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The Righteous Mind

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The Righteous Mind

I want to tell you about a book I’m reading. This book had been on my radar for a while. I had heard it referenced on a number of podcasts I listen to, a couple of blogs that I read. People were highly recommending it - that not strange, but what was strange was who was recommending it. People on the left. People on the right. Pastors. Academics. I saw an interview with the author sitting down with pastor Tim Keller, and a review by the Gospel Coalition. Russel Moore of the Southern Baptists called it “the most important book in years.”

The book is called “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathon Haidt. Haidt, a social psychologist at the NYU-Sterm School of Business, is interested in how people think. More specifically, Haidt, a ethnically Jewish, politically left-leaning, and religiously atheist democrat, was interested in why people on the right politically were so irrational. The book is centred around the question of why people on the left and people on the right talk past one another, misrepresent one another, and think that each other irrational. It’s a pretty amazing book. Haidt’s major conclusion after undertaking major anthropological studies across continents, age groups and social classes, is that people think differently - process facts differently, reason differently, and argue differently, not because they are irrational, but because thinking is first and primarily an expression of one’s deeper moral inclination - what Haidt called intuition. How the heart is inclined influences what the mind accepts as rational. The reason Haidt’s book is so influential is that it basically argues against the way that we in the West have been thinking about thinking. Since the enlightenment, we’ve come to think that we are primarily rational creatures - like computers. Data comes in, is processed by reason, and adjustments to our thinking are made. Haidt proves that is not the case. Haidt provides scores of evidence that one’s moral inclination precedes reason, that we use reason not to come to justify the beliefs we are morally inclined to accept. How the heart is inclined influences what the mind accepts as rational.

I was thinking of Haidt’s book as I reflected on this last passage in this book of all books, Ecclesiastes. For Solomon, or since Solomon is referred to in the third person here some people think a later compiler of Solomon’s writings, in any case, this final passage also speaks to our thinking, and the relationship between our thinking and our moral inclinations

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