The limits of Haidt: How his explanation of political animosity fails.

SelectedWorks Author Profiles:

Hugh LaFollette

Document Type


Publication Date


Date Issued

January 2015

Date Available

February 2015




Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind seeks to explain why it is difficult for liberals and conservatives to get along. His aim is not just explanatory but also prescriptive. Once we understand that the differences between disputants spring from distinct moral views held by equally sincere people, then we will no longer have reason for deep political animus. Conservatives and Liberals have distinct (although somewhat overlapping) moral views and they understand human nature differently. He claims that these differences are best understood by consulting an array of psychological studies, key genetic findings, and the theoretical underpinnings of sociobiology. After summarizing his arguments, we isolate and discuss the three most important and contentious issues in his book. We argue that although the project's motivation is noble and some of his findings are insightful, his key explanations, inferences, and prescriptions are wanting. We end by suggesting a way he could defend a weaker version of his view.


Abstract only. Full-text article is available through licensed access provided by the publisher. Published in Philosophical Psychology, 28(3), 452-465. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09515089.2013.838752. Members of the USF System may access the full-text of the article through the authenticated link provided.





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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.