The Pequod Review:
The Righteous Mind is an important book with a disheartening conclusion. At its core, Jonathan Haidt’s research validates an extraordinarily cynical and self-centered view of human nature. When it comes to questions of morality and politics, people are fundamentally emotional, not rational — a “slave of the passions.” We don’t carefully weigh evidence in search of the truth; instead we choose our political views as part of a broader competition for social status, and then invent post hoc rationalizations to justify them. And when we argue our case, we use motivated reasoning in the style of lawyers or press secretaries rather than unbiased truth-seekers.
This is perhaps a bit simplistic; humans are complicated creatures and we have moments of rationality. And in fact Haidt’s book itself is a rational argument, and one that provides recommendations for how to be more skeptical of our own certainties. But the strong tendency for our minds to be directed by our passions, rather than the other way around, leads to an unavoidable pessimism about our political future.