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

I was given this book by Kirtly Parker Jones, the chair of our board at Torrey House Press. I tell my kids they can put “Better Lucky Than Smart” on my tombstone and Kirtly is an example of why. She is as wise, gentle and insightful as they come and I know her simply because I built a house prominently in her viewshed in Torrey.Thank you for this fantastic book, Kirtly.

This is the book to read if you cannot figure out how the other side in our Manichaean political environment can possibly think what they think and believe what they believe. Haight carefully layers arguments until the reader is able to accept that we evolved both in groups as well as individually. He posits that we are moral beings, generally, but we subscribe to different brands of morality. All the same, our minds were designed for “groupish righteousness.”

As a guy who never functioned well in a group and could not wait to get out of any I was in and get into some fresh air, it took me a while to get on board that I am designed to be in a group. Haidt is convincing that our morality is 90% intuition and 10% reason. We start out with a genetic moral disposition. Given our genetic make-up, we gravitate toward our favorite echo chamber. A guy like me then is apparently genetically inclined toward the (classically) libertarian group, a group defined by beliefs where they are not generally wanting to hang out in groups.

I have the first world problem of having two homes with bookshelves. I would like to shelve this one in Torrey, but I would also like it handy as I try to absorb that what seems so polarized today can be more like yin and yang and provide necessary, complimentary political balance.

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