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

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  28,424 ratings  ·  3,370 reviews
As America descends deeper into polarization and paralysis, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done the seemingly impossible—challenged conventional thinking about morality, politics, and religion in a way that speaks to everyone on the political spectrum. Drawing on his twenty five years of groundbreaking research on moral psychology, he shows how moral judgments ...more
Paperback, 500 pages
Published February 12th 2013 by Vintage (first published March 13th 2012)
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Michael Burnam-Fink
Jun 05, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic, 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
Sean Chick
Oct 06, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Clif Hostetler
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-events
I was hopeful this book might provide me with some sociological tools and rhetorical tricks to clear away the views of those who disagree with my positions on politics and religion. Of course this book does not deliver on this unrealistic hope. What the book does provide instead is an explanation why not everybody agrees with my definition of morality. This knowledge does not make disagreements go away, so the best I can hope for after reading this book is to comprehend the intuitive motivations ...more
Jay Kamaladasa
I had great expectations for this book after watching the author give an introduction in the Colbert report. However, the book didn't hold up to it's name. These are some of grudges I have against this book:

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

This is a typical blunder made by the average American. And I would've overlooked it, as the book is geared towards an American audience. But the author is a professor in moral
Sep 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"This book is about why it’s so hard for us to get along. We are indeed all stuck here for a while, so let’s at least do what we can to understand why we are so easily divided into hostile groups, . . Politics and religion are both expressions of our underlying moral psychology, and an understanding of that psychology can help to bring people together. My goal in this book is to drain some of the heat, anger, and divisiveness out of these topics and replace them with awe, wonder, and curiosity. ...more
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
Feb 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
“[W]hen a group of people make something sacred, the members of the cult lose the ability to think clearly about it. Morality binds and blinds.”
― Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind


Jonathan Haidt give a nice social science explanation for how we align politically and how we are built to disagree. This is one of those books that seems to fit in the same evolutionary psychology space as Bob Wright's The Moral Animal. It is a combination of ethnography + evolutionary psychology + experimental
Roy Lotz
I expected this book to be good, but I did not expect it to be so rich in ideas and dense with information. Haidt covers far more territory than the subtitle of the book implies. Not only is he attempting to explain why people are morally tribal, but also the way morality works in the human brain, the evolutionary origins of moral feelings, the role of moral psychology in the history of civilization, the origin and function of religion, and how we can apply all this information to the modern ...more
Marvin chester
Jan 22, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 12, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Jun 29, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012

Despite some painful infelicities of style, this book is compelling and generally well-argued. Two aspects irritated me -- I thought several of the author's chosen analogies were dreadful -- clunky and not particularly apt. The silliness of the metaphor that humans are Homo Duplex -- "90% chimp, 10% bee" -- is just so jarring that it distracts the reader from the argument. Similarly, I found his other recurrent metaphor, that for our rational and intuitive mental processes -- "The mind is
Brad Foley
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
This book is well-written, edited, and well-organized. Each chapter explores a concept, followed by a nice summary. The book is a mixed bag for me. Some parts are fascinating, while other parts are a bit technical and dry. But so much of it is original and fresh, that I give the book five stars.

Haidt proposes six foundations of morality; care/harm, liberty/oppression, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. Haidt claims that liberals (Democrats) are
Aug 13, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The main selling point of the book is the controversial thesis that conservatives have a more sophisticated and complete "moral matrix" than liberals. Haidt says conservatives have a complete sense of taste whereas liberals can only taste sweet. This implies that liberals have a dangerously inaccurate version of reality that they are using when deciding what ideas to swallow and what to spit out.

Such a bold claim should be backed up with solid proof. Haidt needs to show where the "complete"
Apr 06, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As a liberal westerner, I think it is a natural reaction to perceive hierarchical systems, ideas of loyality, and ideas of sanctity as intellectually flawed and oppressive concepts. Jonathan Haidt tells us how such reactions are generally much more intuitive than they are rational. Most rationalization is often post hoc, and is also often used as a tool to intellectualize intuitive beliefs. Therefore, it would be erroneous to assume that people of conservative views are wrong and perhaps stupid ...more
Jul 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I feel like one of the most valuable things you can strive to attain in this lifetime is a well rounded, informed mindset that expands your ability to see other points of view. With this, I gained just that :)
Aug 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Trish by: Bruce Katz
Ordinary people like myself occasionally glimpse pieces of truths we believe are important to explain how we live and understand the world but we never seem to get enough distance, or time, or examples to really state definitively what it is that makes us happy, or contentious, or willing to put ourselves out for another. Jonathan Haidt, fortunately, knows how to excavate the origins of our value systems, and has worked with colleagues to theorize and test what we believe and why and to discover ...more
Aug 25, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From a psychological standpoint, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion earns five stars. The book loses some of its appeal when Jonathan Haidt veers into political philosophy, however - especially when he raises the biased question "why are religious people better neighbors and citizens?"

Let me backtrack. The Righteous Mind is split into three sections. The first focuses on how intuitions come first and are followed by strategic reasoning, the second shows that
Jul 13, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book has many qualities, but ultimately its negatives outweighed its positives for me. First of all, I must give poor marks to his driving metaphor of the elephant and rider. It seemed counterintuitive as an example and wasn’t helpful to me at all in illustrating or clarifying his main point (which I actually understood just fine) that “intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.”

Secondly, early on in the book Haidt tells an anecdote about his time in the field where he displays
Jan Rice
Nov 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 ...more
Brian Clegg
Mar 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
John Brown
Dec 15, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
n.b. This is a “pre-review” — see full explanation below.

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

Excuses, excuses:
I am absolutely
Tom LA
Nov 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Zachary Bonelli
Dec 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(Originally posted at

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

Now imagine growing up. The moment you can begin to process news and literature from a social standpoint, you notice something—every time the Blargs do something, it looks pretty awesome. And every time Blarg politicans talk on television, everything they say seems
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
How do we make ethical and moral choices?

Many people throughout history, as well as today, say we make choices based on reason. We are faced with a choice, we weigh our options and choose what we think is right. This reason may be impacted by emotion or tradition or religion. Or there's the nature/nurture debate - are we born with proclivities or does our family and society shape us?

Haidt argues that we make choices almost immediately, based on intuition. After that reason comes to our aid,
This turned out to be pretty damn good in the end, despite the fact that it took pretty much forever to get to the point (out of a desire to set up foundational principles and concepts), and was super repetitive (reiterating said concepts again and again), and also felt a bit silly at times with the "I'm going to tell you what I'm going to tell you, then I'll tell you, and then I'll tell you what I just told you" format. (Also, if you have to describe more than 2 or 3 diagrams and figures, maybe ...more
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. Enjoyably readable, if you don't try to keep up with the extensive end-notes. Scientifically and philosophically convincing, if you do....

Haidt is synthetic. He works on original research, traveling to conduct experiments on different people and groups of peoples, and he reads extensively & widely, and he interviews other scientists.

The biggest takeaway *I* have is that many ppl are voting Republican because they are conservative and feel, deep in their genes, that they
Matthew Ciarvella
Jun 10, 2014 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2014
I enjoyed Haidt's approach to the psychology and if you'd asked me my opinion of the book during the early psychology chapters, I'd have said this is a four star book.

But when Haidt starts going into the political philosophy of liberalism vs. conservatism, things start going downhill in a hurry. I'll agree that liberals don't respond to one of the points on his Six Foundations of Morality Theory; the Authority/Subversion scale. Okay, sure. But two of the points (Loyalty/Betrayal and
Aug 07, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was ultimately a mixed bag for me. There is one supremely interesting component, which comes in part two, and which consists in the elaboration of what Haidt calls Moral Foundations Theory. MFT is roughly the idea that our evaluative judgments of rightness and wrongness of action are guided by intuitions that encode the world in terms of six dichotomies (care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, respect/disobedience, sanctity/degradation, and liberty/oppression). The idea that ...more
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Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business. He is the author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. He lives in New York City.
“Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.” 116 likes
“If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you.” 75 likes
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