Review: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion
The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Back in 2012, I took the Moral Foundations Questionnaire test. So almost five years later, I finally got around to reading the book that explains it. Since it is now Facebook integrated, I kind of want ALL my friends to take it.

The framework presented here makes sense to me. I was fascinated by Drew Westen‘s
The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation
talking about fear being the key to reaching conservative voters. I could see that in the 2012 and 2016 elections. But, in the 2016 one, it felt like there was something missing. This book explains that pretty well for me. First, there are several values: Care, Liberty, Fairness, Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity. People who favor certain ones tend to skew into certain parties.

Also, the cycle tends to be we feel something, then judge it based on the feeling, and then create reasons to explain away the judgement. We mistake the reasoning as the basis for values and morality when it is much more subservient to the feelings. I would love to see where Behavioral Economics could go with Moral Foundations Theory.

Applied to politics, I finally understand why people so often vote for policies that will hurt them. They are keyed to emotional reactions to values triggered through how candidates express themselves. Being such a fan of behavioral economics, my impression of humans as purely rational was discarded long ago. MFT fits my observations of others and even myself better than anything else I have seen.

We also are highly social and dependent on the group dynamic. And yet, what policies are chosen to by governments can fray the social capital they have. Immigration and ethnic diversity can trigger a push back leading to more racism.

The book does not really have answers. The questions will drive some of my reading for the next decade in search of them.

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Argumentative Theory of Reasoning

I posted a web comic poking fun at the irrational fear of the ocean. My carefulness last weekend maybe kept me from getting stung by jellyfish and definitely from stepping on a stingray or skate. There were no sharks that I saw. But then, “absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.” šŸ™‚

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Dr. Jonathan Haidt, NYU — Bob Howard, Village Square

After some comments, I eventually deleted the post because I was tired of the arguing whether fear is rational or irrational. (It is both which is why I thought the comic funny and posted it, but obviously this was not the correct audience.) I keep to myself more these days to keep from arguing about politics. There has been a temptation to leave Facebook altogether in order to get away from the madness. Something I will not tolerate is that kind of thing on my own posts. I tell people to stop and if anyone eggs it on, then I delete the post.

In Jonathan Haidt‘s Edge talkĀ A New Science of Morality (Part 1), he alerts us to:

According to Mercier and Sperber reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments. That’s why they call it The Argumentative Theory of Reasoning. [1]

My own Confirmation Bias screams that thisĀ absolutely must be the most true thing I have read this decade. SeveralĀ postsĀ onĀ thisĀ blogĀ demonstrateĀ my fascination with people trusting their ideology over the facts. But this makes sense in an environment where people are mainly looking to prove themselves correct. Someone can be completely reasonable, but if the other has made up their mind there is no changing it. The flow of information only serves to eventually serve up something that supports their view which they will seize upon.

As Behavioral Economics fanboy, I very much am all about humans are not extremely imperfect reasoners. To label anyone, even Neil deGrasse Tyson, as very rationalĀ strikes me as irrational. It will be difficult to refrain from not using reasonable as pejorative to mean someone who has stopped thinking beyond only supporting their own view.

Disgust and politics

I am a fan of Jonathan Haidt. In running across this, I think it helps me understand where social conservatives are coming from. HeĀ talks about three dimensions:

  1. Solidarity: how close we are to something. Family are close. Strangers are far.
  2. Hierarchy: who is above and below.
  3. Divinity: closeness to a deity.

Disgust originated as a guardian for what we ate, but later adapted to preventing contamination of the body in general including morality.

Found this onĀ The politics of disgust animated for the age of Trump.

Further reading:

TED Talk: How common threats can make common (political) ground

Haidt writes and talks about Moral Psychology. This is third of his TED Talks I will post here.

I liked this one because I agree we are capable of working together even when we have differences. Getting past those differences? There is the accomplishment.

If the video below does not load, then try Jonathan Haidt: How common threats can make common (political) ground.

TED Talk: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence

Another Tuesday, another Jonathon Haidt video.

Locked cooperation can lead to success over free-riders. I am curious what is the next big thing where cooperation will overcome something deemed insurmountable.

If the video below does not load, then try Jonathan Haidt: Religion, evolution, and the ecstasy of self-transcendence.

TED Talk: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives

I am surprised I cannot find anything by Haidt on this blog. Back when I first heard this I looked further and found his web site yourmorals.org. I took some of the tests. I scored high on the two left moral foundations, high one right, and low on the two other right. Care to guess which of the right ones (Loyalty, Authority, Purity) I scored high?

If the video below does not load, then try Jonathan Haidt: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives.