From “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” by Jonathan Haidt

Morality binds and blinds. This is not just something that happens to people on the other side. We all get sucked into tribal moral communities. We circle around sacred values and then share post hoc arguments about why we are so right and they are so wrong. We think the other side is blind to truth, reason, science and common sense, but in fact everyone goes blind when talking about their sacred objects.

If you want to understand another group, follow the sacredness. As a first step, think about the moral foundations, and try to figure out which one or two are carrying the most weight in a particular controversy. And if you really want to open your mind, open your heart first. If you can have at least one friendly interaction with a member of the “other” group, you’ll find it far easier to listen to what they’re saying, and maybe even see a controversial issue in a new light. You may not agree, but you’ll probably shift from Manichaean disagreement to a more respectful and constructive yin-yang disagreement.

These are the final two paragraphs of the non-summary part of the book, and they capture quite well the reasons why this book and author have really resonated with me.  I really recommend this book to everyone, because it gives an excellent explanation of why it is that we see moral issues the way we do, and why we see those who don’t share our personal morality as harshly as we do.

I particularly endorse the process laid out in the second paragraph.  The recently-deceased Stephen Covey referred to this as Habit Five: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”  A little intellectual humility can really go a long way in the transition from being somebody who is always right, to somebody who is learning and right more frequently.

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