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The Righteous Mind, Introduction

#169: Dec. - Mar. 2020 & #109: Jul. - Sept. 2012 (Non-Fiction)
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DWill
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Haidt states his purpose as exploring (and presumably answering) the question of why it is so hard for us to get along. Such an approach makes sense for Haidt, who has done work in positive psychology, the discipline launched about 25 years ago by Martin Seligman. Seligman believed that psychology devoted too much energy to what goes wrong in our complicated minds. He thought that a science of human flourishing was in order.

Haidt’s intro is laid out simply and gives anyone who might be interested in his ideas plenty to chew on. So a few quotes might do the job of getting discussion going.

“I study moral psychology, and I’m going to make the case that morality is the extraordinary human capacity that made civilization possible.” Not a modest claim, that one.

“We are downright lucky that we evolved this complex moral psychology that allowed our species to burst out of the forests and savannas and into the delights, comforts, and extraordinary peacefulness of modern societies in just a few thousand years.” We often think of our own era as exceptionally violent. Not so, Haidt explains in a footnote.

“…human nature is not just intrinsically moral, it’s also intrinsically moralistic, critical, and judgmental.” A word encompassing all three of these adjectives is righteous. Haidt is not such a big believer in our ability to be rational, to be able to judge from facts alone independent of our biases and emotional investments.

“I want to show you that an obsession with righteousness (leading inevitably to self-righteousness) is the normal human condition. It is a feature of our evolutionary design, not a bug or error that crept into minds that would otherwise be objective and normal.” Again, "we are all self-righteous hypocrites."

A primary principle: “Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.” People’s moral arguments are “mostly post hoc constructions made up on the fly, crafted to advance one or more strategic objectives.”

In the same vein, “the mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant. The rider is our conscious reasoning…the elephant is the other 99 percent of mental processes—the ones that occur outside of awareness but that actually govern most of our behavior.” This view of our mental nature appears to have gained currency over the last few decades, not to mention its origins in Freud, of course. Books on consciousness by Damasio and others, books like Predictably Irrational and On Being Certain, tell us that a scientifically informed view of the mind will de-emphasize the role of what we call rational thought. There is a potential conflict here with rationalists (including many atheists) and all inheritors of the Enlightenment, who place a high value on the mind’s rational ability. One of the major accusations against religion is that it is irrational. But if none of us can be very rational, anyway, is it so important that religion isn’t primarily a product of the frontal cortex? A larger question is whether science can give people like Haidt the data to support a particular characterization of the mind. Can we really quantify the mind’s workings as anything even approximating 99 percent against one percent?

“I’ll show that religion is (probably) an evolutionary adaptation for binding groups together and helping them to create communities with a shared morality. It is not a virus or a parasite, as some scientists (the “New Atheists”) have argued in recent years.”

Two other of his governing principles: “There’s more to morality than harm and fairness,” and “Morality binds and blinds.”
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Saffron
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That is a lot to chew on. Observation, not really having anything to do with anything, but here it is: It would seem that the 99% to 1% split is getting to be a popular division. And even the dynamic between the two seems similar; the 1% having all the prestige and authority and the 99% being under valued.
:lol:
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DWill
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Saffron wrote:That is a lot to chew on. Observation, not really having anything to do with anything, but here it is: It would seem that the 99% to 1% split is getting to be a popular division. And even the dynamic between the two seems similar; the 1% having all the prestige and authority and the 99% being under valued.
:lol:
You were quicker than I was, by the way. I wanted the Sent ts'an quote as my own signature line. :( We'll wait to find out if Haidt wants to champion the 99%.
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geo
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Sounds like an interesting book!
-Geo
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LevV
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Haidt opens his introduction with quotes from Rodney King. With King's funeral taking place on the eve of our beginning the book discussion, my 1percent rational brain is struggling to convince the 99 percent intuitive part that it is just a coincidence .... Or is it? ;)
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It can be difficult know when is the time to cue the Twilight Zone music.
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Dexter
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I've read the first few chapters, very interesting book so far. I think it will influence the way I look at political debates. I always knew that politics was something of a team sport, and people have their identity and status tied up in their positions. But this helps explain it a little better, as to why there is so little rational analysis and changing peoples' minds.

I'm interested to learn about the evidence on how people develop their political views, if he goes into that specifically.
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So far i'm finding this interesting. I'm glad to see someone proposing an alternative to Nature or Nurture. I never believed that everything could be so black and white. Haidt's thesis may prove more than interesting in that his fundamentals may help us to agree more with our adversaries or bring them around closer to our own way of thinking in a debate, however, I probably won't expend the energy to engage in the debate.
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Saffron
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Hey, I just discovered that at least the first part of this book is available on Google Books! I've now been able to start reading while I wait for the copy I reserved from my library. So far I've finished the intro - I'm hooked.

http://books.google.com/books?id=ItuzJh ... nd&f=false
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Hey, I just discovered that at least the first part of this book is available on Google Books! I've now been able to start reading while I wait for the copy I reserved from my library. So far I've finished the intro - I'm hooked
When I click on that link I don't get a preview Saffron. Any special trick to it?
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Saffron
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bradams wrote:
Hey, I just discovered that at least the first part of this book is available on Google Books! I've now been able to start reading while I wait for the copy I reserved from my library. So far I've finished the intro - I'm hooked
When I click on that link I don't get a preview Saffron. Any special trick to it?
I have a feeling maybe my link is only good in the US, because when I click it I get to the book. I wonder what would happen if you went to Google Books directly and then searched for the title.
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Saffron
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I am posting on this thread because I couldn't figure out where the post would fit. I am in chapter 6 - I am a slow reader and have been distracted. I hope I have not missed all the discussion of this book. Reading has been like sitting in favorite professor's favorite class. I really like the way Haidt describes how he came to think about and understand morality as he presents his material.
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I was going to finish up with a post on the last chapter soon. But we could use a second wave of discussion, for sure. I like the way Haidt wrote the book, too. He frames some of it in terms of his personal discovery of other valid moral foundations and his newfound respect for conservatism. He also runs the gamut from some pretty arcane scientific stuff (but well presented for the non-specialist) to what's going on in politics today--a lot of range in the book. I agree he comes across as a really excellent teacher.
Last edited by DWill on Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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