“Everybody is a genius. but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid” – – Albert Einstein

All the notes were taken directly from the source mentioned.

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Definitions of righteous, such as arising from an outraged sense of justice, morality, or fair play. The link also appears in the term self-righteous, which means convinced of one’s own righteousness, especially in contrast with the actions and beliefs of others; narrowly moralistic and intolerant.

I wished for world peace, but now I yearn for a world in which competing ideologies are kept in balance, systems of accountability keep us all from getting away with too much, and fewer people believe that righteous ends justify violent means.

But if you think about moral reasoning as a skill we humans evolved to further our social agendas to justify our own actions and to defend the teams we belong to then things will make a lot more sense.

We grow into our rationality as caterpillars grow into butterflies. If the caterpillar eats enough leaves, it will (eventually) grow wings. And if the child gets enough experiences of turn taking, sharing, and playground justice, it will (eventually) become a moral creature, able to use its rational capacities to solve ever harder problems. Rationality is our nature, and good moral reasoning is the end point of development.

All societies must resolve a small set of questions about how to order society, the most important being how to balance the needs of individuals and groups.

Most societies have chosen the socio-centric answer, placing the needs of groups and institutions first, and subordinating the needs of individuals. In contrast, the individualistic answer places individuals at the center and makes society a servant of the individual.

These subjects were reasoning. They were working quite hard at reasoning. But it was not reasoning in search of truth; it was reasoning in support of their emotional reactions.

Damasio’s interpretation was that gut feelings and bodily reactions were necessary to think rationally, and that one job of the vmPFC was to integrate those gut feelings into a person’s conscious deliberations.

Patterns, Thinking, and Cognition, by Howard Margolis, a professor of public policy at the University of Chicago.

We do moral reasoning not to reconstruct the actual reasons why we ourselves came to a judgment; we reason to find the best possible reasons why somebody else ought to join us in our judgment.

Intuition is the best word to describe the dozens or hundreds of rapid, effortless moral judgments and decisions that we all make every day. Only a few of these intuitions come to us embedded in full-blown emotions.

Carnegie repeatedly urged readers to avoid direct confrontations. Instead he advised people to begin in a friendly way, to smile, to be a good listener, and to never say ‘you’re wrong.’

Immorality makes us feel physically dirty, and cleansing ourselves can sometimes make us more concerned about guarding our moral purity.

Psychopathy does not appear to be caused by poor mothering or early trauma, or to have any other nurture-based explanation. It’s a genetically heritable condition

We have strong feelings that tell us in clear and uncertain terms that some things simply cannot be done and that other things simply must be done. But it’s not obvious how to make sense of these feelings, and so we, with the help of some especially creative philosophers, make up a rationally appealing story [about rights].

In other words, under normal circumstances the rider takes its cue from the elephant, just as a lawyer takes instructions from a client. But if you force the two to sit around and chat for a few minutes, the elephant actually opens up to advice from the rider and arguments from outside sources.


The first principle of moral psychology is Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second. In support of this principle, I reviewed six areas of experimental research demonstrating that:

  • Brains evaluate instantly and constantly (as Wundt and Zajonc said).
  • Social and political judgments depend heavily on quick intuitive flashes (as Todorov and work with the IAT have shown).
  • Our bodily states sometimes influence our moral judgments. Bad smells and tastes can make people more judgmental (as can anything that makes people think about purity and cleanliness).
  • Psychopaths reason but don’t feel (and are severely deficient morally).
  • Babies feel but don’t reason (and have the beginnings of morality).  Affective reactions are in the right place at the right time in the brain (as shown by Damasio, Greene, and a wave of more recent studies).

Intuitions can be shaped by reasoning, especially when reasons are embedded in a friendly conversation or an emotionally compelling novel, movie, or news story.

I’ll praise Glaucon

Make sure that everyone’s reputation is on the line all the time, so that bad behavior will always bring bad consequences.

William James, one of the founders of American psychology, urged psychologists to take a functionalist approach to the mind. That means examining things in terms of what they do, within a larger system.

Exploratory thought is an evenhanded consideration of alternative points of view. Confirmatory thought is a one-sided attempt to rationalize a particular point of view.13 Accountability increases exploratory thought only when three conditions apply: (1) decision makers learn before forming any opinion that they will be accountable to an audience, (2) the audience’s views are unknown, and (3) they believe the audience is well informed and interested in accuracy.

For millions of years, our ancestors’ survival depended upon their ability to get small groups to include them and trust them, so if there is any innate drive here, it should be a drive to get others to think well of us.

Our politics is groupish, not selfish.

In other words, expertise in moral reasoning does not seem to improve moral behavior, and it might even make it worse (perhaps by making the rider more skilled at post hoc justification).

Reasoning as having evolved not to help us find truth but to help us engage in arguments, persuasion, and manipulation in the context of discussions with other people.

Gut feelings are sometimes better guides than reasoning for making consumer choices and interpersonal judgments,52 but they are often disastrous as a basis for public policy, science, and law.

In the same way, each individual reasoner is really good at one thing: finding evidence to support the position he or she already holds, usually for intuitive reasons. We should not expect individuals to produce good, open-minded, truth-seeking reasoning, particularly when self-interest or reputational concerns are in play. But if you put individuals together in the right way, such that some individuals can use their reasoning powers to disconfirm the claims of others, and all individuals feel some common bond or shared fate that allows them to interact civilly, you can create a group that ends up producing good reasoning as an emergent property of the social system. This is why it’s so important to have intellectual and ideological diversity within any group or institution whose goal is to find truth (such as an intelligence agency or a community of scientists) or to produce good public policy (such as a legislature or advisory board).

From the book Switch, by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, you can change the path that the elephant and rider find themselves traveling on. You can make minor and inexpensive tweaks to the environment, which can produce big increases in ethical behavior.

I reviewed five areas of research showing that moral thinking is more like a politician searching for votes than a scientist searching for truth:

  • We are obsessively concerned about what others think of us, although much of the concern is unconscious and invisible to us.
  • Conscious reasoning functions like a press secretary who automatically justifies any position taken by the president.
  • With the help of our press secretary, we are able to lie and cheat often, and then cover it up so effectively that we convince even ourselves.
  • Reasoning can take us to almost any conclusion we want to reach, because we ask Can I believe it? when we want to believe something, but Must I believe it? when we don’t want to believe. The answer is almost always yes to the first question and no to the second.
  • In moral and political matters we are often groupish, rather than selfish. We deploy our reasoning skills to support our team, and to demonstrate commitment to our team.

I urged instead a more intuitionist approach to morality and moral education, one that is more humble about the abilities of individuals, and more attuned to the contexts and social systems that enable people to think and act well.

When asked to write twenty statements beginning with the words: I am… Americans are likely to list their own internal psychological characteristics (happy, outgoing, interested in jazz), whereas East Asians are more likely to list their roles and relationships (a son, a husband, an employee of Fujitsu).

The ethic of autonomy is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, autonomous individuals with wants, needs, and preferences.

The ethic of community is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, members of larger entities such as families, teams, armies, companies, tribes, and nations. These larger entities are more than the sum of the people who compose them; they are real, they matter, and they must be protected. People have an obligation to play their assigned roles in these entities. Many societies therefore develop moral concepts such as duty, hierarchy, respect, reputation, and patriotism.

The ethic of divinity is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, temporary vessels within which a divine soul has been implanted. People are not just animals with an extra serving of consciousness; they are children of God and should behave accordingly. The body is a temple, not a playground. Even if it does no harm and violates nobody’s rights when a man has sex with a chicken carcass, he still shouldn’t do it because it degrades him, dishonors his creator, and violates the sacred order of the universe. Many societies therefore develop moral concepts such as sanctity and sin, purity and pollution, elevation and degradation. In such societies, the personal liberty of secular Western nations looks like libertinism, hedonism, and a celebration of humanity’s baser instincts.

The ethic of autonomy is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, autonomous individuals with wants, needs, and preferences. People should be free to satisfy these wants, needs, and preferences as they see fit, and so societies develop moral concepts such as rights, liberty, and justice, which allow people to coexist peacefully without interfering too much in each other’s projects. This is the dominant ethic in individualistic societies. You find it in the writings of utilitarians such as John Stuart Mill and Peter Singer (who value justice and rights only to the extent that they increase human welfare),

The ethic of autonomy is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, autonomous individuals with wants, needs, and preferences. People should be free to satisfy these wants, needs, and preferences as they see fit, and so societies develop moral concepts such as rights, liberty, and justice, which allow people to coexist peacefully without interfering too much in each other’s projects.

I could see beauty in a moral code that emphasizes duty, respect for one’s elders, service to the group, and negation of the self’s desires.

But in India, and in the years after I returned, I felt it. I could see beauty in a moral code that emphasized self-control, resistance to temptation, cultivation of one’s higher, nobler self, and negation of the self’s desires.


The second principle of moral psychology is: There’s more to morality than harm and fairness. In support of this claim I described research showing that people who grow up in Western, educated, industrial, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) societies are statistical outliers on many psychological measures, including measures of moral psychology. I also showed that:

  • The WEIRDer you are, the more you perceive a world full of separate objects, rather than relationships.
  • Moral pluralism is true descriptively. As a simple matter of anthropological fact, the moral domain varies across cultures.
  • The moral domain is unusually narrow in WEIRD cultures, where it is largely limited to the ethic of autonomy (i.e., moral concerns about individuals harming, oppressing, or cheating other individuals). It is broader including the ethics of community and divinity in most other societies, and within religious and conservative moral matrices within WEIRD societies.
  • Moral matrices bind people together and blind them to the coherence, or even existence, of other matrices. This makes it very difficult for people to consider the possibility that there might really be more than one form of moral truth, or more than one valid framework for judging people or running a society.

There’s The Utilitarian Grill, serving only sweeteners (welfare), and The Deontological Diner, serving only salts (rights).

Given Hume’s concerns about the limits of reasoning, he believed that philosophers who tried to reason their way to moral truth without looking at human nature were no better than theologians who thought they could find moral truth revealed in sacred texts. Both were transcendentalists.

Jeremy Bentham was born in England in 1748.


His most important work was titled Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation. In it he proposed that a single principle should govern all reforms, all laws, and even all human actions: the principle of utility, which he defined as the principle which approves or disapproves of every action whatsoever, according to the tendency which it appears to have to augment or diminish the happiness of the party whose interest is in question.

Immanuel Kant was born in Prussia in 1724.

Kant, like Plato, wanted to discover the timeless, changeless form of the Good. He believed that morality had to be the same for all rational creatures, regardless of their cultural or individual proclivities.

Rather, he said that moral law could only be established by the process of a priori (prior to experience) philosophizing. It had to consist of principles that are inherent in and revealed through the operation of reason.

He called it the categorical (or unconditional) imperative: Act only according to that maxim whereby you can at the same time will that it should become a universal law.

The prevailing view among anthropologists had long been that evolution got our species to the point of becoming bipedal, tool-using, large-brained creatures, but once we developed the capacity for culture, biological evolution stopped, or at least became irrelevant. Culture is so powerful that it can cause humans to behave in ways that override whatever ancient instincts we share with other primates.

Shweder had taught me to be careful about evolutionary explanations, which are sometimes reductionist (because they ignore the shared meanings that are the focus of cultural anthropology) and naively functionalist (because they are too quick to assume that every behavior evolved to serve a function). Could I formulate an evolutionary account of moral intuition that was not reductionist, and that was cautious in its claims about the purpose or function of evolved psychological mechanisms?

Perfect description of what universal moral taste receptors would look like. They would be adaptations to long-standing threats and opportunities in social life.

Should parents and teachers be allowed to spank children for disobedience? On the left side of the political spectrum, spanking typically triggers judgments of cruelty and oppression. On the right, it is sometimes linked to judgments about proper enforcement of rules, particularly rules about respect for parents and teachers.

Five adaptive challenges stood out most clearly: caring for vulnerable children, forming partnerships with non-kin to reap the benefits of reciprocity, forming coalitions to compete with other coalitions, negotiating status hierarchies, and keeping oneself and one’s kin free from parasites and pathogens, which spread quickly when people live in close proximity to each other.

In this chapter I began to say exactly what more there is:

  • Morality is like taste in many waysan analogy made long ago by Hume and Mencius.
  • Deontology and utilitarianism are one-receptor moralities that are likely to appeal most strongly to people who are high on systemizing and low on empathizing.
  • Hume’s pluralist, sentimentalist, and naturalist approach to ethics is more promising than utilitarianism or deontology for modern moral psychology. As a first step in resuming Hume’s project, we should try to identify the taste receptors of the righteous mind.
  • Modularity can help us think about innate receptors, and how they produce a variety of initial perceptions that get developed in culturally variable ways.
  • Five good candidates for being taste receptors of the righteous mind are care, fairness, loyalty, authority, and sanctity.

As the neuroscientist Gary Marcus explains, Nature bestows upon the newborn a considerably complex brain, but one that is best seen as prewired flexible and subject to change rather than hardwired, fixed, and immutable.

The brain is like a book, the first draft of which is written by the genes during fetal development. No chapters are complete at birth, and some are just rough outlines waiting to be filled in during childhood. But not a single chapter be it on sexuality, language, food preferences, or morality consists of blank pages on which a society can inscribe any conceivable set of words.

Marcus’s analogy leads to the best definition of innateness I have ever seen: Nature provides a first draft, which experience then revises.¦ Built-in does not mean unmalleable; it means organized in advance of experience.

Evolutionary theorists often speak of genes as being selfish, meaning that they can only influence an animal to do things that will spread copies of that gene. But one of the most important insights into the origins of morality is that selfish genes can give rise to generous creatures, as long as those creatures are selective in their generosity.

Trivers proposed that we evolved a set of moral emotions that make us play tit for tat. We’re usually nice to people when we first meet them. But after that we’re selective: we cooperate with those who have been nice to us, and we shun those who took advantage of us.

Everyone cares about fairness, but there are two major kinds. On the left, fairness often implies equality, but on the right it means proportionality people should be rewarded in proportion to what they contribute, even if that guarantees unequal outcomes.

The Loyalty/betrayal foundation is just a part of our innate preparation for meeting the adaptive challenge of forming cohesive coalitions.

Similarly, in The Inferno, Dante reserves the innermost circle of hell and the most excruciating suffering for the crime of treachery.

The left tends toward universalism and away from nationalism,26 so it often has trouble connecting to voters who rely on the Loyalty foundation. Indeed, because of its strong reliance upon the Care foundation, American liberals are often hostile to American foreign policy.

Cultures vary enormously in the degree to which they demand that respect be shown to parents, teachers, and others in positions of authority.

The urge to respect hierarchical relationships is so deep that many languages encode it directly.

The displays made by low-ranking individuals are often similar across species because their function is always the same to appear submissive, which means small and non-threatening.

Even among chimpanzees, where dominance hierarchies are indeed about raw power and the ability to inflict violence, the alpha male performs some socially beneficial functions, such as taking on the control role. He resolves some disputes and suppresses much of the violent conflict that erupts when there is no clear alpha male. As the primatologist Frans de Waal puts it: Without agreement on rank and a certain respect for authority there can be no great sensitivity to social rules, as anyone who has tried to teach simple house rules to a cat will agree.

If authority is in part about protecting order and fending off chaos, then everyone has a stake in supporting the existing order and in holding people accountable for fulfilling the obligations of their station.

Liberals score higher on measures of neophilia (also known as openness to experience), not just for new foods but also for new people, music, and ideas. Conservatives are higher on neophobia; they prefer to stick with what’s tried and true, and they care a lot more about guarding borders, boundaries, and traditions.

And if you think, as I do, that one of the greatest unsolved mysteries is how people ever came together to form large cooperative societies, then you might take a special interest in the psychology of sacredness. Why do people so readily treat objects (flags, crosses), places (Mecca, a battlefield related to the birth of your nation), people (saints, heroes), and principles (liberty, fraternity, equality) as though they were of infinite value? Whatever its origins, the psychology of sacredness helps bind individuals into moral communities.

American conservatives are more likely to talk about the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage. Conservatives particularly religious conservatives are more likely to view the body as a temple, housing a soul within, rather than as a machine to be optimized, or as a playground to be used for fun.

The Care/harm foundation evolved in response to the adaptive challenge of caring for vulnerable children. It makes us sensitive to signs of suffering and need; it makes us despise cruelty and want to care for those who are suffering.

The Fairness/cheating foundation evolved in response to the adaptive challenge of reaping the rewards of cooperation without getting exploited. It makes us sensitive to indications that another person is likely to be a good (or bad) partner for collaboration and reciprocal altruism. It makes us want to shun or punish cheaters.

The Loyalty/betrayal foundation evolved in response to the adaptive challenge of forming and maintaining coalitions. It makes us sensitive to signs that another person is (or is not) a team player. It makes us trust and reward such people, and it makes us want to hurt, ostracize, or even kill those who betray us or our group.

The Authority/subversion foundation evolved in response to the adaptive challenge of forging relationships that will benefit us within social hierarchies. It makes us sensitive to signs of rank or status, and to signs that other people are (or are not) behaving properly, given their position.

The Sanctity/degradation foundation evolved initially in response to the adaptive challenge of the omnivore’s dilemma, and then to the broader challenge of living in a world of pathogens and parasites. It includes the behavioral immune system, which can make us wary of a diverse array of symbolic objects and threats. It makes it possible for people to invest objects with irrational and extreme values both positive and negative which are important for binding groups together.

In his book The Audacity of Hope, Obama showed himself to be a liberal who understood conservative arguments about the need for order and the value of tradition. When he gave a speech on Father’s Day at a black church, he praised marriage and the traditional two-parent family, and he called on black men to take more responsibility for their children.12 When he gave a speech on patriotism, he criticized the liberal counterculture of the 1960s for burning American flags and for failing to honor veterans returning from Vietnam.

Conservatives are conservative because they were raised by overly strict parents, or because they are inordinately afraid of change, novelty, and complexity, or because they suffer from existential fears and therefore cling to a simple worldview with no shades of gray.

Emile Durkheim, who warned of the dangers of anomie (normlessness) and wrote, in 1897, that man cannot become attached to higher aims and submit to a rule if he sees nothing above him to which he belongs. To free himself from all social pressure is to abandon himself and demoralize him.

Durkheimian society would value self-control over self-expression, duty over rights, and loyalty to one’s groups over concerns for out-groups.

I showed that a Durkheimian society cannot be supported by the Care and Fairness foundations alone. You have to build on the Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity foundations as well.

Are proportionality and equality two different expressions of the same underlying cognitive module, as we had been assuming?

Hierarchy only becomes widespread around the time that groups take up agriculture or domesticate animals and become more sedentary.

Alpha male chimps are not truly leaders of their groups. They perform some public services, such as mediating conflicts.28 But most of the time, they are better described as bullies who take what they want. Yet even among chimpanzees, it sometimes happens that subordinates gang up to take down alphas, occasionally going as far as to kill them.29 Alpha male chimps must therefore know their limits and have enough political skill to cultivate a few allies and stave off rebellion.

Liberals sometimes go beyond equality of rights to pursue equality of outcomes, which cannot be obtained in a capitalist system. This may be why the left usually favors higher taxes on the rich, high levels of services provided to the poor, and sometimes a guaranteed minimum income for everyone.

Conservatives, in contrast, are more parochial concerned about their groups, rather than all of humanity. For them, the Liberty/oppression foundation and the hatred of tyranny supports many of the tenets of economic conservatism: don’t tread on me (with your liberal nanny state and its high taxes), don’t tread on my business (with your oppressive regulations), and don’t tread on my nation (with your United Nations and your sovereignty-reducing international treaties).

I had thought of fairness as a form of enlightened self-interest, based on Trivers’s theory of reciprocal altruism.

In the last ten years, however, evolutionary theorists have realized that reciprocal altruism is not so easy to find among nonhuman species.

Reciprocal altruism also fails to explain why people cooperate in group activities. Reciprocity works great for pairs of people, who can play tit for tat, but in groups it’s usually not in an individual’s self-interest to be the enforcer the one who punishes slackers. Yet punish we do, and our propensity to punish turns out to be one of the keys to large-scale cooperation.

Punishing bad behavior promotes virtue and benefits the group.

We can therefore refine the description of the Fairness foundation that I gave in the last chapter. It’s still a set of modules that evolved in response to the adaptive challenge of reaping the rewards of cooperation without getting exploited by free riders.

The various moralities found on the political left tend to rest most strongly on the Care/harm and Liberty/oppression foundations. These two foundations support ideals of social justice, which emphasize compassion for the poor and a struggle for political equality among the subgroups that comprise society. Social justice movements emphasize solidarity they call for people to come together to fight the oppression of bullying, domineering elites.

For example, small business owners overwhelmingly support the Republican Party in part because they resent the government telling them how to run their businesses under its banner of protecting workers, minorities, consumers, and the environment.

A recent study even found that liberal professors give out a narrower range of grades than do conservative professors. Conservative professors are more willing to reward the best students and punish the worst.

Liberals have a three-foundation morality, whereas conservatives use all six. Liberal moral matrices rest on the Care/harm, Liberty/oppression, and Fairness/cheating foundations, although liberals are often willing to trade away fairness (as proportionality) when it conflicts with compassion or with their desire to fight oppression.

Durkheimian vision of society, favored by social conservatives, in which the basic social unit is the family, rather than the individual, and in which order, hierarchy, and tradition are highly valued.

We modified the Fairness foundation to make it focus more strongly on proportionality.

The Fairness foundation begins with the psychology of reciprocal altruism, but its duties expanded once humans created gossiping and punitive moral communities.

Now we’re ready to examine how moral diversity can so easily divide good people into hostile groups that do not want to understand each other. We’re ready to move on to the third principle: Morality binds and blinds.

Genes are selfish, selfish genes create people with various mental modules, and some of these mental modules make us strategically altruistic, not reliably or universally altruistic.

We love to join teams, clubs, leagues, and fraternities. We take on group identities and work shoulder to shoulder with strangers toward common goals so enthusiastically that it seems as if our minds were designed for teamwork.

But if you focus, as Darwin did, on behavior in groups of people who know each other and share goals and values, then our ability to work together, divide labor, help each other, and function as a team is so all-pervasive that we don’t even notice it.

Like bees, our ancestors were (1) territorial creatures with a fondness for defensible nests (such as caves) who (2) gave birth to needy offspring that required enormous amounts of care, which had to be given while (3) the group was under threat from neighboring groups.

At some point in the last million years, a small group of our ancestors developed the ability to share mental representations of tasks that two or more of them were pursuing together.

Many people assume that language was our Rubicon, but language became possible only after our ancestors got shared intentionality. Tomasello notes that a word is not a relationship between a sound and an object. It is an agreement among people who share a joint representation of the things in their world, and who share a set of conventions for communicating with each other about those things. If the key to group selection is a shared defensible nest, then shared intentionality allowed humans to construct nests that were vast and ornate yet weightless and portable.

Our ancestors first began to diverge from the common ancestor we share with chimps and bonobos between 5 million and 7 million years ago.

Human beings take extraordinary, costly, and sometimes painful steps to make their bodies advertise their group memberships.

Once our ancestors crossed the Rubicon and became cumulatively cultural creatures, their genes began to coevolve with their cultural innovations. At least some of these innovations were directed at marking members of a moral community, fostering group cohesion, suppressing aggression and free riding within the group, and defending the territory shared by that moral community.

In an interview in 2000, the paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould said that natural selection has almost become irrelevant in human evolution because cultural change works orders of magnitude faster than genetic change. He next asserted that there’s been no biological change in humans in 40,000 or 50,000 years. Everything we call culture and civilization we’ve built with the same body and brain.

Can the human genome respond to new selection pressures in, say, thirty generations (six hundred years)? Or would it take more than five hundred generations (ten thousand years) for a new selection pressure to produce any genetic adaptation?

The results are astonishing, and they are exactly the opposite of Gould’s claim: genetic evolution greatly accelerated during the last 50,000 years.

Will it be the biggest, strongest, and most violent individuals in each town? Or will it be the people who manage to work together in groups to monopolize, hide, and share the remaining food supplies among themselves?

We humans have a dual nature we are selfish primates who long to be a part of something larger and nobler than ourselves. We are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee.

McNeill studied accounts of men in battle and found that men risk their lives not so much for their country or their ideals as for their comrades-in-arms.

Durkheim frequently criticized his contemporaries, such as Freud, who tried to explain morality and religion using only the psychology of individuals and their pairwise relationships.

Durkheim believed that these collective emotions pull humans fully but temporarily into the higher of our two realms, the realm of the sacred, where the self disappears and collective interests predominate. The realm of the profane, in contrast, is the ordinary day-to-day world where we live most of our lives, concerned about wealth, health, and reputation, but nagged by the sense that there is, somewhere, something higher and nobler.

In the 1830s, Ralph Waldo Emerson delivered a set of lectures on nature that formed the foundation of American Transcendentalism, a movement that rejected the analytic hyper intellectualism of America’s top universities. Emerson argued that the deepest truths must be known by intuition, not reason, and that experiences of awe in nature were among the best ways to trigger such intuitions.

The emotion of awe is most often triggered when we face situations with two features: vastness (something overwhelms us and makes us feel small) and a need for accommodation (that is, our experience is not easily assimilated into our existing mental structures;

People describe nature in spiritual terms as both Emerson and Darwin did precisely because nature can trigger the hive switch and shut down the self, making you feel that you are simply a part of a whole.

I’ve heard reports of people getting turned on by singing in choruses, performing in marching bands, listening to sermons, attending political rallies, and meditating.

If evolution chanced upon a way to bind people together into large groups, the most obvious glue is oxytocin, a hormone and neurotransmitter produced by the hypothalamus.

Yet here were neurons that didn’t care whether the monkey was doing something or watching someone else do it. The monkey seemed to mirror the actions of others in the same part of its brain that it would use to do those actions itself.

Mirror neurons seem designed for the monkeys’ own private use, either to help them learn from others or to help them predict what another monkey will do next.

In other words, people don’t just blindly empathize; they don’t sync up with everyone they see.

We are more likely to mirror and then empathize with others when they have conformed to our moral matrix than when they have violated it.

In contrast, an organization that takes advantage of our hivish nature can activate pride, loyalty, and enthusiasm among its employees and then monitor them less closely. This approach to leadership (sometimes called transformational leadership)

People evolved to live in groups of up to 150 that were relatively egalitarian and wary of alpha males (as Chris Boehm said).

So don’t call attention to racial and ethnic differences; make them less relevant by ramping up similarity and celebrating the group’s shared values and common identity.

You can make people care less about race by drowning race differences in a sea of similarities, shared goals, and mutual interdependencies.

If you ask people to sing a song together, or to march in step, or just to tap out some beats together on a table, it makes them trust each other more and be more willing to help each other out, in part because it makes people feel more similar to each other.

Create healthy competition among teams, not individuals.

Studies show that intergroup competition increases love of the in-group far more than it increases dislike of the out-group.

Transactional leadership appeals to followers’ self-interest, but transformational leadership changes the way followers see themselves from isolated individuals to members of a larger group.

When I began writing The Happiness Hypothesis, I believed that happiness came from within, as Buddha and the Stoic philosophers said thousands of years ago. You’ll never make the world conform to your wishes, so focus on changing yourself and your desires. But by the time I finished writing, I had changed my mind: Happiness comes from between. It comes from getting the right relationships between yourself and others, yourself and your work, and yourself and something larger than yourself.

Many scientists misunderstand religion because they ignore this principle and examine only what is most visible. They focus on individuals and their supernatural beliefs, rather than on groups and their binding practices.

Creating gods who can see everything, and who hate cheaters and oath breakers, turns out to be a good way to reduce cheating and oath breaking.

It should make people exceedingly generous and helpful toward members of their own moral communities, particularly when their reputations will be enhanced. And indeed, religion does exactly this.

The only thing that was reliably and powerfully associated with the moral benefits of religion was how enmeshed people were in relationships with their co-religionists.

Durkheim, who said: What is moral is everything that is a source of solidarity, everything that forces man to regulate his actions by something other than his own egoism.

We’re not just talking about IQ, mental illness, and basic personality traits such as shyness. We’re talking about the degree to which you like jazz, spicy foods, and abstract art; your likelihood of getting a divorce or dying in a car crash; your degree of religiosity, and your political orientation as an adult. Whether you end up on the right or the left of the political spectrum

Each narrative is designed to orient listeners morally to draw their attention to a set of virtues and vices, or good and evil forces and to impart lessons about what must be done now to protect, recover,

Each narrative is designed to orient listeners morally to draw their attention to a set of virtues and vices, or good and evil forces and to impart lessons about what must be done now to protect, recover, or attain the sacred core of the vision.

As I continued to read the writings of conservative intellectuals, from Edmund Burke in the eighteenth century through Friedrich Hayek and Thomas Sowell in the twentieth,

More specifically, moral capital refers to the degree to which a community possesses interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, and technologies that mesh well with evolved psychological mechanisms and thereby enable the community to suppress or regulate selfishness and make cooperation possible.

I believe that liberalism which has done so much to bring about freedom and equal opportunity is not sufficient as a governing philosophy. It tends to overreach, change too many things too quickly, and reduce the stock of moral capital inadvertently. Conversely, while conservatives do a better job of preserving moral capital, they often fail to notice certain classes of victims, fail to limit the predations of certain powerful interests, and fail to see the need to change or update institutions as times change.

John Stuart Mill said that liberals and conservatives are like this: A party of order or stability, and a party of progress or reform, are both necessary elements of a healthy state of political life.

For American liberals since the 1960s, I believe that the most sacred value is caring for victims of oppression. Anyone who blames such victims for their own problems or who displays or merely excuses prejudice against sacralized victim groups can expect a vehement tribal response.

Point #1: Governments Can and Should Restrain Corporate Superorganisms

I think liberals are right that a major function of government is to stand up for the public interest against corporations and their tendency to distort markets and impose externalities on others, particularly on those least able to stand up for themselves in court (such as the poor, or immigrants, or farm animals). Efficient markets require government regulation.

It is healthy for a nation to have a constant tug-of-war, a constant debate between yin and yang over how and when to limit and regulate corporate behavior.

Point #2: Some Problems Really Can Be Solved by Regulation

Libertarians are sometimes said to be socially liberal (favoring individual freedom in private matters such as sex and drug use) and economically conservative (favoring free markets),

Some liberals began to see powerful corporations and wealthy industrialists as the chief threats to liberty. These new liberals (also known as left liberals or progressives) looked to government as the only force capable of protecting the public and rescuing the many victims of the brutal practices of early industrial capitalism.

Liberals who continued to fear government as the chief threat to liberty became known as classical liberals, right liberals (in some countries), or libertarians (in the United States).

We found that libertarians look more like liberals than like conservatives on most measures of personality (for example, both groups score higher than conservatives on openness to experience, and lower than conservatives on disgust sensitivity and conscientiousness).

As long as consumers are spared from taking price into account that is, as long as someone else is always paying for your choices things will get worse.

Counterpoint #1: Markets Are Miraculous


Preserving the exoskeletons (such as the family).

If you can have at least one friendly interaction with a member of the other group, you’ll find it far easier to listen to what they’re saying, and maybe even see a controversial issue in a new light.

I explained how libertarians (who sacralize liberty) and social conservatives (who sacralize certain institutions and traditions) provide a crucial counterweight to the liberal reform movements that have been so influential in America and Europe since the early twentieth century.

Philosopher Isaiah Berlin

Don’t bring up morality until you’ve found a few points of commonality or in some other way established a bit of trust.


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