The Righteous Mind

Being Human

I’m currently listening to The Righteous Mind by by Jonathan Haidt whilst on a long car journey from Salisbury to La Plagne and back in 4 days.

It kept me captivated for 8 solid hours yesterday, which is pretty darned impressive, but also par for the course since his last book, The Happiness Hypothesis did the same, twice.

I’ve not absorbed it all yet and may have to listen again (certainly, in fact, I’m just not sure when) but thought you might like to know about Moral Foundations Theory:

Moral Foundations Theory considers the way morality varies between cultures and identifies five (later revised to six) “foundations” that underlie morality in all societies and individuals. He names them using pairs of opposites to indicate that they provide continua along which judgments can be measured. These are:

  1. Care/harm for others, protecting them from harm.
  2. Fairness/cheating, Justice, treating others in proportion to their actions, giving them their “just desserts”(He has also referred to this dimension as Proportionality.)
  3. Liberty/oppression, characterizes judgments in terms of whether subjects are tyrannized.
  4. Loyalty/betrayal to your group, family, nation. (He has also referred to this dimension as Ingroup.)
  5. Authority/subversion for tradition and legitimate authority. (He has also connected this foundation to a notion of Respect.)
  6. Sanctity/degradation, avoiding disgusting things, foods, actions. (He has also referred to this as Purity.)

Haidt found that the more politically liberal or left-wing people are, the more they tend to value care and fairness (proportionality), and the less they tend to value loyalty, respect for authority and purity. Conservatives or right-wing people, tend to value all the moral foundations somewhat equally. Similar results were found across the political spectrum in other countries.

(Source: Jonathan Haidt on Wikipedia)

Things I like about this book so far:

  • based on everything we know, not just religion or philosophy, but also neuroscience, behavioural economics, anthropology and much more
  • actionable
  • humane and compassionate
  • seeks to understand, not explain
  • provides a lexicon to discuss morality

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Here’s a link to the PDF which accompanies the book.


I’ve just taken the test on and I’m a textbook liberal..


In the graph, your scores on each foundation are shown in green (the 1st bar in each set of 3 bars). The scores of all liberals who have taken it on our site are shown in blue (the 2nd bar), and the scores of all conservatives are shown in red (3rd bar). Scores run from 0 (the lowest possible score, you completely reject that foundation) to 5 (the highest possible score, you very strongly endorse that foundation and build much of your morality on top of it).

Ed Dowding

Ed Dowding

Founder, strategist, writer, gadfly, TED talker, world-record holder, and (foolishly) reality-TV farmer. DOES: Innovation, Product, Advocacy THINKS: Regenerative Systems, Institution design, 300 year horizons

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