Jonathan Haidt

Charlottesville, Virginia

June 20, 2020

I stumbled on this TED talk this evening -- "the moral roots of liberals and conservatives." Given that I am trying to understand why liberals and conservatives see the world so differently, I clicked play. I'm glad I did. Well worth 19 minutes of your time. He explores the reasons for the differences and provides what I think are some worthy ideas about how to apply his findings. Before I realized he taught at UVa, I was surprised in the video when he refers to Lynchburg as "a town 60 miles south" of the liberal college town in which he lives. 🤪

Here's a brief bio on Haidt from Wikipedia. Rather impressive.

Jonathan Haidt is an American social psychologist who taught at UVa from 1995 through 2011 before UVa lost him to NYU's Stern School of Business. His main areas of study are the psychology of morality and the moral emotions.

Haidt's main scientific contributions come from the psychological field of moral foundations theory. The theory attempts to explain the evolutionary origins of human moral reasoning on the basis of innate, gut feelings rather than logical reason. The theory was later extended to explain the different moral reasoning and how they relate to political ideology, with different political orientations prioritizing different sets of morals. The research served as a foundation for future books on various topics.

Haidt has written three books for general audiences. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2006) explores the relationship between ancient philosophies and modern science. The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012) examines how morality is shaped by emotion and intuition more than by reasoning, and why differing political groups have different notions of right and wrong. The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018), co-written with Greg Lukianoff, explores the rising political polarization and changing culture on college campuses, and its effects on mental health.

He has been named one of the "top global thinkers" by Foreign Policy magazine, and one of the "top world thinkers" by Prospect magazine. He is among the most cited researchers in political and moral psychology, and is considered among the top 25 most influential living psychologists.

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