Monday, August 27, 2012

A Perusal of Reviews: 2016: Obama's America; The Righteous Mind

I watched a movie and read a book this weekend. I recommend both highly.

The movie is 2016: Obama's America, the book is The Righteous Mind.

Instead of going through all the hard work of writing my own reviews, I'll share the best highlights of some good reviews I've found.

2016: Obama's America

D'Souza's movie is significant and engrossing. The tactic of taking Obama's words in his book Dreams from My Father is keen...

While one can look upon Obama's childhood and upbringing as sad tale, it is also true that he is a child of privilege who was afforded a lavish education from high school on. As D'Souza argues, Obama realized that Americans of goodwill were willing to help him advance -- in college, in law school, in politics -- and he capitalized on that help to present himself as a figure of unity while harboring the resentments of his surrogates. He had his chances, and he made his choices.

Obama chose to associate with, study under, emulate, and work alongside the worst this nation has to offer...
Where this movie is extremely valuable is as therapy for independent and blue-dog Democrat voters who need some kind of dispassionate means getting some perspective about 2008. In offering a non-shrieking place for Obama supporters to begin an introspective review of where we were told we’re going, where we are, and where we’d like to be, D’Souza has made a valuable contribution.
The Trailer doesn't do the movie justice, but here it is:

Next up...

The Righteous Mind

You’re smart. You’re liberal. You’re well informed. You think conservatives are narrow-minded. You can’t understand why working-class Americans vote Republican. You figure they’re being duped. You’re wrong.

This isn’t an accusation from the right. It’s a friendly warning from Jonathan Haidt, a social psychologist at the University of Virginia who, until 2009, considered himself a partisan liberal.
Wall Street Journal:
The work of Jonathan Haidt often infuriates his fellow liberals. A professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, he has focused in recent years on trying to understand the range and variety of our moral intuitions, especially as they relate to the most polarizing issues of the day. What he sees across the dividing line of American politics is a battle of unequals: Republicans who "understand moral psychology" arrayed against Democrats who "don't."
Washington Times:
“Might conservatives have a better formula for how to create a healthy, happy society?”

This question appears in his new book “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion,” which takes readers on a tour of human moral and social history. In the book, Mr. Haidt — now a centrist — argues that conservatives, liberals and libertarians each have fundamentally wise insights to contribute to our national conversation about the type of society in which we should live. And to contribute to our academies.
What makes the book so compelling is the fluid combination of erudition and entertainment, and the author's obvious pleasure in challenging conventional wisdom. One minute he draws on psychological experiments to defend Glaucon, the cynic in Plato's Republic who argued that people behaved well only because they were scared of being caught. (Here Haidt gives dishonourable mention to Britain's MPs, so happy to abuse expenses when they thought no one was looking at their moats and duck ponds.) The next he is enlisting the Scottish philosopher David Hume to challenge our "rationalist delusion".
Some criticism (TWS):
The real problem with Haidt’s psychopunditry is that it shares with other kinds of determinism a depressing moral impoverishment. Haidt’s own centrism is an artifact of his Science. If the appeal of one idea versus another is explained by a man’s biology (interacting with a few environmental factors) rather than its content, there’s really not much to argue about. Politics is drained of the meaning that human beings have always sought from it. Haidt criticizes his peers for using psychology to “explain away” conservatism, and good for him. Unfortunately, he wants to explain away liberalism too, so that our politics is no longer understood as a clash of interests and well-developed ideas but an altercation between two psychological and evolutionary types.

This may be one benefit to this new era we’re entering: The latest, most cutting-edge punditry may do away with punditry altogether.

My two cents:

Although he articulates a crude understanding of conservative ideology, Johnathan Haidt provides some valuable insights into how human beings think about morality.

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