The Righteous Mind: A Worthy Read

righteous mind

“My goal in this book is to draw some of the heat, anger and divisiveness out of these topics and replace them with awe, wonder, and curiosity.”

I knew this would be good. Having watched some of Haidt’s interviews and lectures, I already had a pretty clear view of his intellectual rigour. Yet what I didn’t know before going into this was how powerful and necessary this book would be. Especially in today’s incendiary political climate, Righteous Mind successfully bridges the growing gap between partisan views.

“Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say”

Exploring the differences in liberal/conservative thinking through moral psychology, this book gives a fascinating view into partisanship, polarisation and the moral blindness (on both sides) that can stand in the way of productive debates.

“We humans have an extraordinary ability to care about things beyond ourselves, to circle around those things with other people, and in the process to bind ourselves to teams they can pursue larger projects.”

This is a rich area for discussion and exploration, so don’t expect to walk away from this book with a complete picture. Nonetheless, it will certainly provide an interested individual with plenty of puzzle pieces to get started.

“Team membership blinds people to the motives and morals of their opponents- and to the wisdom that is to be found scattered among diverse political ideologies.”

What’s especially interesting about Righteous Mind is that it tracks a personal journey. If you’re familiar with the author, you might know that he’s had an intriguing political awakening over the last few years, leading Haidt to co-founding the Heterodox Academy (a membership organisation that supports viewpoint diversity in universities). Needless to say, this book serves a purpose in that greater desire to create civil dialogues.

“It felt good to be released from partisan anger. And once I was no longer angry, I was no longer committed to reaching the conclusion that righteous anger demands: we are right, they are wrong.”

While there is some “suspicion of moral monists” prevalent in the book, the fundamental message is empathetic and understanding. It ends on a beautiful idea: we can work it out. Above all, this book encourages people to sit down and find common ground.

Interesting titbits from the book:

  • Liberals have a harder time predicting/understanding conservatives (probably more to do with the political climate than anything innate)
  • Conservatives lower in agreeableness (Dr Peterson currently has a doctorate student exploring how the big five personality can be used to predict political views, so essentially true, but there’s more complexity here)
  • To understand another group, follow the sacredness
  • There’s more to morality than harm and fairness.
  • Like rats that cannot stop pressing a button, partisans may be simply unable to stop believing weird things.
  • We found that libertarians look more like liberals than like conservatives on most measures of personality

Rating: 5/5 bananas

small bananasmall bananasmall bananasmall bananasmall banana 

Have you read this? Do you plan to? Let me know in the comments!

53 thoughts on “The Righteous Mind: A Worthy Read

  1. That “morality binds and blinds” quote is so true! The more passionate versus rational a person is with their political views, the more extreme they are, adopting the mindset of “either you’re with me or against me.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This book is going on my list! I’ve noticed recently how people can’t even bring themselves to contemplate a differing opinion anymore. It seems to be if you disagree with someone politically you’re either evil or too dumb to live. Anyway I could go off on a tangent about this one but I’m grateful for the book recommendation! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. This sounds really interesting. Is this written based on american conservatives and liberals, because I think depending on what country you’re looking at it would change what is considered liberal and conservative views. Even between Canada and the US there is a big difference. Our conservatives are more closely relatable to the US democrats. Different things are considered liberal beliefs to different cultures, I feel like I need to read this book, because I now have a million questions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really was interesting! Yeah it’s definitely based on the American version of liberal/conservative- I’m from the UK and “liberal” has a slightly different meaning over here too, so I get what you mean. I’ve just gotten so used to American politics that I no longer translate it in my head 😉 Just go with it as basically left/right. But it’s really worth reading the book if you’re interested in the topic.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Great review! This sounds like a fascinating book. I listened to a podcast a while ago that addressed similar issues – i.e. how detrimental it is when there’s a lack of understanding and discussion between two political ‘camps’ and when that gap grows ever wider, which sadly seems to happen a lot these days – and it was really eye-opening. This book sounds like it goes into much more detail though. I have a friend who would love it so I’ll recommend it to him! (I’d be keen to read it myself but knowing how rarely I manage to read non-fiction I can’t make any promises 🙂 ).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Woah, 5/5 bananas? It’s definitely something I need to check out, then… Agh, this sounds so cool! I love those little tidbits of information! And how the message came across as “we can work it out” in the end? Love that.
    Great review 🌻💛

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Terrific review! This one sounds like it has interesting stats and messages to offer (I mean, those tidbits were very cool), and of course a book that offers both sides of the argument is definitely worth the consideration. I’ll definitely be adding this to my TBR!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This sounds so interesting! I have been thinking a lot lately about how to have productive discussions with people whose views are different than mine – it’s hard! It is really a skill to disagree with someone in a way that is both respectful and receptive. Especially in an environment where we’re pretty much discouraged from doing that – sometimes rightly so, because some people’s views are so abhorrent that you shouldn’t have to engage with them. But then on the other hand if no one ever engages, how can anything change? It’s complicated! There is a great podcast happening at the moment called Conversations With People Who Hate Me in which this social activist, Dylan Marron calls up some of the people who have left the most abusive messages on his content to talk about it – with surprisingly lovely results a lot of the time. This was my very long winded way of saying I for sure want to read this one!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! I’ve been thinking about it a lot too. And yes it’s really hard to have a conversation with someone that you disagree with. And yes- it seems that there is an environment that discourages it (especially because we have a tendency to demonise the other side too much, by assuming people are coming from a position there’s a solid chance they’re not coming from- and this is a problem with both sides). That sounds like such an interesting podcast and I really want to check it out. Brilliant- I’m so glad!!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I don’t read a lot of political non-fiction, but this one definitely sounds promising. Seems like you really could get a nice refreshing look at biased political views and what not in this. Will keep in mind! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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