My Newfound Empathy and Understanding of Conservatives (and Myself)

56% of the way through The Righteous Mind by Jonathan Haidt. For anyone keeping track, this book is holding strong as one of my favorite non-fiction books and I believe will be in the running for one of my most influential books.

I already blogged the other day about the first section, Intuitions Come First, Strategic Reasoning Second, which covers the concept of why the elephant (intuition) is actually in charge of the rider (rationality) as it relates to morality.

The second section is titled There’s More to Morality than Harm and Fairness. This section covers Haidt’s Moral Foundation Theory. Building off of the idea that our intuitions are running the show, Haidt then explores the ramifications on morality, and shares his main theory. He states that everyone has six moral “tastebuds” of which everyone has a slightly different blend (which are somewhat effected by cultural upbringing). The foundational morals are: Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Liberty/Oppression, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sanctity/Degradation.

He makes a great argument laid out over hundreds of pages in his book, so don’t take my explanation. Read the book (please, I want to talk about it with people).

What I will say is what I’ve developed by reading this book:

  • An authentic and non-judgemental understanding with conservative viewpoints
  • A deeper appreciation for the power and benefit of “tribes” in our society
  • A framework for dealing with ideological differences in a healthy way
  • A set of communication tools for people with different moral viewpoints
  • An understanding of why gay marriage may seem a threat to marriage (and why it matters)
  • An appreciation for pro-life advocate’s passion
  • An idea how to help motivate groups of people better to achieve objectives better for all (both politically and at PopCap)
  • My own beliefs

I guess the overall summary is that I’ve always looked at the world from a very liberal viewpoint. While I continue to maintain the same moral compass and believe in many of the same solutions, I understand my own beliefs in a way that opens my mind to everyone’s understanding of the world. I’ve always thought empathy was an under appreciated skill and this book has helped take mine to 11. I’m curious to learn what I will make of my new found understanding.



    • Wade
    • March 22nd, 2012

    Thanks for the recommendation, John. It’s in my queue.

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