Moral Tribes

  • by Joshua Greene
  • Narrated by Mel Foster
  • 14 hrs and 53 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

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.
An award-winning teacher and scientist, Greene directs Harvard University’s Moral Cognition Lab, which uses cutting-edge neuroscience and cognitive techniques to understand how people really make moral decisions. Combining insights from the lab with lessons from decades of social science and centuries of philosophy, the great question of Moral Tribes is this: How can we get along with Them when what they want feels so wrong to Us?
Ultimately, Greene offers a set of maxims for navigating the modern moral terrain, a practical road map for solving problems and living better lives. Moral Tribes shows us when to trust our instincts, when to reason, and how the right kind of reasoning can move us forward.
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.

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What the Critics Say

“Moral Tribes is a masterpiece—a landmark work brimming with originality and insight that also happens to be wickedly fun to read. The only disappointing thing about this book is that it ends.” -Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology, Harvard University; author of the international bestseller Stumbling on Happiness

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

An Exceedingly Interesting...

study in the grounds--both reasonable and unreasonable, beneficial and destructive--that we have for gathering together into groups...which seem to end up somehow inevitably pitted against some "other." Cliques, clubs, organizations, political parties, cults, class-systems, and...teams. I have a story that relates very well to this book. I live near Seattle. "WE" (the Seahawks--I don't play, mind you, and I don't even watch, though I find myself included somehow) are playing the Broncos (hereafter "THEM") in the Superbowl next week. Some years ago, I bought a Broncos hat to wear to the barn when I interact with my horse--I hate football, and I bought the hat because it has a horse on it. (Witness my avatar photo above.) I have grown attached to the hat. I have also been threatened and taunted by Seahawks fan-atic-s for wearing it in public, and greeted heartily by strangers in stores from Denver who mistake me for a fellow Colorado "WE..." At present, I continue to wear the hat to the barn, but not if I need to run into the store afterward. And, if the Seahawks win on Sunday, I think maybe I will be able to wear it publicly in say, a year or so...if the Broncos win...I will never be safe wearing it again. (I had a student once actually physically assaulted for wearing a NY Yankees cap into a Seattle bar.) All this has made me aware of one thing: Nazi Germany is easy to understand once you get this element of human nature: we too often need someone to hate in order to feel decently about ourselves. The Nazis had the same mentality as football fanatics--or any other group fanatic. They just had a lot more freedom to persecute the "THEM."
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- Douglas "College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey."

A lot of fallacies

This is a interesting subject but unfortunately the author is really tied up in many collectivist fallacies. He states that if humans follow their self interest they would all die pretty quickly (tragedy of the commons is mentioned a lot). So I have to conclude he thinks it is in human's self interest to die quickly. Of course what he does is narrow the concept of 'self interest' to 'grab all you can', which is setting up a straw man. Later in the book he kind of goes back on this statement by showing cooperation is in human's self interest and is therefor baked into the cake.
He also stated that when two troops of monkeys meet one another and one is stronger than the other, naturally the stronger will kill the weaker, since they would not like to take chances. This is not the case in reality however, so he might want to check his facts. He touches on that when he later mentions that committing aggression involves risks.
What most annoyed me is the notion about the idea that cooperation equates handing over resources to government. He begins with northern herders and southern herders and different mentalities and cultural norms about individualism and cooperation. He does not realize that the government is not a pit in which you throw money if you want to cooperate, but it is a special group of people for who inverted moral rules apply (murder for money gives you a medal, theft is taxation and is good) without any physical difference to back this up. Trade = cooperation, the government however is force. It is a group of people in society that claims a monopoly on violence. In his words: government is just another group of herders, just a group that is more violent and has the right to subjugate in the eyes of the subjugated. When he says cooperation is good, he does not mean voluntary trade is good for the participants in the trade. He means: handing over resources to the group of herders who claim to represent the invisible state, equals cooperation. But the government is just a group of herders engaging in robbery. Cooperation is when people get together to voluntary cooperate, government is an elite who exploits the masses through taxation and threat of imprisonment and death.


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- peter

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-31-2013
  • Publisher: Brilliance Audio