The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

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LookingHard
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Re: The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Post by LookingHard » 04 Feb 2017, 16:30

How interesting. I have a rather lazy Saturday for once. I just finished reading the second half of this book. So I jump on my computer to write a blog post on some of what I read (some unnamed super-hero on this site keeps gently twisting my arm). What do I see - this post that agrees with quite a bit of what I was thinking. So DevilsAdvocate - please don't sue me for plagiarism. Take it as a complement of "great minds think alike". :-)

This book is REALLY good. I liked both the religious aspect as well as the political aspect. I wish we could make it required reading for the US, or maybe a TV show. I think it would help the huge political divide shrink just a bit.

I found the middle section a bit slow, but it is setup for the last section which is really good and has lots of interesting things that flow from it.

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DevilsAdvocate
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Re: The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 25 Jul 2020, 09:03

I actually read through this entire book again a second time. A big part of the book that I didn't talk about before was the question of, "Why are we so groupish?" Haidt explained this as a product of evolution where he thought it made sense that groups that were more cohesive and able to work together as a team better would have had a distinct competitive advantage over groups full of people that were more individualistic, selfish, etc. and would tend to do a better job of converting available resources into offspring meaning that more of their DNA would survive over time. He describes it by saying, "We are 90% chimp and 10% bee" which I thought sounded kind of silly and hard to buy into at first but I guess it was just his way to make it easy to understand and remember the general idea that people have instincts for teamwork and sincere group loyalty that look more like what we see in bees than chimps even though we are physically something like 98% the same as chimps in terms of DNA.

I think the book does a good job of explaining the actual human behavior we see in real life because it seems like regardless of the reasons why people can be easily emotionally influenced to basically go along with the crowd quite often against what they would normally think and/or do if it was entirely their own decision. And the influence can be good or bad depending on the situation, your perspective, which group you identify with or not, etc. For example, look at things like groupthink, witch hunts, and mass movements like fascism and communist revolutions. It reminds me of the explanation for witch hunts by C.S. Lewis to the effect that it was basically an error of fact rather than faulty moral intentions because the average person's natural moral instincts haven't changed and the main difference is simply that most people nowadays don't really believe that there are witches in league with Satan that have magical powers to do real harm. I think there is something to this but I think there was also some heavy group dynamics influence behind it as well.

Basically being surrounded by others that think and act a certain way makes it easier for others to go along with as well and harder for isolated individuals to question the group. I also think this does a good job of explaining some of our experiences in the Church. For example, some critics have accused the Church of being a "cult" due to characteristics like heavy emphasis on the idea of us-versus-them, that the outside world is evil, scary, etc. and we are the only ones that know the full truth, along with other supposed warning signs many of which are related to group identification and loyalty. But looking at other religious groups like the Muslims, Amish, Orthodox Jews, and JWs some of this doesn't seem nearly as unusual, sinister, or by design as some critics try to make it sound but rather only human to some extent if you are raised in a culture like this.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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LookingHard
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Re: The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Post by LookingHard » 26 Jul 2020, 05:59

After reading the book, I bought the audiobook so I could listen again - maybe a few times. I think I need to really understand what this book is saying about how people work. I think it will give me more understanding and sympathy for others.

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Re: The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Post by Roy » 28 Jul 2020, 10:28

Fascinating! Thank you for the perspective.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Re: The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt

Post by DevilsAdvocate » 29 Jul 2020, 15:41

LookingHard wrote:
26 Jul 2020, 05:59
After reading the book, I bought the audiobook so I could listen again - maybe a few times. I think I need to really understand what this book is saying about how people work. I think it will give me more understanding and sympathy for others.
I definitely sympathize with some of the religious followers like the Muslims or Amish where it would honestly be a very difficult or nearly impossible choice for many of them to do anything else under the circumstances but I still have a much harder time feeling much empathy for people that seemingly just uncritically accept and parrot the party line of various political groups without putting much thought into it in a relatively free and democratic society. However, this and other books like "Influence" by Robert Cialdini have definitely helped me feel less frustrated by other people that I think are clearly misguided and doing more harm than good because that's just the way people are to some extent (easily emotionally manipulated) so there's no point in losing sleep over it when I can't do much of anything to change it either way. I see it as being similar to the famous quote, "It's easier to fool people than convince them that they've been fooled."

And it looks like one of the easiest ways of all for people to be tricked is simply "social proof" where they see many others doing or saying the same things and lazily assume that it is right or appropriate for them to follow suit as well. If you see how seriously some sports fans take the results of their favorite teams and hated rivals it is clear that the emotions are very real even when deep down, logically, many of them would have to admit that it's just a game that doesn't really matter that much in terms of real life. Now if you take the same instincts for group loyalty and identification and convince people that the group's agenda is the answer in reality (quite often not even remotely close based on the actual facts and results in hindsight) then we end up with people acting like various half-baked ideas are practically more important than life or death. But sometimes it takes real effort, courage, etc. to resist some of this influence especially if it is coming from your own groups. Haidt uses the phrase, "Morality binds and blinds" to describe some of these instincts like group loyalty as not always producing the best possible results.
"Truth is what works." - William James

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