This is a fascinating book. Right away, I feel like this book had as much influence on the way I see the world and the people in it as Guns, Germs, and Steel. My first impulse is to say that this should be required readings for all Americans (at least).
This is a psychology book about Moral Psychology. Not only is the subject fascinating, but the book is very well written and very easy to understand. Haidt summarizes each chapter at the end and it doesn’t feel patronizing and it helped me retain a lot of points he was trying to make.
Here’s a very short summary of what this book talks about: He begins by discussing human morality and how it’s driven very much “from the gut” with the brain (reason) following closely behind and making post-hoc explanations of a person’s moral “instincts.” He explains why reason doesn’t really drive a person’s moral outlook. He also explains that we are 90% chimp (self-serving) and 10% bee (cooperative, hive-minded, group-serving) and that (evolutionary) group selection is real and works along with natural selection on an individual basis to make us who we are.
He also explains there there is more to morality than worrying about whether your actions harm someone else or not. There, actually, are 6 aspects to the moral foundation: care/harm, liberty/oppression, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. Interestingly, he’s found that (in the USA) politically left-leaning people mainly operate on the care/harm and liberty/oppression scales, while right-leaning people operate on all 6, showing one of the main differences between liberals and conservatives.
He’s politically liberal, but really does want to understand both sides and feels that it’s important for everyone to make this effort if we are to bring this country back to a place where we can all work together to solve our collective problems. Everyone has valuable things to bring to the table (even Libertarians and Republicans!) and we need to be aware of this. It’s like yin and yang.
There is so much more, but I recommend this book to EVERYONE. If we were all to understand each other better we could have a civil discourse. (see http://www.civilpolitics.org/).