Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and ReligionThe Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is an excellent biological science and anthropology book about the development and driving force behind ethics, religion, politics, and tribalism. It will help you view your friends and family members of the other political party with increased understanding and respect. It appears to be mostly directed at United States liberals to help them understand the moral framework of United State conservatives, but it also provides an explanation of the liberal and libertarian framework to conservatives. It is based on controlled studies of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians in the US. There was a lot of information that was new to me, such as the effects of ethnic diversity and culture education. It is not condescending to any political party or religion, which is not the same as saying that everyone will like what Haidt says in this book. In fact, I predict people of both parties will find plenty to try to dispute.

For me, there were some problems with this book which are mostly outweighed by what it contributes. One is that this was written pre-Trump era and it won't help you contemplate the blatantly racist supporters and members of the administration. (Please don't deny these people exist, they have been very vocal in a number of places.) Two is that I think that Haidt goes too far in numerous places with his own policy analysis both in favor and against liberal or conservative beliefs. As a liberal myself, when he says that some policy provides money and therefore dampens the necessity of marriage, I think of people - mostly women- stuck in abusive marriages because they can't afford to get themselves and their children out. Also, there were comments about diversity and cultural education which, whether they are accurate or not, seem to need more context and balancing particularly now that we are facing so many problems with racism in our country.

Also, since a lot of conservatives claim that Christianity is the basis of their moral framework, I'd like to see what Jesus's moral matrix looks like. I think a lot of liberal Christians would think that Jesus's moral matrix would value Care-Harm more than Fairness-Cheating, but that might or might not be a biased view. (See figures 12.2-12.4,

I also strongly recommend Haidt's book "The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom," and you might want to read that one first since this book seemed to build on some ideas he fleshed out in there.

Bonus for my UVA friends- Haidt wrote this book while he was a professor at UVA and he uses UVA Wahoo fans as examples of the joys of groupish behavior.

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