The Righteous Mind

righteousThe Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
by Jonathan Haidt 
2014 / 528 pages
read by  Jonathan Haidt 11h
rating 9  / nonfiction – psychology / ethics

Good book – it’s going to have to go on my list of best 2015.  Fascinating stuff.  I’m not sure I agree with all of it – I’m not sure I fit the norm in all of his little tests.  That’s okay – the book explains a whole lot.  And it’s comprehensible – a true layman’s presentation – and Haidt has a nice sense of humor.

Haidt is not a partisan anything – he has no political axe to grind. He’s a generally liberal moral psychologist who has been studying people’s beliefs and behaviors for a long time.  He finds that conservatives in the US have a broader gamut of moral underpinnings (foundations – values) to rely on than liberals.  These are things like caring and authority and loyalty and freedom and fairness and so on.  But beware fundamentalists – they have very few different types of underlying values.

Okay – I’m a moderately well-educated liberal,  not an atheist by any means,  and I like to imagine I can think for myself, but – do I?  Really?  Or is it simply the illusion of really “thinking” and what I’m doing is justifying intuitive responses –  group think,  evolutionary and/or genetic responses.

I’m not sure I have the background to really understand this book.  It’s quite interesting but I have a feeling there’s a big hole in Haidt’s thinking  and I can’t find it – but then – do I have the background to say that?

The Righteous Mind is divided into  4 parts – Part 1 is the biological element,  evolution, internal and external factors etc.  How do we make ethical choices?   Apparently we decide intuitively first and figure out the rationale later. Yup – I see it happen all the time.  What about removing the log from our own eye?  He uses the metaphor of an elephant and it’s rider – the elephant is a person’s  intuitive response to a situation,   the rider is his rational thinking.   (But minds change – how?)

Plato and Glaucon:

Very interesting metaphor of an rational man riding an intuitive elephant.  – that’s good – read it for that!   🙂

Part 2 is about morality beyond the ideas of harm and fairness – folks outside liberal academic circles.

Hume and emotional response vs Kant and the rational approach –

Another interesting metaphor – values are like the tastebuds on a tongue. The taste-buds/ foundations:

1. The Care/Harm foundation; 2. The Fairness/Cheating foundation; 3. The Loyalty/Betrayal foundation; 4. The Authority/Subversion foundation; 5. The Sanctity/Degradation foundation; and 6. The Liberty/Oppression foundation.

Part 3 is about the limits and blindspots of morality – Morality can find and blind – religion – moral communities – after agriculture – political teams – right or left.   But we are not just selfish beings  – occasionally the hiving instinct seems to jump into play.

Charles Darwin Emil Durkheim – hugely important.

We can do “hiving,”  like bees is the third metaphor:   – we can group together without thought for personal wellbeing –   I suppose it would be called “groupish selfishness.”

Underlying the whole narrative – or overlaying it perhaps – is how all this applies to contemporary political thinking.  Haidt says that conservatives tend to value loyalty, freedom and authority more than liberals while liberals tend to value fairness and compassion.  – okay – my little issue –  so where did this varying values appreciation come from?   Innate?  Genetic?  Nurturing?

Those are more like notes but there’s a lot in the book.

NY Times:

Wall Street Journal

Philosophy Now

The New Republic – good stuff:

London School of Economics:

Swarthmore blog: (with some criticism):

Huffington Post:  (more criticism)

New Books in Brief (scroll down a bit:)