The Righteous Mind

As a liberal who grew up in a conservative family, it has always shocked me how people can be Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 3.05.34 PM
similar and compatible in many ways, and even love one another deeply, and yet hold completely different beliefs about something as important and basic as politics. It seemed logical that people who share the major influences on personality (i.e., biology and environment) should share a common sense of morality that would, subsequently, shape and determine their political philosophy. In a given society, isn’t morality, morality? It wasn’t until I discovered Carol Gilligan, whose work examines the existence of different types of morality (morality of care, which emphasizes relationships, empathy, compassion; and the morality of justice, which focuses on rules, duties and obligations), that I began to form a deeper understanding of human nature, including the possibility of major differences and points of contention existing between otherwise close and similar people. Haidt’s book has helped even more to restrain me from throwing food at family dinners. Here’s the  précis:

People are more intuitive than rational. as opposed to Tom Frank’s “what’s the matter with Kansas,” which asks why working class and poor people vote against their interests. Haidt’s book explains that they are voting for their interests, specifically, they are voting intuitively for their moral interests.

Screen Shot 2013-07-11 at 3.07.58 PMAbortion, homosexuality, feminism and even Andre Serrano are threatening if your priorities are order and integrity of social fabric. If you value tradition, stability, faith and valor over care and equality, many forms of self-expression may be anathema to you.
In a nonpartisan way, Haidt discusses what both parties are doing wrong and what they can do to improve. He shares results from numerous psychological studies as well as offering some great insights on human evolution.

These few, disjointed lines don’t begin to do the book justice, but basically it is a timely and vital exploration of the human condition and how we better understand each other and cooperate when we make decisions with something more than our righteous mind. In an age of political polarization and paralysis, this kind of empathy and cooperation is a noble goal, making “The Righteous Mind” a valuable book.

Nicole Charbonnet

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