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Why We Can't All Just Get Along

Publication Authors: 
William Damon
Publication Year: 
Publication Journal: 
Defining Ideas, A Hoover Institution (online) Journal.

A review of Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion.

[Excerpt: first two paragraphs]

The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt’s fascinating new book, re-energizes the study of moral psychology with a sweeping account of human morality in all its amazing diversity. Haidt looks across ideologies and cultures to find an array of moral standards that are barely (if at all) reconcilable with one another. Some folks on our planet treasure purity and sanctity. Others go to the mat for justice and equity. Some value autonomy and freedom; others prefer community and loyalty. Some believe in change and progress; others believe in respecting and preserving ancient traditions.

When such preferences translate into political positions (as in liberal versus conservative), these differences often devolve into animosity and invective. Each side attacks the other for lack of moral virtue. Haidt makes the case that all of these preferences count as moral beliefs, and thus they all deserve respect from those who hold different beliefs. So, Haidt asks—quoting Rodney King’s famous plea during the 1992 Los Angeles riots—“Why can’t we all get along?”