The Righteous Mind

By Jonathan Haidt,

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

Book description

'A landmark contribution to humanity's understanding of itself' The New York Times

Why can it sometimes feel as though half the population is living in a different moral universe? Why do ideas such as 'fairness' and 'freedom' mean such different things to different people? Why is it so hard to…

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Why read it?

8 authors picked The Righteous Mind as one of their favorite books. Why do they recommend it?

Readers will be informed and stimulated by any book by Haidt, one of psychology’s great public intellectuals. This influential volume speaks to our polarized world, by identifying the moral virtues of both left and right, and advocating cross-partisan dialogue. As such, it sets the foundation for Haidt’s Heterodox Academy initiative, which advocates open, free-spirited campus conversations. 

Haidt is the one who originally equated our reasoning brains to a rider, and our automatic, emotional brains as the massive elephant we try desperately to steer. In works like Thinking, Fast and Slow, Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman helped us understand how our emotional side dominates and precedes our logical side, but here Haidt helps us better understand the evolutionary reasons and modern-day implications of the fact that we lead with our instincts and feelings and then use our reasoning to try to convince both ourselves and others that we actually used logic. Haidt gives a fantastic TED Talk…

From Jenny's list on getting people to accept facts.

If war is “politics with an admixture of other means,” then politics is war with fewer means. Currently “we are engaged in a great [cultural] civil war.” The core reason behind that is pair of very different views of the nature of Man. The extreme left’s core article of faith is in the malleability of man, for good or ill, via nurture, which is to say training, education, propagandization, relentless nagging, and a taste of terror, as needed. The extreme right is a mirror image, except based on genetics rather than environment. Haidt shows that man is not only not…

From Tom's list on history and practice of war.

The divides Haidt talks about have continued to grow. If you are looking for a book that gives insight into the differences built into many of our political conflicts, this book will deliver them. I particularly like the fourth chapter, but the whole book helps to show how people coming from what seems like polar opposite sides can both be reasonable. This understanding is an important first step in communicating across differences. 

From Bradford's list on communicating across differences.

I was more than halfway through the research for my book when psychologist Jonathan Haidt, a giant in the field of moral foundations theory, published this extraordinary book. I immediately began incorporating his insights, especially the idea that humans are “hivish.” We define ourselves by our group membership. Given a choice between our loyalty to the group and the truth, we privilege the group. 

Haidt reports that we make political choices by and large out of conscious awareness. (If this reminds you of the work of psychologist Daniel Kahneman, it should, as it rests on the idea that the brain…

If one book on this list made me truly a happier person, it is this one. Understanding why I mentally process things in one way, and people I love and care about – let alone those I struggle to find common cause with another, helped me see my neighbors, and the broader American culture, in a whole new way. It’s also helped me become better at working to find consensus, an essential skill for those who want to build a Strong Town.

From Charles' list on thinking like a Strong Towns advocate.

It is hard to look at human history without concluding that people will always angrily shout, “How dare they consider themselves the good guys!” Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt writes with admirable clarity about the empirical evidence for similarity and difference between the moral judgments of various groups, and if you are interested in understanding why certain comments or behaviors are so thoroughly enraging, I highly recommend this book. In particular, it does a great job of showing why it is a terrible idea to assume that something is only “truly immoral” if “actually does harm”: a philosophical stance that totally…

Haidt is an NYU social psychologist who explains in this book how and why conservatives and liberals view the world differently. There are powerful insights into the kinds of issues that divide us—and more importantly, why they divide us. Jonathan is like a psychologist for our country. If we all read this book, we would not necessarily achieve social harmony, but we would at least have a better understanding of why we disagree.

From Charles' list on economics and public policy.

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