What I Learned From Haidt’s Book: “The Righteous Mind” On Politics and Religion

I believe that the greatest divide between politics and intellectual discourse between people has never been completely polar opposites. Everyone is incredibly invested in their “team.” Politics is an incredibly expansive and bold topic to cover today.

People are highly reflexive about their position and it’s a very touchy subject for most. You see it every day on the mainstream media, people suggesting that we should live one way, or we should do this or that.

That is what politics is – of the greek politikos, the manifestations of how people should relate to one another. For myself, I like to take a step back from left-right wing dichotomies and detach myself in order to truly understand what is going on. I’ve always had a keen interest in psychology and philosophy.

Moreover, I find breaking down people’s beliefs objectively in true understanding interests to me. Not everyone is inclined to do this because it is challenging and it puts your own beliefs on hold, but it’s worth it as you can gain a more thorough perception.

The Righteous Mind - Jonathan Haidt
I was lucky to get this version of the cover. It’s sweet!

I was browsing the bookstore and discovered this book a couple of weeks ago: “The Righteous Mind – Why Good People Are Divided By Politics And Religion” by Jonathan Haidt and I had to pick it up. I think it speaks volumes to detach oneself of any previously conceived notions, while pausing debate with someone in an argument and understanding and temporarily suspending groupthink  in each sides of the debate. On the cover of the book, The New York Times Book Review suggested it’s “A landmark contribution to humanity’s understanding of itself.”

It makes it clear to me of how people are more radically left or right-wing or how they are moderates etc. Plus, it allows me to realize how both sides of the coin arrive to their conclusions. I had previously seen an hour long video and TedTalk of Haidt on Youtube and thought it would be an excellent read and sure enough I was right. I digested it in about a week. I see it as an invaluable and introductory source to understand politics. If I had a school course of my own this would be the first book I would put on the syllabus.

“An Eye-Opening and deceptively ambitious bestseller… Undoubtedly one of the most talked-about books of the year.” – The Wall Street Journal

The book is divided into three parts and it provides an array of studies, historical and anecdotal evidence to interpret.

Part One relays the idea that under politics, Intuitions Comes First, Strategic Reasoning comes second. This idea is simple, but is easily dismissed. As humans we tend to backwards rationalize, after our emotions and beliefs and conceptions have come in and has already been inputted.

Part Two:There’s More to Morality than Harm and Fairness.” It delves into different characteristics of politics in people.

Part Three realizes that Morality Binds and Blinds, on both sides of the coin, left and right may become blinded in their beliefs, but likewise it also allows people to connect with one another in their personal beliefs – in the grand scheme.

Haidt sheds light on Moral foundations between conservatives and liberals. One way of looking at the determinants of political systems is on a graph of X(Systematizer) and Y(Empathy) axis. Depending where you lie on these values you can find where one lies on a political spectrum.

Another method he uses is a 6 pillar foundation for politics and morality, they were: Care, Fairness, Liberty/Oppresion, Loyalty, Authority, Sanctity. The findings held that Liberals tend to find Care and Fairness more relevant/valuable while ‘Very Conservative’ people tend to rely on Care and Fairness differently, more reserved, while also upholding more relevance to Loyalty, Authority and Sanctity.The-Righteous-Mind-Why-Good-People-Are-Divided-By-Politics-And-Religion-Haidt-Graph

By the third part Haidt brings attention to people’s dismissal of Religion and the human need to find a group and adopt a Hive-mind mentality for both political wings. There are points signalling Religion as a method to bind a group. Haidt offers a perspective that opens my mind up in discovering why and how people use Religion and why others attack it as a traditional institution and assert that it oppressive etc. It makes me see the two sides clearer.

The greatest takeaway from the book I uncovered is that people arrive to their conclusions in different ways whether from a reflexive manner, other times instinctively, biological influence, upbringing and or cultural reasons or general conformity. Another takeaway is that there is a strong reason to believe that the Left-Right Wing dichotomy serves as good palettes to pick and choose different moral values to paint a society and achieve a greater world view in understanding.

It is not that we can use ideas from this side or that side. But also knowing that it is necessary to understand both positions, not being immediately reflexive of other groups, but truly gain an understanding and amplifying you to a new vantage point. With that said I recall a favourite quote from the philosopher Aristotle in accepting and entertaining different views/thoughts :



Have a great week!

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