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

  • “Understanding the simple fact that morality differs around the world, and even within societies, is the first step toward understanding your righteous mind.”
  • “Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.”
  • “Our moral thinking is much more like a politician searching for votes than a scientist searching for truth.” 
  • “The human mind is a story processor, not a logic processor.”  
  • “Groups create supernatural beings not to explain the universe but to order their societies.” 
  • “If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you.” 
  • “Anyone who values truth should stop worshipping reason.”
  • “[W]hen a group of people make something sacred, the members of the cult lose the ability to think clearly about it. Morality binds and blinds.”
  • “Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.” 
  • “People who devote their lives to studying something often come to believe that the object of their fascination is the key to understanding everything.” 
  • “We should not expect individuals to produce good, open-minded, truth-seeking reasoning, particularly when self-interest or reputational concerns are in play. But if you put individuals together in the right way, such that some individuals can use their reasoning powers to disconfirm the claims of others, and all individuals feel some common bond or shared fate that allows them to interact civilly, you can create a group that ends up producing good reasoning as an emergent property of the social system. This is why it’s so important to have intellectual and ideological diversity within any group or institution whose goal is to find truth (such as an intelligence agency or a community of scientists) or to produce good public policy (such as a legislature or advisory board).” 
  • “If you grow up in a WEIRD society, you become so well educated in the ethic of autonomy that you can detect oppression and inequality even where the apparent victims see nothing wrong.” 
  • “People bind themselves into political teams that share moral narratives. Once they accept a particular narrative, they become blind to alternative moral worlds.”
  • “The social intuitionist model offers an explanation of why moral and political arguments are so frustrating: because moral reasons are the tail wagged by the intuitive dog. A dog’s tail wags to communicate. You can’t make a dog happy by forcibly wagging its tail. And you can’t change people’s minds by utterly refuting their arguments.” 
  • “If you really want to change someone’s mind on a moral or political matter, you’ll need to see things from that person’s angle as well as your own. And if you do truly see it the other person’s way—deeply and intuitively—you might even find your own mind opening in response. Empathy is an antidote to righteousness, although it’s very difficult to empathize across a moral divide.” 
  • “Reasoning can take you wherever you want to go.” 
  • “You can’t make a dog happy by forcibly wagging its tail. And you can’t change people’s minds by utterly refuting their arguments.”
  • “I have striven not to laugh at human actions, not to weep at them, not to hate them, but to understand them.”