Synopses & Reviews
Why can’t our political leaders work together as threats loom and problems mount? Why do people so readily assume the worst about the motives of their fellow citizens? In The Righteous Mind,
social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding.
His starting point is moral intuition — the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong. Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right. He blends his own research findings with those of anthropologists, historians, and other psychologists to draw a map of the moral domain, and he explains why conservatives can navigate that map more skillfully than can liberals. He then examines the origins of morality, overturning the view that evolution made us fundamentally selfish creatures. But rather than arguing that we are innately altruistic, he makes a more subtle claim — that we are fundamentally groupish. It is our groupishness, he explains, that leads to our greatest joys, our religious divisions, and our political affiliations. In a stunning final chapter on ideology and civility, Haidt shows what each side is right about, and why we need the insights of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians to flourish as a nation.
“A landmark contribution to humanity’s understanding of itself....Haidt is looking for more than victory. He’s looking for wisdom. That’s what makes The Righteous Mind well worth reading.” The New York Times Book Review
“An eye-opening and deceptively ambitious best seller...undoubtedly one of the most talked-about books of the year.” The Wall Street Journal
“Splendidly written, sophisticated and stimulating. It may well change how you think and talk about politics, religion and human nature.” NPR
“Ingenious prose....Beautifully written, Haidt’s book shines a new and creative light on moral psychology and presents a provocative message.” Science
“A remarkable and original synthesis of social psychology, political analysis, and moral reasoning.” Edward O. Wilson, University Research Professor Emeritus, Harvard University
“Highly readable, highly insightful....The principal posture in which one envisions him is that of a scrappy, voluble, discerning patriot standing between the warring factions in American politics urging each to see the other’s viewpoint, to stop demonizing, bashing, clobbering....Haidt’s real contribution, in my judgment, is inviting us all to sit at the table.” Washington Times
“Excellent....An impressive book that should be read by anyone who has the slightest interest in how political opinions are reached.” The Daily Beast
“Haidt’s work feels particularly relevant now....Haidt’s perspective can help us better understand our own political and religious leanings.” San Francisco Chronicle
“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 is going to be talking about.” Paul Bloom, Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology, Yale University
“Haidt’s research has revolutionized the field of moral psychology. This elegantly written book has far-reaching implications for anyone interested in anthropology, politics, religion, or the many controversies that divide modern societies. If you want to know why you hold your moral beliefs and why many people disagree with you, read this book.” Simon Baron-Cohen, Cambridge University, Author of Zero Degrees of Empathy and The Science of Evil
“A much-needed voice of moral sanity.” Booklist
“[Haidt’s] framework for the different moral universes of liberals and conservatives struck me as a brilliant breakthrough....The Righteous Mind provides an invaluable road map.” Miller-McCune.com
“A well-informed tour of contemporary moral psychology....A cogent rendering of a moral universe of fertile complexity and latent flexibility.” Kirkus Reviews
“Haidt’s a good thing.” The Atlantic
“Jonathan Haidt’s absorbing The Righteous Mind should come with a warning label: ‘contents highly addictive.’ Written in a breezy and accessible style but informed by an impressively wide range of cutting-edge research in the social sciences, evolutionary biology and psychology, The Righteous Mind is about as interesting a book as you’ll pick up this year.” The Globe and Mail
“What makes [The Righteous Mind] so compelling is the fluid combination of erudition and entertainment, and the author’s obvious pleasure in challenging conventional wisdom....[Haidt’s] core point is simple and well-made: our morality, much of it wired into brains from birth, at the same time binds us together and blinds us to different configurations of morality.” The Guardian (London)
“An important and timely book....His ideas are controversial but they make you think.” Bill Moyers, Moyers & Company
“The Righteous Mind refutes the ‘New Atheists’ and shows that religion is a central part of our moral heritage. Haidt’s brilliant synthesis shows that Christians have nothing to fear and much to gain from the evolutionary paradigm.” Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution
“The Righteous Mind is an intellectual tour de force that brings Darwinian theorizing to the practical realm of everyday politics. The book is beautifully written, and it is truly unusual to encounter a book that makes a major theoretical contribution yet encourages one to turn its pages enthusiastically.” Christopher Boehm, Professor of Anthropology, University of Southern California, author of Moral Origins
“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.” Larry Sabato, University of Virginia, author of A More Perfect Constitution
“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.” Richard E. Nisbett, University of Michigan, Author of The Geography of Thought
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.
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.
Table of Contents
Part I Intuitions Come First, Strategic Reasoning Second
1 Where Does Morality Come From?
2 The Intuitive Dog and Its Rational Tail
3 Elephants Rule
4 Vote for Me (Here’s Why)
Part II There’s More to Morality than Harm and Fairness
5 Beyond WEIRD Morality
6 Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind
7 The Moral Foundations of Politics
8 The Conservative Advantage
Part III Morality Binds and Blinds
9 Why Are We So Groupish?
10 The Hive Switch
11 Religion Is a Team Sport
12 Can’t We All Disagree More Constructively?