06 June 2013

The Righteous Mind; Jonathan Haidt

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and ReligionThe Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I forgot where I heard about this, but the subject has interested me for a while: my family is either Very Liberal or Very Conservative, with few moderates (I count myself among those few). Neither side understands, or wants to understand, the other. As Haidt points out, those of us in WEIRD (White, Educated, Industrialized, Rich and Democratic) countries are often, to the rest of the world, weird. Understanding why and how is important.

According to him, there are six legs to our belief-stool: Care, Fairness, Liberty, Authority, Sanctity and Loyalty. Liberals value the first three and don't value the last, while conservatives value all three pretty much equally. Doubt me? Check out your assumptions on YourMorals.org. It's enlightening. As is the middle third of this book, which to me explained why the people in my family on the right and left think and act as they do. The first third is relatively dry (although some of his examples are interesting) as is the third third, with the exception of Chapter 12 (if you're like me, you'll skim the first 100-ish pages, delve into the next 100, then skim until the last bit). All that skimming led to the loss of stars; had he not underpinned that center part with so much social science and examples from the animal world (did you know that chimpanzees don't work together? yeah, well...) and used a few more examples from the religious and political sides, and any from educational theories, more stars would have been forthcoming.

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