The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Haidt is a wonderfully clear and effective writer. He is able to condense scientific and technical ideas and evidence and make them accessible and understandable. Part of his appeal is, I think, that he comes across as intellectually honest and diligent.
This book put Haidt on the public intellectual map—or at least it seemed that way to me. I recall the book creating quite a stir when it came out in 2012. Reading it now in 2020, many of the ideas already strike me as quite familiar. This is a huge complement to Haidt: what seemed at first novel is now commonplace. After almost a decade of this kind of social psychological thinking (not just Haidt, but others such as Daniel Kahneman) working its way into the discourse, it doesn’t quite come across as ground-breaking any more.
That said, it is still an important book. It examines important questions about how our moral ideas and foundations are formed and how that affects how we think about all kinds of things in our world: but most importantly religion and politics. As contentious as these issues might have been back in 2012, they only seem to have gotten worse. And even though there is in his arguments much I am not ultimately persuaded by, the perspective he offers can still help each of us better understand each other.
If there is a core theme to take away from the book: it is that most people are not evil or out to destroy everything you hold sacred; so try to understand where they are coming from and why. You might find that although you still disagree with them, you can understand why they think the way they do (as well as better understand why you think the way you do). This opens the door to the possibility of communication and less divisiveness.
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