The Righteous Mind

Jonathan Haidt

The Righteous Mind



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In The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided By Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt explains that we do not hold different beliefs on these matters simply because we are either good or bad human beings, but because our minds were created to reason according to common concepts of justice. Human beings are deeply intuitive creatures, and our strategic reasoning relies on instinctive thought processes. This is why it is often difficult, though not impossible, to truly bond with people who live by ideologies that differ from our own, and why we sometimes become ‘trapped’ in a sterile interpretation of morality.

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Analysis and key concepts


People grow into their rationality, just like caterpillars become butterflies


Plato said that all mankind’s evils were the result of desires not mastered by reason


We cannot force a dog to wag its tail, just like we cannot change anyone’s opinion simply by rejecting their arguments


Without the ability to feel and manage emotions, rationality can be lethal


Everyone is responsible for their own actions, but also for their own emotions


Not everyone with the same taste receptors likes the same foods, and the same is true for moral judgement


Do human beings work together for purely selfish reasons, or out of a genuine desire to achieve common good?


Does religion make people good or bad? Or does it simply lock them up in a moral cage?


Moral communities are fragile entities, which are difficult to build but easy to destroy




Take-home message

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Many useful tips to:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of psychological and philosophical issues, such as morality, conscience, and the thin line between right and wrong.
  • Reflect on the psychological bases of morality in different cultures and ideologies.
  • Discover what makes the human soul unique, and how it has been reflected in political narratives over the centuries.

Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He has written more than 100 academic articles, as well as the book The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, and other New York Times bestsellers. He focuses on moral psychology, and its effects on politics and economics. In 2019, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and was chosen by Prospect magazine as one of the “Top Ten Thinkers” in the world. So far, he has given four TED talks.

Publishing house:

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group