“A landmark contribution to humanity’s understanding of itself.”
—New York Times Book Review, “Why Won’t They Listen,” by William Saletan. (See also Saletan’s comments in the “up front” section of the book review: “Heretics like Haidt are enormously valuable. They help society tack before we hit the rocks.”)
“A fascinating new book comes along that, to a liberal like myself, helps demystify the right — and illuminates the kind of messaging that might connect with voters of all stripes.”
—Nick Kristof, New York Times
“Splendidly written, sophisticated and stimulating. It may well change how you think and talk about politics, religion and human nature.”
—NPR Books: “Why we fight,” by Glenn Altschuler
“An essential new book… provides a deep understanding of what has driven us to this point, and out of that could come a rebirth of respect.
—Miller-McCune: “Explaining liberals to conservatives, and vice-versa,” by Tom Jacobs
“What [Haidt] seeks are starting points of understanding, from which possibly things improve. It’s a righteous effort. And The Righteous Mind is a worthwhile read.”
—Philadelphia Inquirer: Political divide is widening,” by John Baer.
“A must-read for anyone who’s dumbfounded that Stephen Harper got to be prime minister, or that so many of his obviously stupid policies are so popular… if liberals were better educated in moral psychology, they’d be able to understand why conservative policies are so appealing. My advice is to begin by listening to Jonathan Haidt.”
—The Globe and Mail (Canada): “What liberals can learn from conservatives,” by Margaret Wente
Conservatives like it!
“An eye-opening and deceptively ambitious best seller… undoubtedly one of the most talked-about books of the year.”
—The Wall St. Journal, interview by Holman Jenkins, Jr.
“Jonathan Haidt is a good thing.”
—Clive Crook, in The Atlantic
“Don’t mistake The Righteous Mind for yet another guide to how liberals can revive their rhetoric and electoral appeal. Mr. Haidt is not a partisan with an agenda. He is a social scientist who appreciates America’s tribalism, our ‘groupishness.’ He worries, though, that our divisions are hardening into mutual incomprehension and dysfunction.”
—The Wall St. Journal, review by Gary Rosen
“An impressive book that should be read by anyone who has the slightest interest in how political opinions are reached.”
—David Frum’s Book Club, on TheDailyBeast.com, review by Noah Kristula-Green.
This is a “highly readable, highly insightful book… The principal posture in which one envisions [Haidt] is that of a scrappy, voluble, discerning patriot standing between the warring factions in American politics urging each to see the other’s viewpoint, to stop demonizing, bashing, clobbering. For the greater good.”
—The Washington Times, review by William Murchison
“The author is that rare academic who presents complex ideas in a comprehensible manner… The book arrives not a moment too soon.”
—The American Conservative, review by Daniel J. Flynn
Libertarians like it!
“an important book that is also fun to read… it may turn out to be an agenda-shifter and a debate-changer.”
–Peter Saunders, review in Policy Magazine (Australia)
–It’s the cover story of the May issue of Reason Magazine
“Persuasive and disturbing.”
—Arnold Kling, in The American (The Magazine of the American Enterprise Institute). Kling then offers great advice for how to use the ideas in the book to improve public discourse.
The British Right likes it!
“The Righteous Mind might cool tempers and make us aware of why we are how we are. I found it so therapeutic that I didn’t shout at the Today Programme for, maybe, three days.”
—Ed West, in The Telegraph: “How evolution turned us into liberals and conservatives”
“What makes the book so compelling is the fluid combination of erudition and entertainment, and the author’s obvious pleasure in challenging conventional wisdom… A welcome attempt to combat polarisation at a time when politics is descending into dysfunctional tribalism”
—Ian Birrell, in The Observer (Guardian)
The British Left likes it!
“A truly seminal book… One of my most politically liberal friends read this book and declared his world view to be transformed. Not that he was no longer a liberal but now ‘he couldn’t be so rude about the other side, because I understand where they’re coming from…’ This book should be the scientific manual for the movement that I have called post-liberalism.”
—Prospect Magazine (UK), “Last Hope for the Left,” by David Goodhart
“An eye-opening read… My fellow liberals, in particular, should remember that conservativism is not necessarily cruel and selfish, or dogmatically anti-Enlightenment, but an alternative theory about the best way to provide the best for society.”
—Tom Chivers, in The Telegraph: “Why liberals need conservatives, and vice versa”
Non-Partisans like it!
“A well-informed tour of contemporary moral psychology… A cogent rendering of a moral universe of fertile complexity and latent flexibility.”
“Audacious… what is so impressive about this work is how he goes about demonstrating why [mutual understanding] is such a difficult thing for us to achieve, and what the tools are that could make it possible. It’s a difficult read, not because of the style, but because the content may challenge you to accept that the ‘other side’ isn’t so bad after all, and that perhaps your own moralistic mind could do with a shake up.”
—London School of Economics Review of Books (UK). Review by Rebecca Litchfield.
“The book’s general argument is both convincing and inspiring… A recommended read.”
—The Times Higher Education (UK). Review by Constantine Sandis.
“Haidt’s arguments are lucid and thought provoking. They deserve to be widely read.’
–The Sunday Times (UK). Review by Jenni Russell. [behind a pay-wall]
“Should come with a warning label: ‘contents highly addictive.’ Written in a breezy and accessible style but informed by an impressively wide range of cutting-edge research… The Righteous Mind is about as interesting a book as you’ll pick up this year.”
—The Globe and Mail (Canada). Review by Andrew Preston
“Explains both sides of American politics with an admirable evenhandedness and sympathy… Blending lucid explanations … with light personal anecdotes, Haidt has produced an eminently readable book about the complexities of moral psychology and the human fixation with righteousness.”
“A much-needed voice of moral sanity.”
“For my money, it is the best social science book since Philip Zimbardo’s The Lucifer Effect.”
—Strategy+Business, (James O’Toole), which chose the book as the best business book on capitalism, because it helps readers to understand the ideological bias in so many other books on capitalism.
Scientists like it!
“A remarkable and original synthesis of social psychology, political analysis, and moral reasoning that reflects the best of sciences in these fields”
–E. O. Wilson, Harvard University
A “remarkably enlightening book”
–Michael Shermer, writing in Scientific American
“There is nothing of intellectual imperialism here, no eagerness to do away with all other ideas by imposing his own. In my experience, this sort of generosity and openness is extremely rare.”
–Stephen Vaisey, review in The European Journal of Sociology
(See the other endorsements from top scientists)
Religious intellectuals are… interested in the book!
— First Things editor R. R. Reno devoted the “Public Square” essay in the June/July issue to a summary of the book and applications to modern problems such as moral relativism. (Subscription required.)
“We need to be aware of this book. In some ways it confirms postmodernity’s cynicism; in other ways it transcends simplistic theories.”
— The Jesus Creed blog explores the book’s implications, without embracing or condemning the book.
New Atheists hate it!
Well, they will if they read it. Here’s an initial reaction from P.Z. Meyers, who has not read it yet but hates it already and refuses to read it. Here’s a similar reaction from Jerry Coyne, who calls it “science lite,” yet, as I show here, he has not read any part of the book and is just making stuff up to justify his gut dislike of me, probably over the group selection controversy. I am especially anxious to hear Sam Harris’s reasons for not reading it.
Full Disclosure: There have been a few mixed or negative reviews. I’ll post all of the ones from major sources here.
— At TruthDig.org, Pullitzer-prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges is so angry at me that he violates the most basic principles of journalism, in the process illustrating all three of the basic principles of moral psychology. To read it, start here.
–In Science, John Jost praises the writing but criticizes me for shifting back and forth between a value-neutral descriptive sense of moral and “a more prescriptive sense that he uses mainly to jab liberals.” [behind a paywall]
–In the New York Review of Books, Thomas Nagel faults my efforts to draw normative conclusions from a description of moral psychology.
— In The New Republic, by John Gray. Gray faults me for “scientism,” he doesn’t think evolution can shed light on human history. (He doesn’t seem to appreciate that I pair my reductionism with emergentism — I try to look at events from multiple levels of analysis. I’d never try to explain historical facts by evolution or moral intuition alone.) He also faults me for crossing the is-ought divide and drawing normative implications from empirical facts. (He doesn’t seem to notice how careful and limited I am in doing this — I cross the divide gingerly, and only for public policy for diverse Western nations where there is no other widely accepted standard beyond trying to advance the welfare of the citizens. We’ve got to have some standard for lawmaking; does Gray have an alternative? Gray also doesn’t seem to notice that my version of utilitarianism is called “Durkheimian utilitarianism.” It avoids some of the simple-mindedness of regular utilitarianism.) Will Wilkinson comes to my defense at BigThink.com: “Gray actually seems slightly irritated that Haidt is so intellectually sophisticated, as if he’d been itching to rail righteously against errors he was later disappointed to discover Haidt doesn’t actually make. Nevertheless, he does manage to charge Haidt with a number of philosophical misdemeanors, few of which he is really guilty.” Karl Smith defends me as well: “It is quite true that no description of the evolution of human morality tells us what we “ought” to do, but such descriptions in general and Haidt’s work in particular are incredibly useful to the moral philosopher.” Conn Carroll also defends me, in The Washington Examiner. As does David Berreby, at BigThink.
— In America, The National Catholic Weekly. By Drew Christian. He’d like to see more discussion of moral development and change. “Haidt’s Moral Foundations Theory accounts for our demons and the lesser angels of our nature, but not the better ones. It accounts for a narrow range of religious experience, those parts of it most evident in the culture wars, but not the transformative experiences of mystics, spiritual masters and religious founders like Benedict, Ignatius, Elizabeth Ann Seton and Dorothy Day whose foundations altered history.” [Um, yes it does. Please see ch. 10 and 11. And see my earlier work on elevation and awe, e.g., ch. 9 of The Happiness Hypothesis.]
— In The Guardian (UK), by David Runciman. Generally positive, but he faults me for not offering more concrete political advice.
— In National Post (Canada), by Peter Foster. He calls the book “thought provoking and entertaining,” but faults me for the section where I say what I think liberals are right about — the need for government to restrain corporate super-organisms.