Jonathan Haidt

American social psychologist (1963-)

Jonathan David Haidt (born October 19, 1963) is an American social psychologist, Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University Stern School of Business, and author. His main areas of study are the psychology of morality and moral emotions.

Jonathan Haidt


  • Sports is to war as pornography is to sex.
  • First, kill all the math classes beyond algebra. Stop wasting so much of our students’ time learning math. It’s not useful, it’s not helpful.

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2005)

  • The lesson Buddha and Marcus Aurelius had taught centuries earlier: "Nothing is miserable unless you think it so; and on the other hand, nothing brings happiness unless you are content with it".
    • p. 25.
  • Gossip and reputation make sure that what comes around - a person who is cruel will find that the others are cruel back to him, and a person who is kind will find others are kind in return. Gossip paired with reciprocity allow karma to work here on earth, not in the next life. As long as everyone plays tit-for-tat augmented by gratitude, vengeance, and gossip, the whole system should work beautifully.
    • p. 55.

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012)

Jonathan Haidt (2012) The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion.
  • Anyone who values truth should stop worshipping reason.
    • Cited in: Alistair Croll, ‎Benjamin Yoskovitz (2013) Lean Analytics: Use Data to Build a Better Startup Faster. p. 168.
  • If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you.
  • Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.
  • Science is a smorgasbord, and Google will guide you to the study that's right for you.
  • And so, uh, uh, a wonderful book, um, American Grace by, uh, Putnam and Campbell, um, uh, is the ultimate authority on this. What they find is that, um, it doesn’t matter what religion you are, and it doesn’t matter what you believe, if you are part of a religious community, then on average, you’re a better citizen, you give more to charity. Religion does bring out the good in people. Now, secular people can be perfectly good, too, but on average, they give less and they give less of their time. So, I’d like to think that I simply, as a secular atheist scientist, followed the evidence, and it showed me that I was wrong in thinking that religion was evil.
  • I know this is the question period, but there’s a quote here which is just so relevant. I hope I can — I hope I can read it. It’s from an article by, uh, Yossi Klein Halevi on Pesach Jews versus Purim Jews. So he talks about these — there’s these two threads, these two strands among — among — among Jews in — actually, there’s more in Israel. But it’s here, too. So he — I just love this, and it fits so well with — with — with The Righteous Mind. He says, uh, Jewish history speaks to our generation in the voice of two Biblical commands to remember.
“The first voice commands us to remember that we were strangers in the land of Egypt, and the message of that command is, don’t be brutal. The second voice commands us to remember how the tribe of Amalek attacked us without provocation while we were wandering in the desert and the message of that command is don’t be naïve. [...] Passover Jews are motivated by empathy with the oppressed.” That’s this care and compassion foundation. “Purim Jews are motivated by alertness to threat.” That’s these group-binding virtues, where you have to have, if you’re going to be attacked from outside. Both are essential. So, anything you can do to convey the sense that, yeah, both sides are right. Both sides are wise to certain threats. Conveying that both sides are right, and — and linking them to both, you know, both are Jews. So these are, I think, some of the steps that can at least create this greater sense of community and necessary purpose.
  • So, we’ve reached the state that George Will described. He said there’s a certain kind of liberal that wants diversity in everything, except thought. And so, we do need certain kinds of diversity. But the key to remember is that, diversity by its very nature is divisive, and so, what’s the function of your group? If your group needs cohesion, you don’t want diversity. If your group needs good, clear thinking and you want people to challenge your prejudices, then you need it. So in the academic world, we need that kind of diversity, and we don’t have it.
  • I think we went through — in America, at least, we went through a period in the ’60s and ’70s when the education establishment became extremely liberal, and part of that is a flirtation with relativism. And a resistance — it’s horrible to think of — of adults telling kids what’s right and wrong. What a terrible thing. That’s oppression. And so we created these sort of value-free spaces, which conveys a value, which is that there’s no right or wrong, everyone decides for themselves. Uh, everyone’s opinion is equal. You should say your opinion and then you get a lot of incivility. What I would like to see is a revamped civics curriculum where we teach very explicitly the long tradition of left-right. Um, we teach what each side is. You can’t say right about it, that’s my language. But, um, you teach what each side is concerned about. You know, very much like the line here. Uh, both are essential. One without the other creates an unbalanced American civic order.
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