Review of Jonathan Haidt’s new book, The Righteous Mind

Srivas Prasad in Accidental Blogger:

Ob-sf834_bkrvha_dv_20120315153035Jonathan Haidt is a moral psychologist best known for his work on the moral foundations, identifying the dimensions along which peoples' moral responses vary. The most fundamental moral concerns of human beings include, he says, care or harm, fairness or cheating, liberty or oppression, loyalty or betrayal, authority or subversion, and sanctity or degradation. The neat fact uncovered by his research is that not all people weigh these dimensions of morality seriously, that whilst conservatives bring all these dimensions to bear upon moral deliberation, liberals and libertarians use only the first three. The ''money'' plot is here, showing how much people of different political orientations care about a given moral concern. A significant portion of Haidt's new book, ''The Righteous Mind'' is devoted to explaining these dimensions and findings.

An important concern for Haidt is that liberals and conservatives in contemporary America are increasingly divided (his book is subtitled ''Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion''), and he thinks his moral dimensions help explain why. We simply respond to different moral criteria. We have different ''moral taste-buds'', he says, in an image used repeatedly in the book. It is not just moral disagreement he is interested in however, but moral incomprehension, the fact that we can literally fail to understand what someone on the opposite side might be thinking, or why he isn't a moral monster just because we disagree with him. Here he thinks a significant portion of the blame rests with the liberal side of the divide.

More here.

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