The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Category: World
Author: Jonathan Haidt
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by meowkit   2021-01-09
CT/CRT promotes an external locus of control as the source of societal problems. In other words, its not the fault of the individual/human hardware its the fault of the patterns that society has entrenched aka systemic racism or the software of a culture.

Its a top down theory/solution to what critics would argue is a bottom up problem. Individuals must be responsible for what they say, how they regulate their emotional state, and how their experiences and cognitive distortions skew their thinking. CT/CRT, by my understanding, argues against this. Thus it seems reasonable to say it leads to a lack of accountability if you define accountability as a responsibility for ones actions and beliefs.

I’ve read a small bit on CT/CRT, intersectionality, and the modern culture of safetyism. Primarily from Haidt who has more peer reviewed sources on things than anyone could ever want.

I find CT/CRT to be compelling to a degree, but it brings along with it too much baggage in my opinion. You’re likely not going to find or be given a specific source of data that says CRT leads to lack of accountability (however you would measure that), its an assumption made by the previous poster. You don’t need one either to have a discussion, so don’t fall back on the lack of academic evidence as an argument in itself.

by BeetleB   2020-10-19
I don't have the actual study at hand, but it's cited in the book "The Righteous Mind".[1] They looked at independent communes[2] in the US in the 1800's, and 20 years after the founding of a commune, 6% of the secular ones were still around, as opposed to 39% of the religious ones. The latter had more things binding them. One insight: In religious communes, sacrifices (no alcohol, etc) correlated with longevity. In secular communities, there was no correlation. Over there, every sacrifice had to be argued about and justified. There was less thrash in religious communes.

(Just found the author of the study/studies: Sosis[3]


[2]: A commune being defined as a group of people not sharing kinship deciding to live and work together.


by birdinthebush74   2019-11-17

Socialogist Jonathan Haidt has an interesting take on the values of left v right

His book has some interesting ideas

by RFF671   2019-11-17

I'm grateful someone else understands the actual data. The difference between the data here and OP ethnography is not "understanding the issue", it's treating the issue at hand. Also, people can be asses especially to strangers but I think anyone who uses reddit/the internet knows that well.




by boothofthebeast   2019-11-17

It's incredibly rare for people to be reasonable nowadays, especially on the internet.

Being reasonable and measured makes it very difficult to feel/signal virtuous and self-righteous and better than anyone else - and people do seek that sort of reward, especially in increasingly emotional societies. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion by Prof. Jonathan Haidt addresses this and why that addictive feeling of self-righteousness often drives people to zealotry and extreme positions - they want to be seen as "pure" and "uncompromising". It used to be typical adolescent/teenager behaviour but it's becoming increasingly generalized in adults.

by jub-jub-bird   2019-11-17

> Only psychopaths have no empathy. Everyone else has varying levels of empathy.

This is true, but it is also the case that they have no conscience. That is to say that they have no internal sense of right or wrong which makes them feel either guilt or self-approval to the degree that their actions conform to an intuitive sense or conscious code of right or wrong behavior... which is to say they are without morality.

> I have not given you a reason why reducing suffering should be a goal because I'm not arguing that anything should be a goal. It just is a goal.

OK, then so you are fine with having a goal without any reason behind it so long as nobody labels that indefinable non-reason "morals"?

But let's explore the potential that the issue here is not an actual disagreement but simply a matter of confused terminology. You object to using the term "morals" and we think morals is a bit more complex than "empathy" but at least on this topic they are close enough that there's no real issue. The same empathy that you have for the rape victim we have for the victim of murders and abortion. Therefore we support laws against both murder and abortion.

I think that should then sufficiently answer your question of "What are the arguments in favor of banning abortions?" which is that they are identical to your answer to the question of "What are the arguments in favor of banning rape?"

>> Morality is more often a counter-impulse compelling people to NOT do what they want.

> I think you'll find it actually isn't. People do what they want. You may say they want to fuck, but their morality tells them not to rape. But in reality, they just calculated that they would suffer less by getting blue balls, then they would by raping someone and suffering the consequences (either through guilt, jail time etc.)

You mention suffering due to "guilt" but your philosophy doesn't explain it. If there is only "want" why do I suffer emotionally for a past act where I did what I wanted? There are competing wants one of which appears to be a desire to act in the "right" way despite the sometimes stronger desire to do something else "murder, rape, lie, cheat, steal etc." and if I act contrary to that "moral" code or moral intuition I subsequently make myself suffer for it. (you can substitute "right" and "moral" with a much longer dissertation on social cohesion and empathy but the point remains roughly the same)

> But, of course, instead I was bombarded with claims of an imaginary rulebook of morals and accusations of acting in bad faith.

You weren't bombarded with any claims of "imaginary rulebook of morals" but with very simple moral statements that 99% of the human race regardless of religion or atheistic philosophy agrees with: "murder is wrong". You disagreed with this simple moral statement upon which there is universal consensus with "there is no such thing as right or wrong".

The fact is that phenomena which produces rules of social interaction which you are calling the "instinct for social cohesion" actuated by "empathy" and which you required hundreds of words to explain to me everyone else in the world long ago decided to call "morals" and "right" or "wrong". Your tabula rasa rethinking of the whole thing from the ground is admirable as a clarifying thought experiment for yourself and may produce useful insights to you. But pedantically objecting to the word "wrong" when you'd have accepted "a violation of the commonly accepted rules of social interaction for the sake of social cohesions and reduction of empathetic suffering" is an obvious barrier to communication and frankly appears on it's face to be a bad faith shifting of the conversation to a place where conversation is impossible. If there is no right or wrong there's no basis for debate. We want rules against abortion for whatever non-reason we might have but you have no basis to disagree with that non-reason being incapable of saying it's "wrong" but can only say that you personally prefer things to be otherwise for your own non-reasons. To move the conversation along from that point you needed a dozen post and hundreds of words to describe how you arrive at a code of allowed/not-allowed behavior without it being right/wrong and without calling that code of behavior a "moral" code. It all ends up feeling like a pedantic argument about semantics at that point.. Regardless of your reasoning you end up with a code of acceptable or unacceptable behavior which guides your own behavior and the laws you'd like to see enacted. Everyone else in the world would call that a "moral code" and plenty of people who like you share a disbelief in an6 absolute or universal morality are still perfectly fine still calling the phenomena "morals" even though the see it as subjective or cultural.

On a completely different note:

You should read Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind and his Moral Foundations theory. Haidt is a social psychologist who studies the psychological or instinctual basis for morality. He identified several different distinct categories of right/wrong behavior which appear to be consistent across cultures. Those categories of right/wrong which he terms "foundations" are: Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sanctity/Degradation to which he later added Liberty/Oppression. in the book he includes his speculation about the social and evolutionary utility of each foundation. Interestingly while he found that these moral foundations are consistent across cultures they are not consistent within cultures in terms of the comparative importance that people place upon them and this he found explained a host of political divisions within cultures at a deeper psychological level beyond mere policy differences. The main political division is the relative emphasis of the care/harm (empathy) axis vs the others. People on the "left" (and this was consistent across cultures) prioritizing care/harm well above all other moral foundations while conservatives regardless of culture were NOT notably less empathetic or concerned about care/harm but they did care about other moral foundations more such that they sometimes trump care/harm. So in the USA the leftist wants to be generous with welfare payments to minimize suffering but the conservative while being just as concerned about minimizing suffering is ALSO concerned about fairness so he's concerned about avoiding free-rider problems and accepts some suffering to avoid them or perhaps is even gratified that an attempted free-rider should suffer for abusing other people's charity.

by witchdoc86   2019-11-17

Well. Like humans that we are, we do human things. Some of us make fun of creationists here, and some of them make fun of us at /r/Creation.

I try to be civil, as I like to be nice, and hopefully get someone with an opposing view to read what I write, but like most IRL debates, one side swaying the other is very rare.

Beliefs do not occur in isolation - see the foundationalist or coherentist models of knowledge, for example. To change one, often it is necessary to also change other beliefs.

For example, to change one's views on gay marriage, one may need to change one's beliefs on biblical inerrantism and whether sex is dualistic or a spectrum.

To change a YECer's point of view, again, it may be necessary to change their view on biblical inerrantism/belief that Satan in in charge of this world, clouding scientist's eyes/what the context and purpose of Genesis 1&2 is.

To flip my view (back to creationism), YECers need to change my beliefs on the evidence, purpose of Gen1&2, and biblical inerrancy, amongst others.

This is difficult as this is complicated by confirmation bias and the backfire effect which are very real phenomena.

In addition, although we think we are rational, we are not ; our passions direct our beliefs to a great extent.

by _Zer0_Cool_   2019-11-17

Any theories for why this is the case?

I’m thinking it’s that people view us as double-agents looking to water down their beliefs while simultaneously siding with the enemy.

I call it the “Anakin” syndrome. E. G. If you’re not with me then your my enemy.

Because the Sith on both sides seem to only deal in absolutes. IMO It’s due to the climate of extremism and tribalism caused by the two-party system gone rampant.

Like... “How dare you have a moderate view? Can’t you see that [other political party] is Hitler!? They just want to murder puppies!”

Lol. Uh. No. They’re Americans with different moral values that believe the are doing what is right.

I’d like to take a moment to plug Jonathan Haidt’s work on Moral Psychology theory —

by meetinnovatorsadrian   2019-08-24

I disagree completely. This poster got it right:

>Won’t people be saying that about today’s writers in a few centuries as well. Everything that’s written is colored through the current events and while we may be able to see the flaws in older works doesn’t that just mean we’re now free to draw our own conclusions from it. Idk what I’m trying to say I haven’t even read the book or heard of it before I just wanted to pretend to be smart.

You may want to spend some time reading Haidt, to learn more about why so much ivory tower academic research is off base

by TroyStackhouse   2019-08-24

Here’s why this is simply a terrible, terrible idea... crickets

Actually, if you want more insight into why this might just feel wrong to you, I highly recommend you check out this book by Jonathan Haidt: The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Edit: If you’re going to downvote, please at least comment to explain your disagreement.

by Fuzzy_Thoughts   2019-08-24

Thank you very much! These are some really excellent thoughts and I'm grateful for the additional context from someone who has not only been here for a while, but from someone who was a mod/head mod. I showed up on /r/mormon about a year ago when my faith transition started (I only used /r/latterdaysaints prior to that for a couple years), so that "battleground" context is probably very important.

The Righteous Mind comes to mind for all of us and whatever group we might generally align ourselves with.

by japanesepiano   2019-07-21

Most of what I am referencing can be found in the Righteous Mind. I highly recommend reading it if you have a chance. I don't know that everyone will outgrow this "fairness tendency", though I think that some do. There may be some inherent value in fairness, though less so in the joy which people derive from seeing their enemies or out-group suffer (which also appears to be very widespread). In many ways, I think I was one of the "good kids" and I did on one occasion turn in a roommate to the BYU honor code office for having a girl spend the night (in the living room, no sex was involved). In retrospect, probably a very bad and immature thing to do. As a freshman, it seemed like the right thing to do.

I don't know if I have good answers to your questions, just a few thoughts for consideration.

by imVINCE   2019-07-21

That’s kinda what separates conservatism from liberalism; wholly liberal, progressive societies tend to respect each individual’s identity, failing to foster a common identity and eventually becoming insolvent. Uniformly conservative societies, on the other hand, devolve into oppressive totalitarianism, but are more stable. This is why a society generally benefits from a diversity of viewpoints combining the tolerance of liberalism with the shared identity of conservatism.

Jonathan Haidt discusses the research around and moral underpinnings of these ideas in this incredible book.

by k995   2019-07-21

> You've now handwaived my entire response, the question I posed is one neither one of us can answer, so I'm a little bit confused at how you came to a conclusion.

Because we were talking about de roover not about hedebouw. So either de rover made a comparison and then laughed with himself as everyone wrongly saw that as a joke, or he made a joke where people and himself laughed with.


> This might be a bit too forward of me, but if you ever have the time, I'd highly recommend this book. It doesn't take political stances, instead it showcases research on why political debates never end. I massively enjoyed reading it years ago, and gave me some introspection into why I took the positions I did back then, and my immobility of changing my point of view at times.

Recomending a book is never "too forward in my opnion.


And i'll check it out, thx.

by 0LTakingLs   2019-07-21

Here’s some important reading you’ll find on many law school’s suggested reading list. I’d suggest taking a look before being “that guy” constantly morally posturing over everyone else in class.

by jub-jub-bird   2019-07-21

Conservative lurker here: Assume conservatives are reasonable people with rational reasons for believing the things they believe. Listen to those reasons and debate them from there. Don't assume your ideas are self-evidently true and that only people who are stupid or have bad motives can disagree.

Also realize that a lot of political debate is driven by disagreements that go deeper than policy to moral values or beliefs about human nature. Disagreements over such fundamental premises bubble up into disagreements about particular policies but can't be resolved at that level because the real disagreement is about something deeper.

by TheAceOfHearts   2019-07-12
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned this one yet: "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion", by Jonathan Haidt [0]. This book fundamentally changed how I think about religion and politics. It helped me understand a lot of behaviors which I'd previous considered absolutely incomprehensible.


by crazygringo   2019-06-28
From the links, it seems like his main criticism of Dawkins is actually merely the word "selfish" in the title of his book, and that the CEO of Enron liked it?

Yes, Dawkins is saying that "universal love" does not have an evolutionary component, which seems like a fairly uncontroversial claim.

It seems like your criticism of Dawkins is more a criticism of how other people have misunderstood him, rather than any criticism of the arguments in The Selfish Gene itself?

If you haven't, I highly suggest you read Jonathan Haidt's "The Righteous Mind". While it's at a popular level, it does a fairly good job at presenting a plausible framework for how moral behavior (like altruism) can emerge from evolutionary principles. [1] Haidt is probably one of the most influential moral psychologists today.


by mpwoz   2019-04-08
I found the book 'The Righteous Mind' very eye-opening and it talks about exactly these things, I recommend it to all my friends.

Particularly relevant to my own experience was the commentary on how politicians have become less cooperative with their rivals in other parties, and how political views/party associations have become more extreme/less tolerant overall.

Highly recommend.

by BeetleB   2018-11-16
Often mentioned on HN, Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind ( is a worthy read. Briefly: Almost everyone comes up with the conclusion first, and rationale later. The former drives the latter. He gives examples from studies where people gave responses similar to what this paper has: Very poor reasons, and occasionally nonsensical ones.

This is true for pretty much everyone - don't go and count yourself as the exception. The more intelligent you are, the more refined your reasoning, but there's evidence to show that intelligence will not lower the bias. Counterarguments from others as intelligent or more intelligent will. One of the curses of being more intelligent is that if you hold a biased view, you usually need someone as smart as you to change your mind. The smarter you get, the fewer people there are who can help remove your bias.

Some people are more objective than others, but often only in a limited domain - not in their whole lives.

>However, 20 per cent of justifications were subjective and involved making a reference to one’s cultural identity, personal experience.

The book also touches on this. In my personal experience, fact based reasoning is rarer than this. There are many reasons people believe something. Attempting to discern the Truth is usually in the minority. It is to be expected that all the other reasons will be more prevalent - they simply have more utility than merely gaining knowledge. It shouldn't surprise people that factual reasoning is rare - it has little utility in most spheres of life. Much less than social cohesion and tribalism does.

Consider the issue of intelligence, and its spread across various groups (usually race and gender). It's very common to find a very well educated person insist that everyone is born equally with the same mental/intelligence potential, and differences exist merely in the extent they foster it. When asked for their rationale/evidence, the answer is usually a variant of "I choose to believe it" (usually for ideological or cultural reasons). I'm not referring only to ordinary folks, but also to university academics, etc.

(I'm not saying that they are factually wrong - merely the reasons they believe it are not based on any facts).

>whether they agreed with the scientific consensus on climate change, vaccines, genetically modified (GMO) foods and evolution

Two of those items (vaccines and GMO foods) touch on a strongly cultural force on purity. The book shows that a lot of people value purity (likely a genetic trait). They associate food consumption not just with physical health, but also mental/spiritual health. So they are quite sensitive to "unnatural" or foreign agents going into their bodies.