Review of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Religion and Politics, by Jonathan Haidt.

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Haidt offers an olive branch and hope for civility to readers engaged in discussions on US politics and religion from his work in moral psychology. Sharing research and life-experience conclusions that show intuition precedes strategic reasoning, he shapes his argument to present the book’s summit achievement, his Moral Foundations Theory. Built on six common moral foundations to classify values, he shows how these work to understand fundamental issues among political parties. From his observation and caveat that morality binds and blinds, he writes passionately to remove barriers to civility from his readers’ vision and broaden understanding for opposing viewpoints.

Haidt offers a readable, positive, and well-structured account of his ideas written in the style of a friendly mentor. He carefully defines his terms, cites his sources, and repeats summaries to ensure he successfully conveys his main points. He acknowledges his own biases and retains general respect for other perspectives while offering thoughtful criticism on weaknesses and strengths of liberal, conservative, and libertarian viewpoints. From introduction to conclusion, he contrasts his view on basic human nature’s selfishness with his optimism for its ability to transcend self-interest through more knowledge and moral evolution. Readers who are not careful may develop greater empathy for an opposing party and become more civil in discussion; others, or the same readers, may limit the evolutionary moral process to self-interest by using his insights more strategically to persuade opinion for one’s own election priorities. This book is enjoyable and highly recommended.


This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the following article: Review of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Religion and Politics, by Jonathan Haidt. Religious Studies Review 40 (September 2014): 168-169, which has been published in final format at: DOI: 10.1111/rsr.12158_3 . This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving.