who hasn’t had a chance to look at it is placing themselves at a disadvantage in today’s world of political discourse. Haidt freely admits that he is a liberal, and that before he published this book he wanted to put his learning as a social psychologist to use giving liberals insights into their political opponents, so that they might structure liberal arguments to appeal more broadly. He discovered something he didn't expect. He discovered that liberals can be handicapped in their presentation politically because they do not place much emphasis in their thinking on certain foundations of moral thought more commonly used by conservatives.

Perhaps more importantly from my point of view, is that in his explanations Haidt shows us the way liberals can move closer to conservative viewpoints without sacrificing the essential contribution progressive thinking makes to a well-balanced society. I firmly believe that neither side on their own has all the correct answers and we need some diversity of thought to innovate at the rate we need to succeed in the future. But we will also need a level of social cohesion or hive mentality which is not available to us at the moment with all the political disagreement.

In his concluding chapter, Haidt reminds us that his work shows us that “there is more to morality than harm and fairness….the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors.” Because not all of us use them all the time doesn’t mean they are not there. Those receptors can be used to construct a moral matrix which will differ with political viewpoint. Conservatives use more moral foundations than do liberals (or libertarians), including Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, and Sanctity/degradation. Both sides of the political spectrum use Care/harm, Liberty/oppression, Fairness/cheating, but to different degrees.

That is to say, liberals define their morality mostly using Care/harm and Liberty/oppression rather than the other dimensions of morality, while conservatives use all six dimensions. Libertarians mostly use Liberty/oppression and Fairness/cheating and only a little of the other four dimensions. Therefore, liberals and libertarians, as you may have noticed, have many overlaps in political goals and tactics that conservatives do not share.

Haidt praises early conservative thinkers (Edmund Burke, Friedrich Hayek, and Thomas Sowell among them) for expressing the importance of social capital as opposed to financial capital, physical capital, or human capital. “Social capital refers to a kind of capital that economists had largely overlooked: The social ties among individuals and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from those ties. When everything else is equal, a firm with more social capital will outcompete its less cohesive and less internally trusting competitors…”

This just sounds right, and has been backed up by a number of observations and studies by folks looking at the issue, not from the morality standpoint, but from the competitiveness standpoint. It meshes with something that has been niggling in my mind, around notions of diversity, inclusion and exclusion, nationhood, immigration, bilingual schools.

Diversity is fine, good, and necessary for a healthy and inventive society but in the end we have to come together around some basic principles and if we don’t, we have very little indeed upon which to build a nation. Language helps. Social agreement around common tasks is also necessary. I make a distinction between morality as taught in churches by organized religions and moral man, but there is some overlap. Personally I question whether indoctrination by religious groups can get us to social cohesion, but it did work for hundreds of years. The leadership of some churches has been shown to be corrupt; I think religion can work to create social capital, but on a case-by-case basis.

Haidt says:
“Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible.”
Apparently conservatives are more clued into this than are liberals, so liberals among us best take some of Haidt’s lessons to heart. We can’t all do whatever we want whenever we want wherever we want without sharing some responsibility for/to our social group. The good news is that this connectedness is one of the richest experiences we will probably have in our lifetimes.

Get this book. It is packed with insights. So many I could write for weeks and not touch all it raises. But it is extraordinarily helpful in sorting through things one may have observed in one’s lifetime, but were unable to substantiate, or formulate into conclusions. Haidt and his group have created the studies, looked at the data, and come to surprising and useful conclusions about our political differences and moral man.
Profile Image for Matthew Ciarvella.
325 reviews20 followers
September 1, 2016
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/Profanity) are so narrowly constructed that they're essentially meaningless.

His basic argument is that his research shows that liberals only use 3 of the 6 foundations (Care/Harm, Liberty/Oppression, and Fairness/Cheating) while conservatives employ all six, thus giving them an "advantage" in understanding their opponents (as explained in the chapter "The Conservative Advantage.")

Haidt explains that it was his experience in India that caused him to open up to non-Western ideas of morality, which made him appreciate Sanctity/Profanity much more than he did as a liberal atheist.

His flawed assumption, however, is that Sanctity can only be expressed by conservative sexual norms and adherence to organized religious tradition. Despite warning us over and over about the dangerous of assuming one's own morality is universal, he seems unwilling to construct Sanctity as anything other than a conservative norm.

He mentions, incredibly briefly, that liberals have some notion of Sanctity as it relates to nature and the environment, but it's really the conservatives who believe that the body is sacred (through not having premarital and/or homosexual intercourse). His claim is that the liberal concern for the equality of gay people stems from the Care/Harm and Liberty/Oppression foundations and aren't constructed from notions of Sanctity. I disagree. I think that my conceptions of the Sanctity of love and the Sanctity of nature are every bit as meaningful as one's experiences attending church.

Haidt's data may not support my version of Sanctity. If the questions being asked are about church and the value of conservative sexual norms, I'm Profane. But ask me about the Sanctity of lying on my back and looking at the sunlight filtering through the branches of the trees as the sun crests over the lip of a canyon and I'll tell you that I feel Sanctity as strongly as any conservative.

I picked this title up because I saw it on a reading list of "five books that will change your mind." I really wanted it to do that. I think Haidt made a strong counter-argument against the New Atheists' argument that religion is a mental parasite. But when it comes to explaining political philosophies, Haidt doesn't just fall short. He misses the target entirely.

Profile Image for John Brown.
Author 19 books113 followers
December 15, 2012
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 puzzlement wasn't rhetorical. I was seriously baffled.

"Are you kidding me?" she replied. "Mitt Romney? How could anyone vote for Mitt Romney? Talk about baffled." Then she went on a rant listing all of Romney's supposed deeds and positions of sooper evil and stupidity. Then she questioned how anyone could support that Hitler in his Mormon clothes.

Okay, she didn't say "Hitler," but she did claim he was "evil" and "despicable." And when I think of evil, my first thought is always of folks like Mitt Romney.

Vicente Carrillo Fuentes, leader of the Juarez drug cartel, which is responsible for hundreds of gruesome murders each year and . . . Mitt Romney. Oh, yeah. They're like brothers. In fact, wasn’t Romney’s dad born in Mexico? And, hey, one of Romney’s sons even knows Spanish. That boy wasn’t on a church mission there. No, he was making connections with the jefe!

Sonia Montoya-Cadena, the one who ran a human trafficking ring in Denver exploiting young girls for sex and . . . Mitt Romney. Yeah, Romney’s just like that. If he could run slave brothels, he’d do it in a minute to make a buck. In fact, doesn't Bain Capital own a couple of slave brothels in Iceland?

I wanted to unload. I was prepared to destroy her with fiery analysis of the first order.

Thundering analysis.

Mountain crushing logic.

She was so freaking blind.


She never actually considered what I had to say in any of my previous emails. It never mattered how powerfully vast my brilliant logic was. She'd demonstrated wax ear time and again. All of my intellectual might couldn't even make a dent in her liberal force field. I brought blood and thunder and it always seemed to bounce off her like bullets made of styrofoam.

Nevertheless! Clinton? Obama? Save the chickens?

I made a comment that sent Smart Sister into DEFCON 5. Foolish me. Eventually, her liberal ire cooled and she decided to order comrade Putin to stand down and not push the big red button.

Meanwhile, I started to think.

I noted that if things didn't change, the Republicans wouldn't be winning the presidency any time soon. If they couldn't beat Obama when the economy was in the tank, then there really was no hope. Which meant we are going to end up like Greece, with continuing inflation (which is not only an annual pay cut on the disgustingly rich, filthy rich, and annoyingly rich, but also on the middle class, poor, destitute, and various and sundry hobos), huge debt, stupid taxes, ridiculous health care, Soviet-style redistribution, blah, blah, blah.

I asked myself, like all Republicans did, what could we conservatives do differently? Follow Obama's example and improve our operations to get the vote out? Build up a conservative La Raza? Do the right thing with the children of illegals? Get someone willing to land more blows on the opposition (Romney could have decimated Obama in debates two and three, but he didn't; he totally failed to define his opponent).

Maybe it was in the messaging. Maybe what we needed to do was develop something that actually changed minds.

At this point a faint ding sounded in the distance in my mind. A small light bulb suddenly flipped on and illuminated a dark cubby of my mind.

Hadn't I just read about studies showing how a soap opera in Mexico, a radio play in Tanzania, and sitcoms in America actually changed viewer attitudes and behaviors about literacy, HIV, and abortion? Didn't I already know about the power of concrete and vivid storytelling? Not sermon-telling, but storytelling.

Why, yes. Yes, I did.

Had I not witnessed the use of storytelling on U.S. television for, what, fifteen years by those wanting to build sympathy for homosexuals? (A good thing, even if I disagree with some of the gay agenda.) And the cheapening of sex by others? (A bad thing.) And the clearly conscious promotion of many other attitudes and beliefs via various media programs?

I determined there was something to this.

If people were going to vote for fiscal responsibility in Washington, something like this was going to have to be done. It wasn't going to happen in flame wars.

About this same time I was browsing through the recent Radio West programs. I saw one called "The Righteous Mind." It was an interview of Jonathon Haidt about his new book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.

Hey, wasn't that addressing my question?

The program blurb states: "Monday, our guest is the social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, whose latest book sets out to explain the root causes of the divisions in our society. At the heart of his argument is the idea that the human mind is designed to "do" morality. But when we separate into tribes – say political affiliations or religious denominations – we focus on different moral foundations. Haidt joins us to explain why he says we need the insights of liberals and conservatives to flourish as a nation."

I listened. And loved the program.

Haidt shared a number of deliciously insightful things about how our mind works and how we choose our affiliations. He shared so many insights that I immediately requested his book at my library. The library ordered a copy for their collection. I, of course, was first in line to read it. I just finished the book.

It's one of the best books I've read all year.

Haidt explains why my sister and I were both baffled by people who voted for the opposition candidate. He explains how human morality works. How our reason does not lead us to make the judgments we do, but instead more often acts like a lawyer to justify our positions to others.

As soon as he explained that I saw how I had done that time and time again. For example, in this election cycle I blamed Obama for the economy. In the Bill Clinton re-election I vigorously argued that the President doesn't have any effect on the economy and is lying if he takes credit for it. I'm not saying that Obama didn't do things that might have hampered the recovery, but how did I know his actions exacerbated our problems? What evidence did I really have?

Haidt explains that there are six basic moral bases then points out which ones drive liberals, conservatives, and libertarians, and how we can use that knowledge to disagree more constructively.

He provides strong insights into how our reason and intuitions and judgments work, the evolutionary function of our morality, and how our wiring for group affiliation affects it. I didn't agree with some of his conclusions. He sometimes takes his points too far. For example, he seems to suggest that people in cities are pre-disposed to be liberal. And that's why they live there. Um, no. That's not why they live there. They live in cities because that's where the jobs are. The agricultural revolution made sure of that, remember? In his effort to explain the smaller biological basis of our beliefs, he also downplays the larger effect our families and groups have. But despite these excesses, he shares so many fresh and exciting ideas that they don't matter. And he shares them all in such a fun and clear way that I couldn't help but stay up late a number of nights reading this book.

Do you know how much I wanted to trash Obama to my sister? That Soviet-style central planner. That drunken sailor spender. That choom wagon pot head.

And yet, you and I also know that will never work. I now know better why. Because of Haidt, I think I see a better way. I certainly see how I have done exactly what drives me mad about those who have drunk the opposition candidate's Kool-aide. I see that I have my own conservative force field that deflects liberal bullets (and perhaps even blinds me to the truth sometimes). And why I need to watch my reason, that cunning lawyer part of my brain.

Haidt, a liberal, has given me, a conservative, a great gift. I intend to use it. If you are interested in the two taboo topics of politics or religion, if you enjoyed Malcolm Gladwell's book Blink or the Heath brother's Made to Stick, if you want to find a better way to influence than flame wars (as fun as they can sometimes be), then I think you will enjoy the wonders Haidt shares in his fine book.

Don't just take my word for it. Listen to the Radio West program http://radiowest.kuer.org/post/righte... for a taste of what awaits you.
Profile Image for Murtaza .
664 reviews3,401 followers
October 12, 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, his prescriptions still bear worth reflecting. I'll lay out the most important points below.

Pretty much everyone's beliefs are far more emotional and less rationally-grounded than they would like to believe. The resonant metaphor that Haidt uses to describe our thinking is that of a rider sitting atop an elephant. The relatively weak rider is our rational cognition, while the powerful elephant represents the force of emotional intuition. Overwhelmingly, people are guided by their elephants and not their riders. Our lofty rationality in reality tends to act merely as a post-hoc justifier for the elephant's emotional acts. Rational cognition is something like a press secretary for our emotional selves, which are the ones really in control. The more rational someone is usually means that they're just better at generating excuses for their emotion. If you are in a debate and genuinely want to convince someone of something, it's better to speak to their elephants than to their riders: address people according to emotional intuitions if you want to persuade them. This is why novels and TV shows that convey the perspectives of different groups in society are often more effective in changing public opinion than laying out rationalistic and technical arguments. It is also why if you don't make some kind of a positive emotional connection with someone in a conversation (let's say: building trust or admiration), it really doesn't matter what persuasive facts you give them thereafter. The overwhelming majority of political discussion is about talking to elephants, not riders.

Haidt is a liberal who later in life came to see that conservatives also can be motivated by legitimate beliefs. In the course of researching this book, he developed a framework of moral values that he says apply to all human beings at different levels: Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Loyalty, Authority/Subversion and Sanctity. In the United States, conservatives, Haidt argues, have an electoral advantage because their messaging addresses itself to all five of the "moral taste receptors", whereas liberals tend to focus almost exclusively on Care/Harm and Fairness/Cheating. All five of these values developed in human beings for various evolutionary reasons. But according to the stories that liberals and conservatives tell themselves about the world, the relative importance of the last three is in debate. As Haidt notes, across most of the world the full five spectrum of beliefs are still considered important and U.S. progressives are in fact significant outliers in their focus on only the first initial ones. This something that puts them at a disadvantage in elections, since conservative messaging goes full spectrum, even if, as most people can see, the modern Republican Party as an institution is completely corrupt.

Human beings care deeply about their reputations and putting people's reputations constantly at stake (stressful as that sounds) is probably a way of inculcating better behavior across the board. People are also motivated by different yet still legitimate priorities: including preservation of social trust/moral capital or the empowerment of certain groups that are disadvantaged. Neither of these beliefs is illegitimate, and once that is recognized it might be possible to find acceptable compromises, rather than stagnant one-sided debates in which one sides simply tries to crush the other.

The book is relatively short on specific policy prescriptions but it does a good job at humanizing different political tribes. This in itself is a prerequisite to having any sort of normal political discussion. If you do seek to persuade people along different lines, don't forget their elephants. Building emotional rapport can be done through the cost-free mechanisms of being kind, respectful and if possible developing some sort of admiration or common ground before moving onto the thorny issues that divide. If we're all going to be talking to each other anyways its worth a shot, and would make debates more pleasant, at least.
Profile Image for Ali Karimnejad.
313 reviews150 followers
February 20, 2022

کتاب فوق العاده ای بود با حجم عظیمی از اطلاعات کاملا جدید راجع به نحوه واکنش ذهن انسان به اختلافات عقیدتی و چرایی اون از دیدگاه مبانی تکاملی

از مرض کرونا ممنونم که فرصت کافی برای تموم کردن این کتاب در موعد مقرر رو برام فراهم کرد! 🙏🤧😷ا

حالا من موندم و 100 صفحه خلاصه که نمیدونم چجوری براش ریویو بنویسم!ا
Profile Image for Tom LA.
595 reviews223 followers
October 11, 2020
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 this book you'll get a chance to understand where these "idiots" are coming from with their breathtakingly "wrong" morals and opinions.

Professor Haidt is a psychologist who specializes in the study of morals. Contrary to many books I've found in this field, "The righteous mind" is not filled with self-evident fluff: Haidt draws from the latest research in neuroscience, genetics, social psychology, and evolutionary modeling, even if the take-home message of the book is one of the Great Truths found in most of the world’s wisdom traditions (the speck in our neighbor's eye). It begins with the realization that we are all self-righteous hypocrites.

The book is divided in three main parts, and each part presents a major principle of moral psychology:

1). "Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second". Central metaphor: the mind is divided like a rider on an elephant, and the rider's job (contrary to what rationalists said) is to serve the elephant.

2). "There's more to morality than harm and fairness." The central metaphor of these chapters is that the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors. Secular Western moralities are like cuisines that try to activate just one or two of these receptors, either concerns about harm and suffering, or concerns about fairness and injustice. But people have so many other powerful moral intuitions, such as those related to liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.

3). "Morality binds and blinds". The central metaphor of these chapters is that human beings are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee. Human nature was produced by natural selection working at two levels simultaneously. Individuals compete with individuals within every group, and we are the descendants of primates who excelled at that competition. This gives us the ugly side of our nature, the one that is usually featured in books about our evolutionary origins. We are indeed selfish hypocrites so skilled at putting on a show of virtue that we fool even ourselves.

But Haidt digs deeper, and shows how human nature was also shaped as groups competed with other groups. As Darwin said long ago, the most cohesive and cooperative groups generally beat the groups of selfish individualists. Darwin’s ideas about group selection fell out of favor in the 1960s, but recent discoveries are putting his ideas back into play, and Haidt tends to agree with them. We’re not always selfish hypocrites. We also have the ability, under special circumstances, to shut down our petty selves and become like cells in a larger body, or like bees in a hive, working for the good of the group. These experiences are often among the most cherished of our lives, although our hivishness can blind us to other moral concerns. Our bee-like nature facilitates altruism, heroism, war, and genocide.

Primate minds with a hivish (bees) overlay.

Once you see our righteous minds as primate minds with a hivish overlay, you get a whole new perspective on morality, politics, and religion. Our “higher nature” allows us to be profoundly altruistic, but that altruism is mostly aimed at members of our groups. Religion is (probably) an evolutionary adaptation for binding groups together and helping them to create communities with a shared morality. It is not a virus or parasite, as some scientists (the intellectually deficient “New Atheists”) have argued in recent years. People bind themselves into political teams that share moral narratives. Once they accept a particular narrative, they become blind to alternative moral worlds.

Mr. Haidt describes at length the fascinating research that he and his colleagues have carried out through a website called YourMorals.org. The site asks visitors to state their political and religious preferences and then poses a range of questions meant to elicit a moral response. Participants might be asked, for example, if they agree or disagree with such statements as: "One of the worst things a person can do is to hurt a defenseless animal"; or, "It is more important to be a team player than to express oneself"; or, "In the teenage years, parental advice should be heeded."

More than 150,000 subjects have provided answers, which have been categorized according to the "moral foundations" that Mr. Haidt and his collaborators consider the best candidates for "universal cognitive modules", that is, the intuitive ideas that all cultures draw upon for their ethical norms. These moral foundations fall under six broad headings:

1. care
2. fairness
3. liberty
4. loyalty
5. authority
6. sanctity

What Haidt has found is that all Americans, left, right and center, are strongly (if not equally) moved by the first three moral foundations. Both liberals and conservatives "care" when they see harm, but liberals care more: They are more disturbed by suffering and violence. Conservatives are more concerned with fairness, defined as getting what you deserve. And both sides champion liberty, though they have very different notions of the likeliest oppressors.

However, Haidt's research points to sharp divisions only with the last three moral foundations: loyalty, authority and sanctity. As he writes, "liberals are ambivalent about these foundations at best, whereas social conservatives embrace them." In these moral precincts, family, country and tradition take precedence over the individual.

He is also careful enough to point out the American definition of "liberal" vs. the European one. I think that makes his research more universally relevant.

Haidt does not mean to suggest that American conservatives have gotten it right in their particular mix of the six moral foundations. But he insists that liberals will find it hard to win the confidence of a broad cross section of Americans if they cannot develop their own vocabulary of loyalty, authority and sanctity.

I'm glad I found this gem of a book, thanks to the author's most recent TED talk that you can find here: https://youtu.be/D-_Az5nZBBM
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