37 pages 1 hour read

Jonathan Haidt

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2012

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Part 2: “There’s More to Morality than Harm and Fairness”Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 5 Summary: “Beyond WEIRD Morality”

In an attempt to understand how and why moral rules are established in groups, Haidt presents two very different communities to examine. First, Haidt looks at the community he views himself as a member of. As an affluent, liberal-minded American in possession of advanced academic degrees, Haidt is a member of WEIRD society. WEIRD is defined as Western, educated, industrial, rich, and democratic. As a member of this society, Haidt looks at moral dilemmas via a very specific set of concerns.

He shares this very specific set of concerns with the University of Pennsylvania students who serve as his research subjects. For Haidt and the Penn students, ethics of autonomy and harm avoidance are paramount. This guides how they decide if a situation is right or wrong—are someone’s rights being violated? Is someone being harmed (physically, psychologically, or perhaps politically via disenfranchisement)? Harm and fairness govern all their moral verdicts.

However, when Haidt ventures beyond the borders of WEIRD society, he comes to see what outliers WEIRD society members really are in the larger world. His most eye-opening experiences occur while he is staying in the small Indian city of Bhubaneswar. Haidt reports being treated very well and coming to feel great affection for his hosts.