Monday, November 23, 2015

Good People

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

Over All Impression.

This is one book that I have read and find difficulty in understanding the themes thoroughly. When I sit down to reflect and write on my interpretation of the book's crust of the matter, all I have is a muddled up and vogue thoughts on the central points of the book. Nothing coherent and concrete to help me to clearly articulate any useful points. So be warned that what  you read here will coupound that confusion;

Anyway it seems the author is pointing out how our mind is made up. What determinates the righteous mind from the perspective of a moral psychology, and thus dwelling further by taking us on a tour of human nature and human history.  The author unequivocally stresses that moral psychology is the key to understanding politics and religion. Why people are divided by these ideas.

I feel this book would be a good supplementary teaching aid for psychology class.  As for me it takes a while to completely dissect and digest the points made /raised in the book. It requires careful reading and reflection to fully absorb the theories and principles of understanding human psychology for an average reader like me. Except that I can not unlock the intricacy of the new knowledge and research presented, the book is indeed a treasured repository of knowledge and understanding of moral psychology, but too mysterious and metaphysical and far fetched to my mind.

 The one thing that brings some clarity of thoughts is in the following analogy:

The righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors:
"morality is like cuisine, it is a cultural construction, influenced by accidents of environment and history, but its not so flexible that anything goes. You cant have a cuisine based on tree bark, nor can you have one based primarily on bitter tastes.  Cuisines vary, but they all must please tongues equipped with the same five taste receptors. Moral matrices vary, but they all must please righteous minds equipped with the same six social receptors" (p. 114).

The six moral foundations based on which we cling to our idealogy are : Care/Harm, Fairness/cheating, Loyality/betrayal, Authority/subversion, Sanctity/degradation.

But  again these theories may not be the absolute truth and have different application.
"In  Physchology, theories are cheap. Anyone can invent one. Progress happens when theories are tested, supported and corrected by empirical evidence, especially when a theory proves to be useful- for example,if it helps people to understand  why half of the people in their country seem to live in a different moral universe...(p.127)

So based on this, the first thing is to find a clear answer and comprehensively understand what is the righteous mind. To me it appears that  the righteous mind is again influx and dynamic. The righteous mind is based on certain wisdom and logic. For example in the following, John Stuart Mill, 1989.   in describing harm principle espoused the theory that  " The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will is to prevent harm to others."
This puts in perspective as under what circumstance and situation would violence being allowed and acceptable.

John Stuart's harm principle is in lsync with utilitarianism, which is defined as "the doctrine that the morally correct course of action consists in the greatest good for the greatest number..., ". This is again allied with the idea of  majority rule. 

Chinese sage Mencius "Moral principles please our minds as beef and mutton and pork please our mouths."
The author urged that readers should avoid moral monism, which is a belief that attempt to ground all of morality on a single principle-leads to societies that are unsatisfying to most people and at high risk of becoming inhumane because they ignore so many other moral principles.(p.113).

The reasont why moral monism doesnt work are because human beings are complex, and there are more than one answers to solve any of human problems.
But morality in no ways ends here, as Emile Dhurkheim noted "There is more to morality than harm and fairness" and morality even  binds and blinds.

The admonitions of sages from so many eras and cultures warning us about self-righteousness:
From Buddha:
It is easy to see the faults of others, but difficult to see one's own faults. One shows the faults of others like chaff winnowed in the wind, but one conceals one's own faults as a cunning gambler conceals his dice."

Equally, the bible, Why do you see the speck in your neighbor's eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?... you hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neigbhor's eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)

 There are three models of mind:
Plato said that reason ought to be the master, even if philosophers are the only ones who can reach a high level of mastery. Hume said that reason is and ought to be the servant of the passions. Jefferson gives a third option, in which reason and sentiments are (ought to be)  independent co-rulers, like emperors of Rome, who divided the empire into eastern and western halves, who is right? (p. 30)

Social Darwinism:
The idea raised but not endorsed by Darwin that the richest and most successful nations, races, individuals are the fittest. Therefore giving charity to the poor interefers with the natural progress of evolution. It allows poor to breed.  The Claim that some races were innately superiors to others was later championed by Hitler . Nativists?

The second wave of moralism was the radical politics that washed over universities in  America( 1960-1970s)
Radical reformers usually want to believe that the human nature is a blank slate on which any utopian vision can be sketched. If evolution gave men and women different sets of desire and skills. for example, that would be an obstacle to achieving gender equality in many professions. If nativism could be used to justify existing power structures, then nativism must be wrong( Again, this is logical error, but this is the way righteous minds work)( p.31)

The rider is an attentive servant, always trying to anticipate the elephant's next move. if the elephant leans even slightly to the left, as though preparing to take a step, the riders looks to the lelf,  and starts preparing to assist the elephant on its imminent leftward journey.  The rider loses interest in everything off to the right.(56)
The metaphor of the mind as the rider (reasoning) on an elephant (intuition),  the rider's function is to serve the elephant.
Reasoning matters, particularly because reasons do sometimes influence other people, but most of the action in moral psychology is in the intuitions. (p92)

Social and political judgements are particulary intuitive.
Our bodies guide our judgments:
Pyschopaths reason but dont feel.
Babies feel but dont reason

The rationalist delusion:

As an intuitionist, the author I would say that the worship of reason is itself an illustration of one of the most long-lived delusions in Western history:  the rationalist delusion. It is the idea that reasoning is our most noble attribute, one that makes us like the gods (for Plato) or that brings us beyond the "delusion"of believing in gods. (for the New Atheists). The rationalist delusion is not just a claim about human nature. It is also a claim that the rational caste (philosophers or scientists) should have more power, and it usually comes along with a utopian program for raising more rational children. (p.88)

Plato believe that reason could and should be the master; Jefferson believed that the two processes were equal partners (head and heart) ruling a divided empire; Hume believed that reason was (was only fit to be) the servant of the passions. (p.49).

From plato through Kant and Kolberg, many rationalists have asserted that the ability to reason well about ethical issues causes good behavior. They believe that reasoning is the royal road to moral truth., and they believe that people who reason well are more likely to act morally. (89)
But if that were the case, then moral philosophers who reason about ethical principles all day long- should be more virtuous than other people. Are they? The philosopher Eric Schitzgebel tried to find out. He used surveys and more surreptitious methods to measure how often moral philosophers give to charity, vote, call their mothers, donate blood, and donate organs. And in none of these ways are moral philosophers better than other philosophers or professors in other fields.(p89).

The author  conclude by warning that the worship of reason, which is sometimes found in philosophical and scientific circles is a delusion. It is an example of faith in something that does not exist. The author urged instead a more intuitionlist approach to morality and moral education.

How to win an Argument

Carnegie repeatedly urged readers to avoid direct confrontations. Instead he advised people to "begin in a friendly way," to "smile", to "be a good listener," and to never say you are wrong."
The persuader's goal should be to convey respect, warmth, and an openness to dialogue before stating one's own case.

"If there is any one secret of success it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from their angle as well as your own.".Henry Ford (49)

Egalitarianism: Belief in the equality of all people, especially in political, social or economic life.
Liberalism:  A political or social philosophy advocating the freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, to ensure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor.


As i announced at the openning, of this summary,  this book is confusing and I have failed to distitl it. The ideas are too grand to grasp, to complicated to follow.

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