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The righteous mind : why good people are divided by politics and religion
2012
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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 titled this book The Moral Mind to convey the sense that the human mind is designed to "do" morality, just as it's designed to do language, sexuality, music, and many other things described in popular books reporting the latest scientific findings. But I chose the title The Righteous Mind to convey the sense that human nature is not just intrinsically moral, it's also intrinsically moralistic, critical, and judgmental.   The word righteous comes from the old Norse word rettviss and the old English word rihtwis , both of which mean "just, upright, virtuous." This meaning has been carried into the modern English words righteous and righteousness , although nowadays those words have strong religious connotations because they are usually used to translate the Hebrew word tzedek. Tzedek is a common word in the Hebrew Bible, often used to describe people who act in accordance with God's wishes, but it is also an attribute of God and of God's judgment of people (which is often harsh but always thought to be just).   The linkage of righteousness and judgmentalism is captured in some modern definitions of righteous , such as "arising from an outraged sense of justice, morality, or fair play." The link also appears in the term self- righteous , which means "convinced of one's own righteousness, especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others; narrowly moralistic and intolerant." I want to show you that an obsession with righteousness (leading inevitably to self- righteousness) is the normal human condition. It is a feature of our evolutionary design, not a bug or error that crept into minds that would otherwise be objective and rational.   Our righteous minds made it possible for human beings--but no other animals--to produce large cooperative groups, tribes, and nations without the glue of kinship. But at the same time, our righteous minds guarantee that our cooperative groups will always be cursed by moralistic strife. Some degree of conflict among groups may even be necessary for the health and development of any society. When I was a teenager I wished for world peace, but now I yearn for a world in which competing ideologies are kept in balance, systems of accountability keep us all from getting away with too much, and fewer people believe that righteous ends justify violent means. Not a very romantic wish, but one that we might actually achieve.   WHAT LIES AHEAD   This book has three parts, which you can think of as three separate books--except that each one depends on the one before it. Each part presents one major principle of moral psychology.   Part I is about the first principle: Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second. Moral intuitions arise automatically and almost instantaneously, long before moral reasoning has a chance to get started, and those first intuitions tend to drive our later reasoning. If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you'll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you. But if you think about moral reasoning as a skill we humans evolved to further our social agendas--to justify our own actions and to defend the teams we belong to--then things will make a lot more sense. Keep your eye on the intuitions, and don't take people's moral arguments at face value. They're mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly, crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives.   The central metaphor of these four chapters is that the mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider's job is to serve the elephant. The rider is our conscious reasoning--the stream of words and images of which we are fully aware. The elephant is the other 99 percent of mental processes--the ones that occur outside of awareness but that actually govern most of our behavior. I developed this metaphor in my last book, The Happiness Hypothesis , where I described how the rider and elephant work together, sometimes poorly, as we stumble through life in search of meaning and connection. In this book I'll use the metaphor to solve puzzles such as why it seems like everyone (else) is a hypocrite and why political partisans are so willing to believe outrageous lies and conspiracy theories. I'll also use the metaphor to show you how you can better persuade people who seem unresponsive to reason.   Part II is about the second principle of moral psychology, which is that there's more to morality than harm and fairness . The central metaphor of these four chapters is that the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors . Secular Western moralities are like cuisines that try to activate just one or two of these receptors--either concerns about harm and suffering, or concerns about fairness and injustice. But people have so many other powerful moral intuitions, such as those related to liberty, loyalty, authority, and sanctity. I'll explain where these six taste receptors come from, how they form the basis of the world's many moral cuisines, and why politicians on the right have a built- in advantage when it comes to cooking meals that voters like.   Part III is about the third principle: Morality binds and blinds . The central metaphor of these four chapters is that human beings are 90 percent chimp and percent bee . Human nature was produced by natural selection working at two levels simultaneously. Individuals compete with individuals within every group, and we are the descendants of primates who excelled at that competition. This gives us the ugly side of our nature, the one that is usually featured in books about our evolutionary origins. We are indeed selfish hypocrites so skilled at putting on a show of virtue that we fool even ourselves.   But human nature was also shaped as groups competed with other groups. As Darwin said long ago, the most cohesive and cooperative groups generally beat the groups of selfish individualists. Darwin's ideas about group selection fell out of favor in the 1960s, but recent discoveries are putting his ideas back into play, and the implications are profound. We're not always selfish hypocrites. We also have the ability, under special circumstances, to shut down our petty selves and become like cells in a larger body, or like bees in a hive, working for the good of the group. These experiences are often among the most cherished of our lives, although our hivishness can blind us to other moral concerns. Our bee-like nature facilitates altruism, heroism, war, and genocide.   Once you see our righteous minds as primate minds with a hivish overlay, you get a whole new perspective on morality, politics, and religion. I'll show that our "higher nature" allows us to be profoundly altruistic, but that altruism is mostly aimed at members of our own groups. I'll show that religion is (probably) an evolutionary adaptation for binding groups together and helping them to create communities with a shared morality. It is not a virus or a parasite, as some scientists (the "New Atheists") have argued in recent years. And I'll use this perspective to explain why some people are conservative, others are liberal (or progressive), and still others become libertarians. People bind themselves into political teams that share moral narratives. Once they accept a particular narrative, they become blind to alternative moral worlds.   (A note on terminology: In the United States, the word liberal refers to progressive or left- wing politics, and I will use the word in this sense. But in Europe and elsewhere, the word liberal is truer to its original meaning--valuing liberty above all else, including in economic activities. When Europeans use the word liberal, they often mean something more like the American term libertarian, which cannot be placed easily on the left- right spectrum. Readers from outside the United States may want to swap in the words progressive or left- wing whenever I say liberal .) In the coming chapters I'll draw on the latest research in neuroscience, genetics, social psychology, and evolutionary modeling, but the take- home message of the book is ancient. It is the realization that we are all self- righteous hypocrites:   Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye? . . . You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor's eye. (Matthew 7:3--5)   Enlightenment (or wisdom, if you prefer) requires us all to take the logs out of our own eyes and then escape from our ceaseless, petty, and divisive moralism. As the eighth- century Chinese Zen master Sen-ts'an wrote:   The Perfect Way is only difficult for those who pick and choose; Do not like, do not dislike; all will then be clear. Make a hairbreadth difference, and Heaven and Earth are set apart; If you want the truth to stand clear before you, never be for or against. The struggle between "for" and "against" is the mind's worst disease.   I'm not saying we should live our lives like Sen-ts'an. In fact, I believe that a world without moralism, gossip, and judgment would quickly decay into chaos. But if we want to understand ourselves, our divisions, our limits, and our potentials, we need to step back, drop the moralism, apply some moral psychology, and analyze the game we're all playing. .   Let us now examine the psychology of this struggle between "for" and "against." It is a struggle that plays out in each of our righteous minds, and among all of our righteous groups. Excerpted from The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.
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Trade Reviews

  New York Times Review

YOU'RE smart. You're liberal. You're well informed. You think conservatives are narrow-minded. You can't understand why working-class Americans vote Republican. You figure they're being duped. You're wrong. This isn't an accusation from the right. It's a friendly warning from Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who, until 2009, considered himself a partisan liberal. In "The Righteous Mind," Haidt seeks to enrich liberalism, and political discourse generally, with a deeper awareness of human nature. Like other psychologists who have ventured into political coaching, such as George Lakoff and Drew Westen, Haidt argues that people are fundamentally intuitive, not rational. If you want to persuade others, you have to appeal to their sentiments. But Haidt is looking for more than victory. He's looking for wisdom. That's what makes "The Righteous Mind" well worth reading. Politics isn't just about manipulating people who disagree with you. It's about learning from them. Haidt seems to delight in mischief. Drawing on ethnography, evolutionary theory and experimental psychology, he sets out to trash the modern faith in reason. In Haidt's retelling, all the fools, foils and villains of intellectual history are recast as heroes. David Hume, the Scottish philosopher who notoriously said reason was fit only to be "the slave of the passions," was largely correct E. O. Wilson, the ecologist who was branded a fascist for stressing the biological origins of human behavior, has been vindicated by the study of moral emotions. Even Glaucon, the cynic in Plato's "Republic" who told Socrates that "people would behave ethically only if they thought they were being watched, was "the guy who got it right." To the question many people ask about politics - Why doesn't the other side listen to reason? - Haidt replies: We were never designed to listen to reason. When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they've decided. The funniest and most painful illustrations are Haidt's transcripts of interviews about bizarre scenarios. Is it wrong to have sex with a dead chicken? How about with your sister? Is it O.K. to defecate in a urinal? If your dog dies, why not eat it? Under interrogation, most subjects in psychology experiments agree these things are wrong. But none can explain why. The problem isn't that people don't reason. They do reason. But their arguments aim to support their conclusions, not yours. Reason doesn't work like a judge or teacher, impartially weighing evidence or guiding us to wisdom. It works more like a lawyer or press secretary, justifying our acts and judgments to others. Haidt shows, for example, how subjects relentlessly marshal arguments for the incest taboo, no matter how thoroughly an interrogator demolishes these arguments. To explain this persistence, Haidt invokes an evolutionary hypothesis: We compete for social status, and the key advantage in this struggle is the ability to influence others. Reason, in this view, evolved to help us spin, not to help us learn. So if you want to change people's minds, Haidt concludes, don't appeal to their reason. Appeal to reason's boss: the underlying moral intuitions whose conclusions reason defends. Haidt's account of reason is a bit too simple - his whole book, after all, is a deployment of reason to advance learning - and his advice sounds cynical. But set aside those objections for now, and go with him. If you follow Haidt through the tunnel of cynicism, you'll find that what he's really after is enlightenment. He wants to open your mind to the moral intuitions of other people. In the West, we think morality is all about harm, rights, fairness and consent. Does the guy own the chicken? Is the dog already dead? Is the sister of legal age? But step outside your neighborhood or your country, and you'll discover that your perspective is highly anomalous. Haidt has read ethnographies, traveled the world and surveyed tens of thousands of people online. He and his colleagues have compiled a catalog of six fundamental ideas that commonly undergird moral systems: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. Alongside these principles, he has found related themes that carry moral weight: divinity, community, hierarchy, tradition, sin and degradation. The worldviews Haidt discusses may differ from yours. They don't start with the individual. They start with the group or the cosmic order. They exalt families, armies and communities. They assume that people should be treated differently according to social role or status - elders should be honored, subordinates should be protected. They suppress forms of self-expression that might weaken the social fabric. They assume interdependence, not autonomy. They prize order, not equality. These moral systems aren't ignorant or backward. Haidt argues that they're common in history and across the globe because they fit human nature. He compares them to cuisines. We acquire morality the same way we acquire food preferences: we start with what we're given. If it tastes good, we stick with it. If it doesn't, we reject it. People accept God, authority and karma because these ideas suit their moral taste buds. Haidt points to research showing that people punish cheaters, accept many hierarchies and don't support equal distribution of benefits when contributions are unequal. You don't have to go abroad to see these ideas. You can find them in the Republican Party. Social conservatives see welfare and feminism as threats to responsibility and family stability. The Tea Party hates redistribution because it interferes with letting people reap what they earn. Faith, patriotism, valor, chastity, law and order - these Republican themes touch all six moral foundations, whereas Democrats, in Haidt's analysis, focus almost entirely on care and fighting oppression. This is Haidt's startling message to the left: When it comes to morality, conservatives are more broad-minded than liberals. They serve a more varied diet. THIS is where Haidt diverges from other psychologists who have analyzed the left's electoral failures. The usual argument of these psychopundits is that conservative politicians manipulate voters' neural roots - playing on our craving for authority, for example - to trick people into voting against their interests. But Haidt treats electoral success as a kind of evolutionary fitness test. He figures that if voters like Republican messages, there's something in Republican messages worth liking. He chides psychologists who try to "explain away" conservatism, treating it as a pathology. Conservatism thrives because it fits how people think, and that's what validates it Workers who vote Republican aren't fools. In Haidt's words, they're "voting for their moral interests." One of these interests is moral capital - norms, practices and institutions, like religion and family values, that facilitate cooperation by constraining individualism. Toward this end, Haidt applauds the left for regulating corporate greed. But he worries that in other ways, liberals dissolve moral capital too recklessly. Welfare programs that substitute public aid for spousal and parental support undermine the ecology of the family. Education policies that let students sue teachers erode classroom authority. Multicultural education weakens the cultural glue of assimilation. Haidt agrees that old ways must sometimes be re-examined and changed. He just wants liberals to proceed with caution and protect the social pillars sustained by tradition. Another aspect of human nature that conservatives understand better than liberals, according to Haidt, is parochial altruism, the inclination to care more about members of your group - particularly those who have made sacrifices for it -than about outsiders. Saving Darfur, submitting to the United Nations and paying taxes to educate children in another state may be noble, but they aren't natural. What's natural is giving to your church, helping your P.T.A. and rallying together as Americans against a foreign threat. How far should liberals go toward incorporating these principles? Haidt says the shift has to be more than symbolic, but he doesn't lay out a specific policy agenda. Instead, he highlights broad areas of culture and politics - family and assimilation, for example - on which liberals should consider compromise. He urges conservatives to entertain liberal ideas in the same way. The purpose of such compromises isn't just to win elections. It's to make society and government fit human nature. The hardest part, Haidt finds, is getting liberals to open their minds. Anecdotally, he reports that when he talks about authority, loyalty and sanctity, many people in the audience spurn these ideas as the seeds of racism, sexism and homophobia. And in a survey of 2,000 Americans, Haidt found that self-described liberals, especially those who called themselves "very liberal," were worse at predicting the moral judgments of moderates and conservatives than moderates and conservatives were at predicting the moral judgments of liberals. Liberals don't understand conservative values. And they can't recognize this failing, because they're so convinced of their rationality, open-mindedness and enlightenment. Haidt isn't just scolding liberals, however. He sees the left and right as yin and yang, each contributing insights to which the other should listen. In his view, for instance, liberals can teach conservatives to recognize and constrain predation by entrenched interests. Haidt believes in the power of reason, but the reasoning has to be interactive. It has to be other people's reason engaging yours. We're lousy at challenging our own beliefs, but we're good at challenging each other's. Haidt compares us to neurons in a giant brain, capable of "producing good reasoning as an emergent property of the social system." Our task, then, is to organize society so that reason and intuition interact in healthy ways. Haidt's research suggests several broad guidelines. First, we need to help citizens develop sympathetic relationships so that they seek to understand one another instead of using reason to parry opposing views. Second, we need to create time for contemplation. Research shows that two minutes of reflection on a good argument can change a person's mind. Third, we need to break up our ideological segregation. From 1976 to 2008, the proportion of Americans living in highly partisan counties increased from 27 percent to 48 percent. The Internet exacerbates this problem by helping each user find evidence that supports his views. How can we achieve these goals? Haidt offers a Web site, civilpolitics.org, on which he and his colleagues have listed steps that might help. One is holding open primaries so that people outside each party's base can vote to nominate moderate candidates. Another is instant runoffs, so that candidates will benefit from broadening their appeal. A third idea is to alter redistricting so that parties are less able to gerrymander partisan congressional districts. Haidt also wants members of Congress to go back to the old practice of moving their families to Washington, so that they socialize with one another and build a friendly basis on which to cooperate. Many of Haidt's proposals are vague, insufficient or hard to implement. And that's O.K. He just wants to start a conversation about integrating a better understanding of human nature - our sentiments, sociality and morality - into the ways we debate and govern ourselves. At this, he succeeds. It's a landmark contribution to humanity's understanding of itself. But to whom is Haidt directing his advice? If intuitions are unreflective, and if reason is self-serving, then what part of us does he expect to regulate and orchestrate these faculties? This is the unspoken tension in Haidt's book. As a scientist, he takes a passive, empirical view of human nature. He describes us as we have been, expecting no more. Based on evolution, he argues, universal love is implausible: "Parochial love . . . amplified by similarity" and a "sense of shared fate . . . may be the most we can accomplish." But as an author and advocate, Haidt speaks to us rationally and universally, as though we're capable of something greater. He seems unable to help himself, as though it's in his nature to call on our capacity for reason and our sense of common humanity - and in our nature to understand it. You don't have to believe in God to see this higher capacity as part of our nature. You just have to believe in evolution. Evolution itself has evolved: as humans became increasingly social, the struggle for survival, mating and progeny depended less on physical abilities and more on social abilities. In this way, a faculty produced by evolution - sociality - became the new engine of evolution. Why can't reason do the same thing? Why can't it emerge from its evolutionary origins as a spin doctor to become the new medium in which humans compete, cooperate and advance the fitness of their communities? Isn't that what we see all around us? Look at the global spread of media, debate and democracy. HAIDT is part of this process. He thinks he's just articulating evolution. But in effect, he's also trying to fix it. Traits we evolved in a dispersed world, like tribalism and righteousness, have become dangerously maladaptive in an era of rapid globalization. A pure scientist would let us purge these traits from the gene pool by fighting and killing one another. But Haidt wants to spare us this fate. He seeks a world in which "fewer people believe that righteous ends justify violent means." To achieve this goal, he asks us to understand and overcome our instincts. He appeals to a power capable of circumspection, reflection and reform. If we can harness that power - wisdom - our substantive project will be to reconcile our national and international differences. Is income inequality immoral? Should government favor religion? Can we tolerate cultures of female subjugation? And how far should we trust our instincts? Should people who find homosexuality repugnant overcome that reaction? Haidt's faith in moral taste receptors may not survive this scrutiny. Our taste for sanctity or authority, like our taste for sugar, could turn out to be a dangerous relic. But Haidt is right that we must learn what we have been, even if our nature is to transcend it. Politics isn't just about manipulating people who disagree with you. It's about learning from them. William Soletan, Slate's national correspondent, is the author of "Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War."

  Publishers Weekly Review

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 (a 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. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
<p>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.<br> <br> 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.</p>
Table of Contents
Introductionp. xi
Part IIntuitions Come First, Strategic Reasoning Second
1Where Does Morality Come From?p. 3
2The Intuitive Dog and Its Rational Tailp. 27
3Elephants Rulep. 52
4Vote for Me (Here's Why)p. 72
Part IIThere's More to Morality than Harm and Fairness
5Beyond WEIRD Moralityp. 95
6Taste Buds of the Righteous Mindp. 112
7The Moral Foundations of Politicsp. 128
8The Conservative Advantagep. 155
Part IIIMorality Binds and Blinds
9Why Are We So Groupish?p. 189
10The Hive Switchp. 221
11Religion Is a Team Sportp. 246
12Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?p. 274
Conclusionp. 315
Acknowledgmentsp. 319
Notesp. 323
Referencesp. 377
Indexp. 407
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