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:
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).“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.”
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,
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.“…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 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.“... when the master (passions) drops dead, the servant (reasoning) has neither the ability nor the desire to keep the estate running.”
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.