Saturday, April 23, 2016

Book Review: The Righteous Mind

‘The righteous mind : why good people are divided by politics and religion’ by Jonathan Haidt is, as the author says, about a new way to think about two of the most important, vexing, and divisive topics in human life: politics and religion. Politics and religion are both expressions of our underlying moral psychology, and an understanding of  that  psychology is essential for better appreciation of the issue.
The author begins with his contention that human nature is not just intrinsically moral, it’s also intrinsically moralistic, critical, and judgmental. Such predisposition is what enabled us to form communities and create civilization, and it is the key to everything else. It explains why some of us are liberal, others conservative. It is often the difference between war and peace. It is also why we are the only species that will kill for an ideal.
Through this book, the author takes us on a tour of human nature and human history. In Part I is presented the first principle of moral psychology: Intuitions come first, and other reasoning follows later. Thereafter the model is enlarged to include the idea, as the author puts it, a challenge to “rationalist delusion.” Part II is about the second principle of moral psychology, which explains that morality appears in many hue and shades that may look drastically different from what we normally consider as harm and fairness. The next principle follows in Part III, the relevance of the hypocritical element in human moral standards and its link with our daily living is examined here. What is our perspective on morality, politics, and religion? What makes us to go altruistic? Why can’t we disagree constructively?  What makes some people bind themselves to the liberal view, some to the conservative view and some to no view at all?
The book also examines few other esoteric topics. Like ‘the influence of genetic factors on the issues like political viewpoints’. Or, ‘the regular backfiring of leftist reforms and the presence of a permanent blind spot in the leftist brain’.
I found this a concise and interesting discussion about the moral in the affairs of the state. This book explained why people are divided by politics and religion. The answer is, not because some people are good and others are evil.  Instead, the explanation is that our minds are designed for such collective conscience.  We are deeply intuitive creatures whose gut feelings drive our strategic reasoning. This makes it difficult—but not impossible—to connect with those who live in other matrices. And we are complex creatures having variable needs and challenges, and our morality is built on different configurations of the available moral foundations.

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