Table of Contents:
PART I: THE BIOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS OF MORALITY
1. An Introduction to the Biological Foundations of Morality
2. Moral Intuition
3. Tracking Down The Biological Foundations of Morality
4. The Six Moral Modules
- a. The Care/Harm Module
- b. The Fairness/Cheating Module
- c. The Loyalty/Betrayal Module
- d. The Authority/Subversion Module
- e. The Liberty/Oppression Module
- f. The Sanctity Module
5. Human Groupishness, The Hive Switch & Religion
6. Groupishness and the Question of Group Selection
PART II: HOW THE BIOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS OF MORALITY ARE MODIFIED BY INTERNAL AND EXTERNAL FACTORS
7. Individualistic Vs. Sociocentric Cultures
8. The Right and the Left in the West
9. Explaining the Rift Between the Right and the Left
- a. Leftist and Rightist Personality Traits
- b. Leftist and Rightist Views of Human Nature
PART III: THE POLITICAL DEBATE
10. Two Points for the Left
11. Two Points for the Right
The old saying goes that we are never to discuss religion or politics in polite company. These topics are singled out of course because they tend to be the two that people are most passionate about, and which therefore have the greatest potential to cause enmity and strife. According to the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, the fact that we disagree over politics and religion is not necessarily such a bad thing. For him, though, the current wrangling between political and religious (and non-religious) factions has gotten rather out of hand, as it has recently reached such a pitch in the West (and particularly in America where Haidt resides) as to be threatening the very fabric of our nations.
Now, according to Haidt, at least some of the enmity and strife between people of different political and religious stripes is caused by a failure to understand precisely where these beliefs ultimately come from—as well as a failure to understand how one’s opponents understand their own beliefs. In an effort to remedy this situation, and to bring a degree of civility back into the ongoing debate, Haidt sets out to supply just these understandings in his new book ‘The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion’.
According to Haidt, understanding political and religious beliefs begins with an understanding of the human moral sense as it was laid down by evolution over the past several million years. For Haidt, the moral sense actually consists of (at least) six moral modules, each of which evolved to answer a specific challenge that our ancestors faced in the environment in which our species evolved. Briefly, the six moral modules are 1. The Care/Harm Module; 2. The Fairness/Cheating Module; 3. The Loyalty/Betrayal Module; 4. The Authority/Subversion Module; 5. The Sanctity/Degradation Module; and 6. The Liberty/Oppression Module.
While all of us come prewired with the six moral modules, each of them stands to be either amplified or quieted as well as somewhat modified by a host of internal and external factors. The internal factors include our personality and its development, while the external factors include the environment in which we are raised (including our cultural milieu), and the particular experiences that we have—the latter of which help to shape, among other things, our view of human nature, which itself influences our view of what a good society consists in. It is these internal and external factors—which differ for all of us—that explain the plurality of moral and political views and ideologies across cultures, as well as within the same culture across individuals.
In addition to the six moral modules, Haidt maintains that human beings have also evolved an overlay of group-oriented sentiment or ‘groupishness’ sometime in the past 140,000 years, and as recently as in the past 10,000 years. This ‘groupishness’, Haidt claims, not only explains some of our moral and political sentiments, but also helps explain our attraction to religion, and other group-oriented pursuits, such as our fondness for teams, clubs and other such organizations. While our groupishness is particularly adept at binding us to the organizations of which we are a part, it also sets us against those who are a part of opposing groups, and makes it especially difficult for us to identify with them and to appreciate their point of view. The end result is that people not only have opposing viewpoints when it comes to morality, politics and religion, but they are often even unable to appreciate (or truly understand) the viewpoints of their rivals—hence why politics and religion are such flashpoint topics.
For Haidt, though, once we come to understand where our political and religious views are ultimately coming from, it should be easier for us to appreciate the views of our opponents, which should help us to see that they may in fact have something to offer to the debate. And indeed, when it comes to politics, Haidt maintains that both the left and the right do have something to contribute to the matter, and that the best solution to the political problem requires borrowing insights from both sides.
What follows is a full executive summary of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haidt.
*For prospective buyers: To get a good indication of how this (and other) articles look before purchasing, I’ve made several of my past articles available for free. Each of my articles follows the same form and is similar in length (15-20 pages). The free articles are available here: Free Articles