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Our brains were designed for tribal life, for getting along with a select group of others (Us), and for fighting off everyone else (Them). But modern life has thrust the world's tribes into a shared space, creating conflicts of interest and clashes of values, along with unprecedented opportunities. As the world shrinks, the moral lines that divide us become more salient and more puzzling. We fight over everything from tax codes to gay marriage to global warming, and we wonder where, if at all, we can find our common ground. A grand synthesis of neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, Moral Tribes reveals the underlying causes of modern conflict and lights a way forward. Our emotions make us social animals, turning Me into Us. But they also make us tribal animals, turning Us against Them. Our tribal emotions make us fight, sometimes with bombs, sometimes with words, and often with life-and-death stakes. Drawing inspiration from moral philosophy and cutting-edge science, Moral Tribes shows when we should trust our instincts, when we should reason, and how the right kind of reasoning can move us forward. Joshua Greene is the director of Harvard University's Moral Cognition Lab, a pioneering scientist, a philosopher, and an acclaimed teacher. The great challenge of Moral Tribes is this: How can we get along with Them when what they want feels so wrong? Finally, Greene offers a surprisingly simple set of maxims for navigating the modern moral terrain, a practical road map for solving problems and living better lives.
“Surprising and remarkable…Toggling between big ideas, technical details, and his personal intellectual journey, Greene writes a thesis suitable to both airplane reading and PhD seminars.”—The Boston Globe Our brains were designed for tribal life, for getting along with a select group of others (Us) and for fighting off everyone else (Them). But modern times have forced the world’s tribes into a shared space, resulting in epic clashes of values along with unprecedented opportunities. As the world shrinks, the moral lines that divide us become more salient and more puzzling. We fight over everything from tax codes to gay marriage to global warming, and we wonder where, if at all, we can find our common ground. A grand synthesis of neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, Moral Tribes reveals the underlying causes of modern conflict and lights the way forward. Greene compares the human brain to a dual-mode camera, with point-and-shoot automatic settings (“portrait,” “landscape”) as well as a manual mode. Our point-and-shoot settings are our emotions—efficient, automated programs honed by evolution, culture, and personal experience. The brain’s manual mode is its capacity for deliberate reasoning, which makes our thinking flexible. Point-and-shoot emotions make us social animals, turning Me into Us. But they also make us tribal animals, turning Us against Them. Our tribal emotions make us fight—sometimes with bombs, sometimes with words—often with life-and-death stakes. A major achievement from a rising star in a new scientific field, Moral Tribes will refashion your deepest beliefs about how moral thinking works and how it can work better.
After two and a half millennia, it's rare to come across a genuinely new idea on the nature of morality, but in this book Josh Greene advances not one but several... Moral Tribes is a landmark in our understanding of morality and the moral sense.' Steven Pinker
A leading cognitive scientist argues that a deep sense of good and evil is bred in the bone. From John Locke to Sigmund Freud, philosophers and psychologists have long believed that we begin life as blank moral slates. Many of us take for granted that babies are born selfish and that it is the role of society—and especially parents—to transform them from little sociopaths into civilized beings. In Just Babies, Paul Bloom argues that humans are in fact hardwired with a sense of morality. Drawing on groundbreaking research at Yale, Bloom demonstrates that, even before they can speak or walk, babies judge the goodness and badness of others’ actions; feel empathy and compassion; act to soothe those in distress; and have a rudimentary sense of justice. Still, this innate morality is limited, sometimes tragically. We are naturally hostile to strangers, prone to parochialism and bigotry. Bringing together insights from psychology, behavioral economics, evolutionary biology, and philosophy, Bloom explores how we have come to surpass these limitations. Along the way, he examines the morality of chimpanzees, violent psychopaths, religious extremists, and Ivy League professors, and explores our often puzzling moral feelings about sex, politics, religion, and race. In his analysis of the morality of children and adults, Bloom rejects the fashionable view that our moral decisions are driven mainly by gut feelings and unconscious biases. Just as reason has driven our great scientific discoveries, he argues, it is reason and deliberation that makes possible our moral discoveries, such as the wrongness of slavery. Ultimately, it is through our imagination, our compassion, and our uniquely human capacity for rational thought that we can transcend the primitive sense of morality we were born with, becoming more than just babies. Paul Bloom has a gift for bringing abstract ideas to life, moving seamlessly from Darwin, Herodotus, and Adam Smith to The Princess Bride, Hannibal Lecter, and Louis C.K. Vivid, witty, and intellectually probing, Just Babies offers a radical new perspective on our moral lives. From the Hardcover edition.
What is morality? Where does it come from? And why do most of us heed its call most of the time? In Braintrust, neurophilosophy pioneer Patricia Churchland argues that morality originates in the biology of the brain. She describes the "neurobiological platform of bonding" that, modified by evolutionary pressures and cultural values, has led to human styles of moral behavior. The result is a provocative genealogy of morals that asks us to reevaluate the priority given to religion, absolute rules, and pure reason in accounting for the basis of morality. Moral values, Churchland argues, are rooted in a behavior common to all mammals--the caring for offspring. The evolved structure, processes, and chemistry of the brain incline humans to strive not only for self-preservation but for the well-being of allied selves--first offspring, then mates, kin, and so on, in wider and wider "caring" circles. Separation and exclusion cause pain, and the company of loved ones causes pleasure; responding to feelings of social pain and pleasure, brains adjust their circuitry to local customs. In this way, caring is apportioned, conscience molded, and moral intuitions instilled. A key part of the story is oxytocin, an ancient body-and-brain molecule that, by decreasing the stress response, allows humans to develop the trust in one another necessary for the development of close-knit ties, social institutions, and morality. A major new account of what really makes us moral, Braintrust challenges us to reconsider the origins of some of our most cherished values.
John Mikhail explores whether moral psychology is usefully modelled on aspects of Universal Grammar.
Why can it sometimes feel as though half the population is living in a different moral universe from you? Why do ideas such as 'fairness' and 'freedom' mean such different things to different people? Why is it so easy to see the flaws in others' arguments, and less in our own? Jonathan Haidt, one of the world's most influential psychologists, reveals that the reason we find it so hard to get along is because our minds are designed to be moral. Not only that, we are hardwired to be moralistic, judgemental and self-righteous too. Our intrinsic morality enabled us to form communities and create civilization, and it is the key to understanding everybody. It explains why some of us are liberal, others conservative. It is often the difference between war and peace. It is also why we are the only species that will kill for an ideal. Drawing on moral psychology, ancient philosophy, modern politics, poetry, advertising and the semantics of bumper stickers, Haidt's incredibly wise and enjoyable book examines how morality evolves; why we are predisposed to believe certain things; how our surroundings can affect our morality; and how moral values are not just about justice and fairness - for some people authority, sanctity or loyalty are more important. Morality binds and blinds, but with new evidence from his own empirical research, Haidt proves it is possible to liberate us from the disputes that divide good people and cooperate with those whose morals differ from our own. After all, they might just have something to say.