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The Righteous Mind
Cover of The Righteous Mind
The Righteous Mind
Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion
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This well-researched examination of human moral impulses will appeal to liberals and conservatives alike following the 2016 presidential campaign and election.

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 arise not from reason but from gut feelings. He shows why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such different intuitions about right and wrong, and he shows why each side is actually right about many of its central concerns. In this subtle yet accessible book, Haidt gives you the key to understanding the miracle of human cooperation, as well as the curse of our eternal divisions and conflicts. If you're ready to trade in anger for understanding, read The Righteous Mind.

This well-researched examination of human moral impulses will appeal to liberals and conservatives alike following the 2016 presidential campaign and election.

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 arise not from reason but from gut feelings. He shows why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such different intuitions about right and wrong, and he shows why each side is actually right about many of its central concerns. In this subtle yet accessible book, Haidt gives you the key to understanding the miracle of human cooperation, as well as the curse of our eternal divisions and conflicts. If you're ready to trade in anger for understanding, read The Righteous Mind.

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  • Introduction

    Introduction

    "Can we all get along?" That appeal was made famous on May 1, 1992, by Rodney King, a black man who had been beaten nearly to death by four Los Angeles police officers a year earlier. The entire nation had seen a videotape of the beating, so when a jury failed to convict the officers, their acquittal triggered widespread outrage and six days of rioting in Los Angeles. Fifty-three people were killed and more than seven thousand buildings were torched. Much of the mayhem was carried live; news cameras tracked the action from helicopters circling overhead. After a particularly horrific act of violence against a white truck driver, King was moved to make his appeal for peace.

    King's appeal is now so overused that it has become cultural kitsch, a catchphrase1 more often said for laughs than as a serious plea for mutual understanding. I therefore hesitated to use King's words as the opening line of this book, but I decided to go ahead, for two reasons. The first is because most Americans nowadays are asking King's question not about race relations but about political relations and the collapse of cooperation across party lines. Many Americans feel as though the nightly news from Washington is being sent to us from helicopters circling over the city, delivering dispatches from the war zone.

    The second reason I decided to open this book with an overused phrase is because King followed it up with something lovely, something rarely quoted. As he stumbled through his television interview, fighting back tears and often repeating himself, he found these words: "Please, we can get along here. We all can get along. I mean, we're all stuck here for a while. Let's try to work it out."

    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, each one certain of its righteousness.

    ###

    People who devote their lives to studying something often come to believe that the object of their fascination is the key to understanding everything. Books have been published in recent years on the transformative role in human history played by cooking, mothering, war . . . even salt. This is one of those books. I study moral psychology, and I'm going to make the case that morality is the extraordinary human capacity that made civilization possible. I don't mean to imply that cooking, mothering, war, and salt were not also necessary, but in this book I'm going to take you on a tour of human nature and history from the perspective of moral psychology.

    By the end of the tour, I hope to have given you a new way to think about two of the most important, vexing, and divisive topics in human life: politics and religion. Etiquette books tell us not to discuss these topics in polite company, but I say go ahead. 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. My hope is that this book will make conversations about morality, politics, and religion more common, more civil, and more fun, even in mixed company. My hope is that it will help us to get along.

    BORN TO BE RIGHTEOUS

    I could have...

About the Author-
  • 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 Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. He lives in New York City.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    March 12, 2012
    Amid America's tense culture wars, Haidt (The Happiness Hypothesis), a psychology professor at the University of Virginia, has produced this thought-provoking investigation into the innate morality of the human mind. Dismissing the notion that the human mind is fundamentally rational, Haidt briskly guides the reader through decades of psychology research in order to demonstrate that emotion and intuition determine our judgments, while reasoning is created only later to justify these judgments (Ã la Hume). From there, Haidt dispels the classic notion that morality is based upon concepts of harm or fairness and outlines the variety of moral categories before entering a discussion of how our "righteous minds" "Bind and Blind" us in politics, religion, and nationalism. But Haidt is at his best when using his comprehensive knowledge of moral psychology to explain both sides of American politics with an admirable evenhandedness and sympathy. In his two most insightful chapters, Haidt explains why conservatives have a wider moral foundation and thus, an inherent advantage in politics, and later outlines the necessities of both liberal and conservative moral systems, arguing that the two provide necessary counterbalances to one another. Blending lucid explanations of landmark studies in psychology and sociology with light personal anecdotes, Haidt has produced an imminently readable book about the complexities of moral psychology and the human fixation with righteousness. Illus.

  • Kirkus

    March 1, 2012
    A well-informed tour of contemporary moral psychology. Haidt (Psychology/Univ. of Virginia; The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, 2005, etc.) lays out a rich landscape of morality, presenting a cross-cultural, evolutionarily sensible scenario wherein a moral universe can be shaped from six moral foundations: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation and liberty/oppression. Haidt examines, via a wide array of theories, research and experimentation, how various subsets--for instance, the WEIRD (Western, educated, industrial, rich, democratic) group--emphasize one or more of the foundations with respect to group traditions and evolutionary progress. He explains how he has arrived at an intuitionist's rather than a rationalist's stance regarding the elemental governing of our moral behavior--a framework with us at birth, though not deterministic--how our reasoning comes later to justify our social agenda and how moral intuitions such as loyalty, authority and sanctity gather such subjective importance and potential evolutionary value. He arrives at a broad definition of moral systems as "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." Haidt finds within Western democracies an ethnic and moral diversity that is best served by utilitarianism, producing the greatest total good, and that happiness comes from "getting the right relationships between yourself and others, yourself and your work, and yourself and something larger than yourself." A cogent rendering of a moral universe of fertile complexity and latent flexibility.

    COPYRIGHT(2012) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Paul Bloom, Yale University, Author of How Pleasure Works "Jonathan Haidt is one of smartest and most creative psychologists alive, and his newest book, The Righteous Mind, is a tour de force--a brave, brilliant and eloquent exploration of the most important issues of our time. It will challenge the way you think about liberals and conservatives, atheism and religion, good and evil. This is the book that everyone will be talking about."
  • Larry Sabato, University of Virginia, author of A More Perfect Constitution "As a fellow who listens to heated political debate daily, I was fascinated, enlightened, and even amused by Haidt's brilliant insights. This penetrating yet accessible book will help readers understand the righteous minds that inhabit politics."
  • Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University "A remarkable and original synthesis of social psychology, political analysis, and moral reasoning that reflects the best of sciences in these fields and adds evidence that we are innately capable of the decency and righteousness needed for societies to survive."
  • Michael Gazzaniga, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of The Ethical Brain "Here is the first attempt to give an in depth analysis of the underlying moral stance and dispositions of liberals and conservatives. I couldn't put it down and discovered things about myself!"
  • Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company "A much-needed voice of moral sanity." –Booklist

    "An important and timely book...His ideas are controversial but they make you think...Haidt has made his reputation as a social psychologist at the University of Virginia, where he and his colleagues explore reason and intuition, why people disagree so passionately and how the moral mind works."
  • Richard E. Nisbett, University of Michigan, author of The Geography of Thought "A profound discussion of the diverse psychological roots of morality and their role in producing political conflicts. It's not too much to hope that the book will help to reduce those conflicts."
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