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

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