Book: The righteous mind

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Emower
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Book: The righteous mind

Post by Emower » Fri Aug 30, 2019 10:27 am

Right now I am reading “The Righteous Mind. Why Good People Are Divided By Politics And Religion.” It has been pretty good so far, I am about ¼ of the way through it. I thought I would put a running post about it here as I read.
It is written by Jonathan Haidt. He has written a few things and is a professor who has studied moral psychology and emotions. This book seemed relevant to me personally and also to the current climate as a whole.
In part one the book delves into where morality comes from. An interesting quote:
“If morality doesn’t come primarily from reasoning, then that leaves some combination of innateness and social learning as the most likely candidates. In the rest of this book I’ll try to explain how morality can be innate (as a set of evolved intuitions) and learned (as children learn to apply those intuitions within a particular culture). We’re born to be righteous, but we have to learn what, exactly, people like us should be righteous about.”
Nothing real groundbreaking for me there, I think I always sensed that morality is a set of learned behaviors intersected with a set of social expectations. If it wasn’t influenced by social expectations, you would have a set of largely identical morals across a society and we certainly don’t have that, even within Mormonism frankly (looking at you guys who grew up wearing your Sunday clothes all day long).

The book then goes on to talk about emotional thinking vs. rational thinking. Evidently, this can be summed into three schools of thought. Plato’s view was that logic was the highest ideal, and something to strive for as a goal. Eventually pure logical thought was possible and only a few people were capable of it. A Jeffersonian model (I am not sure if these are industry standard terms, this is what the book used…) involves emotion making decisions on matters of the heart, and logic taking control on less emotional matters. Kind of a house divided sort of thing. Then there is the David Hume model,
“…reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions, and can never pretend to any other office than to serve and obey them.”
The spoiler is that the Hume model is the closest. Haidt wrote about a group of people who had had a specific part of their brain damaged which enables emotional thinking. If the Plato model were true, those folks should have been like Vulcans, able to exist on logic alone. If the Jeffersonian model were true, they should have fared ok in the half of life that is served well by logic. Instead, their whole life fell apart.
“... when the master (passions) drops dead, the servant (reasoning) has neither the ability nor the desire to keep the estate running.”
The really interesting parts to me come when the book delves into how humans really function with the above model. Haidt talks about the elephant and a rider. The elephant is our intuitions and make up the bulk of all of our judgment processes. The rider is essentially up on the top making excuses for what the elephant is doing and wants to do in the future. And the rider is typically really good at what he does, but does not know that he is not in control.
I also listened to the Hidden Brain podcast the other day, they have an interesting series called You 2.0. this episode was talking about how hard it is to convince anyone with facts, because people don’t listen to facts. Also, having watched Brain Games on Netflix a long while ago, it really strikes me just how little we think we are in control of ourselves.
Last edited by Emower on Fri Aug 30, 2019 2:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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fetchface
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Re: Book: The righteous mind

Post by fetchface » Fri Aug 30, 2019 10:56 am

One of my favorite books.
Ubi Dubium Ibi Libertas
My blog: http://untanglingmybrain.blogspot.com/

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Red Ryder
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Re: Book: The righteous mind

Post by Red Ryder » Fri Aug 30, 2019 12:08 pm

I’ve got this one on audible but haven’t listened yet. I’ll drop it in my que for my road trip to Vegas this weekend.
Those who do not move do not notice their chains. —Rosa Luxemburg

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Ghost
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Re: Book: The righteous mind

Post by Ghost » Fri Aug 30, 2019 12:39 pm

I think this book is excellent. One of the reasons I liked it was that some of the points Haidt made backed up thoughts I'd had myself about how we as humans come to conclusions and then attempt to support our conclusions using reason. It was amusing to find myself more or less applying this practice to the idea that people engage in this practice.

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Linked
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Re: Book: The righteous mind

Post by Linked » Fri Aug 30, 2019 1:16 pm

Sounds like an interesting read. Just ordered it on audible. Is this similar to "Thinking Fast and Slow" by Daniel Kahneman?
Ghost wrote:
Fri Aug 30, 2019 12:39 pm
I think this book is excellent. One of the reasons I liked it was that some of the points Haidt made backed up thoughts I'd had myself about how we as humans come to conclusions and then attempt to support our conclusions using reason. It was amusing to find myself more or less applying this practice to the idea that people engage in this practice.
Hahaha, using motivated reasoning to support your belief in motivated reasoning. Reminds me of this from SMBC:

Image
"I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would also be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order" - Kurt Vonnegut

Thoughtful
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Re: Book: The righteous mind

Post by Thoughtful » Fri Aug 30, 2019 2:03 pm

Great book. I recommend it all the time to my college students.

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Emower
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Re: Book: The righteous mind

Post by Emower » Wed Sep 04, 2019 2:38 pm

So the next sections will prove to be interesting I think. Here is an interesting quote,
Why do we have this weird mental architecture? As hominid brains tripled in size over the last 5 million years, developing language and a vastly improved ability to reason, why did we evolve an inner lawyer, rather than an inner judge or scientist? Wouldn't it have been most adaptive for our ancestors to figure out the truth, the real truth about who did what and why, rather than using all that brainpower just to find evidence in support of what they wanted to believe? That depends on which you think was more important for our ancestors' survival: truth or reputation.
And another:
What, then, is the function of moral reasoning? Does it seem to have been shaped, tuned, and crafted (by natural selection) to help us find the truth, so that we can know the right way to behave and condemn those who behave wrongly? If you believe that, then you are a rationalist like Plato, Socrates, and Kohlberg. Or does moral reasoning seem to have been shaped tuned, and crafted to help us pursue socially strategic goals, such as guarding our reputations and convincing other people to support us, or our team, in disputes? If you believe that then you are a Glauconian.
Where this chapter is going I think is that we are more of a politician in search of self-confirming votes and not the "truth."

I am reading this book to understand myself and others. I have always wondered why I, and none of my family (DW included) has reacted in the same way to things I learned about the church. Now, I have read and researched way more than any of them, but some of them (especially DW) know the big issues and the implications. They do not want to incur the social cost of what I have done. So why was I willing to incur that cost? Why am I different?

The article I posted the other day viewtopic.php?f=5&t=4518, where organisms survive best when they are not focused on objective truth and rather are focused on survival (because there may be no actual truth available), tells me that I shouldnt have been inclined to leave the church. I also posted an article a while back on evolutionary game theory in the context of personal relationships in Link's paradox or problem topic viewtopic.php?f=4&t=4414&hilit=paradox+or+problem the bottom line being that relationships and loyalty are highly important to us as a species.
Article link here: http://news.mit.edu/2017/using-evolutio ... tions-0105
The book Sapiens also discusses relationships and cooperation being the hallmarks of our evolutionary success.
Bottom line is, why am I different from others? Would I be the guy who did not survive in the pre-modern age? Maybe I can understand my self a little better in time.

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Emower
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Re: Book: The righteous mind

Post by Emower » Fri Sep 20, 2019 3:24 pm

Alright, time for another installment of "Whats emower been reading lately!"

This continues to be a fascinating book. Haidt developed what he called a the "Moral Foundations Theory."
Essentially this is a universal moral framework based on modules that trigger certain responses. Modules, according to some cognitive anthropologists, are switches that get thrown based on pattern recognition. A snake throws the fear switch in most people for example. Fear is the module, the snake is the trigger.
Cultural variation in morality can be explained in part by noting that cultures can shrink or expand the current triggers of any module. For example, in the past fifty years people in many western societies have come to feel compassion in response to many more kinds of animal suffering, and they've come to feel disgust in response to many fewer kinds of sexual activity. The current triggers can change in a single generation, even though it would take many generations for genetic evolution to alter the design of the module and its original triggers. Furthermore, within any given culture many moral controversies turn out to involve competing ways to link a behavior to a moral module. Should parents and teachers be allowed to spank children for disobedience? On the left side of the political spectrum, spanking typically triggers judgements of cruelty and oppression. On the right, it is sometimes linked to judgements about proper enforcement of rules, particularly rules about respect for parents and teachers. So even if we al share the same small set of cognitive models, we can hook actions up to modules in so many ways that we can build conflicting moral matrices on the same small set of foundations.
He then gives a table of 5 moral modules he thought originally were universal, and the original and current triggers of those modules.
  1. Care/Harm
  • Fairness/Cheating
  • Loyalty/Betrayal
  • Authority/Subversion
  • Sanctity/Degradation
Haidt thinks that this modularity framework should help us to understand the innateness concept.
Marcus' analogy leads to the best definition of innateness I have ever seen:
" 'Built-in' does not mean unmalleable, it means 'organized in advance of experience'"
This chapter talked a lot about how these different modules, which have original triggers and were developed for a specific evolutionary benefit, have since become hijacked by cultural interpretations. Fairness is a good example. Originally fairnes shad to do with survival and reciprocity. Now it is different.
Everyone cares about fairness, but there are two major kinds. On the left, fairness often implies equality, but on the right it means proportionality - people should be rewarded in proportion to what they contribute - even if that guarantees unequal outcomes

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Re: Book: The righteous mind

Post by MerrieMiss » Sat Sep 21, 2019 6:43 pm

I've enjoyed reading Haidt's work. Of particular interest to me was "Divinity with or without god." . In short, he writes about how we perceive life on two planes, x & y, but there is also the z axis, the spiritual or divine, awe inspiring, uplifting, whatever word you want to use for it that is commonly found and recognized in religious cultures and barely recognized at all in secular ones. It struck me that I rarely experience the "z" axis anymore. Not because it isn't real, or because I was lying to myself, or because my politics have changed, but because I make less time to open myself up to those experiences.

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Re: Book: The righteous mind

Post by Keewon » Sun Sep 22, 2019 12:12 pm

Emower wrote:Right now I am reading “The Righteous Mind.
I've found this thread informative and thought provoking. I just wanted to say Thanks, Emower, for putting this out there. I definitely want to read the book. Incredibly relevant in this day and age!

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Emower
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Re: Book: The righteous mind

Post by Emower » Sun Sep 22, 2019 2:48 pm

MerrieMiss wrote:
Sat Sep 21, 2019 6:43 pm
I've enjoyed reading Haidt's work. Of particular interest to me was "Divinity with or without god." . In short, he writes about how we perceive life on two planes, x & y, but there is also the z axis, the spiritual or divine, awe inspiring, uplifting, whatever word you want to use for it that is commonly found and recognized in religious cultures and barely recognized at all in secular ones. It struck me that I rarely experience the "z" axis anymore. Not because it isn't real, or because I was lying to myself, or because my politics have changed, but because I make less time to open myself up to those experiences.
Oooh, that one sounds pretty good. Thanks for the heads up! Your thought really resonates with me. As I was going through my faith crisis, I tried to keep as close to whatever spirituality I could muster. I think that made my exit easier because I felt that it was sanctioned by God. Instead of remaining close, I have continued to marginalize that aspect of my personality, not intentionally but because I do not set any time aside for it either. I have attended many other congregations here in the new town we move to, but that was more out of a desire to process my exit from the mormon faith and as more of an academic interest.
Keewon wrote:
Sun Sep 22, 2019 12:12 pm
I've found this thread informative and thought provoking. I just wanted to say Thanks, Emower, for putting this out there. I definitely want to read the book. Incredibly relevant in this day and age!
Sure thing!

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Emower
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Re: Book: The righteous mind

Post by Emower » Tue Oct 29, 2019 5:15 pm

Ok, time for another update.

the next chapter I read have been about groupishness, and how it can be explained partly by a form of self-interest.

Haidt writes that the selfish gene (which I think is also a book by Dawkins) creates strategically altruistic people who are shaped by kin selection, gossip, and reputation management. But Haidt writes that this view is incomplete.
When I say that human nature isgroupish, i mean that our minds contain a variety of mental mecahnisms that make us adept at promoting our group's interest.
Haidt writes in the book that natural selection operating on a group level was largely discredited early on in the moral psychology field and the prevailing view was that morality developed out of self-interest even if it looked like group-interest. Haidt however feels like this dismissal was premature and lays out some exhibits as evidence.
...the fact that natural selection works at multiple levels simultaneously. Individuals compete with individuals, and that competition rewards selfishness - which includes some forms of strategic cooperation...
Haidt went through some of the various forums where the idea of altruism in natural systems was debunked and demonstrated to be actually self-serving. But he writes that humans show all kinds of forms of altruism that are not just one-offs.

Haidt offered major evolutionary transitions as one exhibit in the case for group selection. The human agricultural transition, which enabled civilization to emerge, was one such event. This was due to groups defending a shared nest, which at times required a group mindset rather than an individualistic one.
Group selection creates a group-related adaptations. It is not far fetched, and it should not be a heresy to suggest that this is how we got the groupish overlay that makes up a significant part of our righteous minds.
Another exhibit was shared intentionality. Haidt writes that to share a common vision to achieve a goal was the birth of the first moral matrix. A moral matrix he writes, is a consensual hallucination. Apparently the most advanced primates do not achieve this type of cooperation, which was news to me. This was a Rubicon in terms of selection pressures that could be apply to human evolution.
A new set of selection pressures operated within groups (e.g., nonconformists were punished, or at very least were less likely to be chosen as partners for joint ventures) as well as between groups (cohesive groups took territory and other resources from less cohesive groups).
The other exhibit was the gene-culture coevolution.
Briefly, once cultural development accelerated, cultural innovations led to genetic responses.
Once some groups developed the cultural innovation of proto-tribalism, they changed the environment within which genetic evolution took place.
Haidt wrote about self-domestication, and how tribes that used cultural innovations, genetically succeeded vastly better than all other groups which did not achieve the same level of cooperation.

The other exhibit was the speed at which evolution can happen. Haidt wrote about a strain of Fox that was domesticated in Russia within 9 generations. This domestication came with new traits and expressions. Haidt also wrote about selection of laying hens (chickens) which, if selected for individually aggressive chickens increase and overall productivity goes down, but if selected for on a group level, aggressive chickens are culled and overall productivity goes up. This was a fascinating realization for me, because that is a practice that I have engaged in. I didnt understand quite what I was doing, but it is so clear to me know. Haidt wrote about this to explain the fact that mental modules, while they might not change wholesale in a thousand years, could certainly be tweaked in a short period of time.

I think the point of all these quotes and the different exhibits is to demonstrate that humans probably didnt really advance until groupish behavior became an evolutionary force. Tribalism underpins our success as a species, and as such is a powerful actor on our brains, actions, behaviors, everything. It likely explains to me why we feel so drawn to the church, because it is so tribal. It fills that part of our soul which is unique to us. Why am I different? I still dont know that.

The next chapter is all about hive behavior, and how humans are mostly selfish 90% of the time, but hive-like the other 10%. What is the switch that makes us hive-like? Stay tuned!

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Re: Book: The righteous mind

Post by Apologeticsislying » Tue Oct 29, 2019 5:27 pm

Ah! Great! So this is the thread, thanks for bringing it up to the front. I really enjoyed his take on so many things! I am enjoying seeing you go through it and share the ideas that strike you. I'm going to try to engage as I have time. I also appreciate how you are going through the book and sharing so much of it.
The same energy that emerges from the fountain of eternity into time, is the Holy Grail at the center of the universe of the inexhaustible vitality in each of our hearts. The Holy Grail, like the Kingdom of God, is within. -Joseph Campbell-

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