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Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason and the Gap Between Us and Them (English Edition) [Kindle Edition]

Joshua Greene

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This is an important synthesising work of great depth and breadth. Time and again Greene nails what is centrally important --Julian Baggini, Financial Times With wit and clarity, Greene steers the reader through a mountain of evidence... A challenging and fascinating read. --Independent on Sunday More than a decade in the making, 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 Brilliant and enlightening... This book should be widely read and discussed. --Peter Singer A decade ago, the wunderkind Joshua Greene helped start the field of moral neuroscience, producing dazzling research findings. In this equally dazzling book, Greene shows that he is also one of the field's premier synthesists. --Robert Sapolsky There is a wealth of books in this area, but Greene has something new to bring to the debate... Thoughtful and thought-provoking --Times Literary Supplement


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.


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 1182 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 432 Seiten
  • Verlag: Atlantic Books (2. Januar 2014)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B00G1SM1R0
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
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  • Word Wise: Nicht aktiviert
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #216.939 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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Die hilfreichsten Kundenrezensionen auf (beta) 4.1 von 5 Sternen  79 Rezensionen
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4.0 von 5 Sternen An Interesting Work of Synthesis that Falls a Bit Short 11. November 2013
Von Kevin Currie-Knight - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Kindle Edition|Verifizierter Kauf
Neuroscieintist/philosopher Joshua Greene has a big thesis in this book that requires some quite involved steps. His concern is to argue for a "metamorality" of the kind that should help groups with differing moralities resolve differences. Greene starts out envisioning two prototypical "tribes. One has a morality of self-reliance and "just desserts," where people are responsible for their lot in life and get rewarded in proportion to their efforts. The other has a more altruistic view of the world, where things are shared and shared alike, and everyone feels responsibility for everyone. The question: how do we decide which of these groups - or more likely, which elements of each group's worldview - should win the day in cases of moral conflict? (More specifically: when we face moral dilemmas where we could respond via self-interest and "just desserts" or with altruism and egalitarian "desserts", how should we determine which to go with?)

Greene's answer is basically a form of utilitarianism that he calls "deep pragmatism." And to see why requires some explanation, which could be really dull but isn't, owing to Greene's gifts as a good and clear writer. He argues that humans have what is called a "dual process morality" that is divided between intuitive gut instincts (dominated by the ventromedial prefrontal cortex) and a more calculating thought process (owing more to the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex). When it comes to questions of "me versus us," the intuition side of things is pretty reliable, making us feel guilty for taking more than "our fair share," breaking rules that we expect everyone else to follow, etc. Understandable, because our intuitions of empathy and the like almost certainly evolved to stimulate cooperation within groups among otherwise selfish individuals (which confers an overall survival advantage).

But our instincts also don't do very well with "we versus them" problems, because the same mechanisms that evolved to stimulate cooperation evolved to do so only WITHIN GROUPS (not between them). So, instincts often make us feel guilty at not helping others who are close to us, but the guilt lessens the farther removed the others-in-need are from us. Here, though, the thinking part of our brains can step in, and the thinking part of our brains (Greene's and others' research suggests) tend to be "utilitarian" - preferring whatever option leads to the greatest overall happiness less discriminately.

The most interesting (and original) parts of this book are those where Greene reviews his own and others' research on "the trolley problem" - a problem philosophers have concocted to illustrate the dilemma between the sanctity of individual rights and the imperative of maximizing overall happiness. The trolley problem - and there are many variations of it - is of a train going down a track where five people are trapped. One can avert the trolley from killing the five only if one pushes a particular person onto the track (fortunately, you are standing at an area of the track where any obstruction to the trolley will avert it to a side-track, and pushing the man in front of the track will create such an obstruction.)

Yes, it is highly contrived, but philosophers have argued for many years over the 'correct' answer to the problem: is it better to maximize happiness by saving five even if it means you have to intentionally sacrifice one, or is it better to let the five die if it means not intentionally killing one innocent person? Greene's study has led him to see the "dual process theory" of morality at work here. Those who have damage to the "instinctual" part of the brain unhesitatingly kill the one to save the five, and those with damage to the "calculating" part of the brain do the opposite. The rest of us struggle because the two parts of our brain are telling us different things.

But, far from saying that there is no good answer, Greene suggests that in the trolley case, the best answer is the utilitarian one, because he suspects that our compunctions about intentionally killing to save five lives is a relic of the intuitional module of our brain (as evidenced partly by the fact that those who choose to let the five die can''t generally give any good explanation for why, save that it feels wrong). And Greene also suggests that while intuitional thinking doe serve us well at times - in "me versus us" questions - it is often ill-equipped to deal with "us versus them" problems (problems the world is facing more and more of).

This is where I start to find Greene unconvincing. Without getting into too much detail, Greene strikes me as a utilitarian only to the degree that it gets him to the answers he wants to get... and there is a lot of inconsistent reasoning Greene gives about why utilitarianism is the best actual theory, rather than the one that gets him the answers he likes best. Mostly, this comes from a mixture of explaining both how utilitarianism doesn't conflict with some of our most deeply held intuitions (disrespect for individual rights when they conflict with the greatest good, etc), AND explaining that when it does, it is because in those cases, our intuitions are wrong. In other words, when utilitarianism validates our intuitions, that shows how good utilitarianism is, but when it conflicts with our intuitions, that shows that our intuitions - not utilitarianism - is flawed. Something seems very post hoc and inconsistent about this.

To be sure, I don't have a much better answer. I think that, in the end, Greene's work actually REDUCES our confidence that there are best and worst answers to moral questions, but that is because unlike Greene, I see no reason to think we can resolve the "dual process" competing answers by somehow stepping above our human moral thinking and saying that there is an objective criteria that can determine which "process" is the right one and which, the wrong one. Might it just be that our impulses toward intuition and calculation conflict and that is that? Yes, Greene (and many of us) do think that it is quite important to produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number, but if our instincts about what is morally right can be flawed in some cases, why can't our feeling that the greatest good is important be flawed too (and even though we reason to it, the value we put on the greatest good is still an instinct)? Not that Greene is wrong to put value on it, but I came away thinking that he wanted it both ways: intuitions can be trusted when they validate our calculations, but they're probably wrong when they don't.

Anyway, aside from my general misgivings about Greene's conclusion (or at least his defense of it), I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Greene's research on the neural basis of moral thinking is intriguing, original, and does a service to moral philosophy. And here, he writes a clear and well-written explanation of those and a larger moral case he draws from it. Those who are interested in this book should also read Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality, and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (Vintage).The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values
41 von 50 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Interesting, engaging and powerful 3. November 2013
Von William MacAskill - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
I was lucky enough to receive an advance copy of this book (with no intention that I'd review it!). I enjoyed every minute of reading it.

It's on an extremely important topic - the nature of morality. And the contribution Prof Greene makes is an extremely novel one: based on his own psychological studies, he argues that our moral judgments are often a battleground between an intuitive, emotional reaction, and a slower, more deliberative and logical reasoning process. Suppose you can kill one person in order to transplant their organs to save five others. "Don't do it!" says your gut; "But doing so will save more lives!" says the slower, more deliberative part of your brain.

The kicker comes in the final part of the book where he argues that we should normally trust that slow deliberative process over our intuitive judgments. His work in psychology therefore impacts moral philosophy, providing a grand argument for utilitarianism - the idea that one should always do whatever will maximise the sum total of wellbeing in the world.

Greene is a stellar psychologist who's precipitated a massive debate in moral philosophy. And he's managed to present his research in a clear, friendly and engaging way. If you want to learn about cutting-edge research on the nature of morality - and have your own moral views challenged! - then read this book.
18 von 22 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Excellent and Original 14. November 2013
Von Book Fanatic - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
This is just an excellent book. I consider it quite original and somewhat radical. The author Joshua Greene does a remarkable job of arguing his case and the book is thoroughly enjoyable.

Greene makes the observation that our intuitive moral emotions evolved to ensure cooperation within your own tribe and treated everyone else as "them". Obviously this doesn't work very well in the modern global world. So the point of this book is to defend a meta morality to resolve all the modern moral conflicts.

Greene uses modern issues like abortion as examples and this is just part of his excellent text. This book has the Amazon "Look Inside" feature and I recommend you utilize that to preview the text.

This is a thinking person's book and I highly recommend it. Very well done.
5 von 5 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen A very good book, I highly recommend it 29. Dezember 2013
Von Jim Banneck - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
I think everyone should read this book, especially our political leaders or those thinking about becoming leaders . I don't know if it is published in other languages but it should be.I have no doubt the world could be a much better place if more people read this book.

I personally learned a lot from the book and I am sure it will help me in my day to day interaction with those around me. It will also change the way I interact with the world.

I have a few issues with the book. First, it is not linear as it could have been. The points are well established and important but I knew the conclusion after the first half of the book. Second, the sub-title should have been "Emotion, reason, and the gap between me, us and them". It spends a lot of time not just on us vs. them, but on me vs. us. Though this is actually a good thing. It adds a lot to the book Lastly, Mr. Greene is very clear regarding his personal feelings. While I mostly agree with him and I appreciate it, I think the book would be more effective if it where less personal.

My issues aside, I think it a a great book. It is very readable and I highly recommend it.
7 von 8 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Is it Moral to Kill One to Save Five? 23. Mai 2014
Von Frank S. Robinson - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
You are a bystander when a runaway trolley careens by, about to hit and kill five people. You can grab a switch and reroute the trolley to a different track where it will kill only one person. Should you? Most people say yes. But suppose you’re on a bridge, and can only save the five lives by pushing a fat man off the bridge into the trolley’s path? Should you? Most say no. Or suppose you’re a doctor with five patients about to die from different organ failures. Should you save them by grabbing someone off the street and harvesting his organs? Aren’t all three cases morally identical?

Our intuitive moral brain treats them differently. Pushing the man off the bridge, or harvesting organs, seem to contravene an ethical taboo against personal violence that the impersonal act of flipping the switch does not. (This refutes the common idea that humans have a propensity for violence. Ironically, those who believe it must do so because their own built-in anti-violence brain module is set on high.)

Such issues are central to Joshua Greene’s book, Moral Tribes. Our ethical intuitions were acquired through evolution, adaptations that enabled our ancestors to cope and survive in close-knit tribal societies. And our moral reflexes do work pretty well in such environments, where the dilemmas tend to be of the “me” versus “us” sort. But, because our ancestral tribes were effectively competing against other tribes, “us” versus “them” issues are a different matter. That’s the problem really concerning Greene.

He argues for a version of utilitarianism (he calls it deep pragmatism). Now, utilitarianism has a bad rep in philosophy circles. Its precept of “the greatest good for the greatest number” is seen as excluding other valid moral considerations; e.g., in the trolley and doctor situations, sacrificing one to save five – overriding the one’s rights, and Kant’s dictum that people should always be ends, never means.

Greene’s line of argument (exactly the same as mine in The Case for Rational Optimism) starts with what he deems the key question: what really matters? You can posit a whole array of “goods” but upon analysis they all actually resolve down to one thing: the feelings of beings capable of experiencing feelings. Or, in a word, happiness.

Happiness is a slippery concept if you try to pin down its definition. Is it a feeling – that one is happy? That’s circular; also simplistic. As John Stuart Mill famously said, it’s better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a pig satisfied.

But in any case, nothing ultimately matters except the feelings of feeling beings, and every other value you could name has meaning only insofar as it affects such feelings. Thus the supreme goal (if not the only goal) of moral philosophy should be to maximize good feelings (or happiness, or pleasure, or satisfaction) and minimize bad ones (pain and suffering).

A common misunderstanding is that such utilitarianism is really about maximizing wealth. But, while all else equal, more wealth does confer more happiness, all else is never equal and happiness versus suffering is much more complex. Some beggars are happier than some billionaires. The “utility” that utilitarianism targets is not wealth; money is only a means to an end; and the end is feelings.

This is what “the greatest good for the greatest number” is about. Jeremy Bentham, utilitarianism’s founding thinker, imagined assigning a point value to every experience. This is not intended literally; but if you could quantify good versus bad feelings, then the higher the score, the greater the “utility” achieved, and the better the world.

But doesn’t this still give us the same problematic answers to the trolley and surgery hypotheticals – killing one to save five? In fact that answer flunks the utilitarian test. Because nobody would want to live in a society where people can be grabbed off the street to take their organs. That might be utilitarian from the standpoint of the five people saved, but extremely non-utilitarian for everyone else. And while one can concoct bizarre hypotheticals like these, the real world doesn’t work that way. In the real world, “utility” can’t actually be maximized by, say, 90% of the population enslaving the other 10% (another typical anti-utilitarian hypothetical).

Utilitarianism doesn’t require narrow-minded calculation of “utility” within the confines of every situation and circumstance. What it tells us instead is to keep our eye on the big picture: that what really matters is feelings; what tends to make them better globally is good; what makes them worse is bad. As Greene puts it, utilitarianism supplies a “common currency,” or filter, for evaluating moral dilemmas.

Meantime, if X is willing to sacrifice himself for what he thinks is “the greatest good for the greatest number,” that’s fine; but if X is willing to sacrifice Y for what X thinks is the greater good, that’s not fine at all. It’s the road to perdition, and we know of too many societies that actually travelled that road.

Thus, a true real-world utilitarianism incorporates the kind of inviolable human rights that protect people from being exploited for the supposed good of others – because that truly does maximize happiness, pleasure, and human flourishing, while minimizing pain and suffering.
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