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Ep53 - Jonathan Haidt

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Mixed Mental Arts

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As a professor at the University of Virginia, Jonathan Haidt uses the scientific method to study human morality…which leads to asking people some pretty screwed up questions. Would it be wrong if a man bought a chicken from the store for dinner, had sex with it and then ate it? A brother and sister are on holiday together and they decide it would be fun to have sex. The sister is already on the pill, but the brother decides to use a condom just to be safe. They enjoy it, but they decide to just do it this one time and keep it as a secret between them. The secret brings them closer. You may or may not have a problem with having sex with your dinner, but you probably have a big problem with a brother and sister having sex. The question is why? Most people's first reaction is to say that close relatives shouldn't have children because of the high risk of genetic abnormalities, but with the sister on the pill and the brother using a condom is that really a risk. But wouldn't it destroy their relationship? Well, in this situation, sharing a secret of their one-time fling brought them closer together. What hypotheticals like these reveal is that we feel that things are wrong first and then we struggle with reasons to justify those feelings. Are we rational creatures or are we primarily emotional creatures searching for reasons to justify what we feel? In his first book, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, Jon Haidt manages to draw ten great ideas from the world's ancient religions and analyzes them through the lens of modern scientific research. Haidt does so much more than simply examine the practical benefits of ancient teachings from the perspective of neurology and psychology; he also reflects on the nature of religion itself. Is the propensity for religious experience born into us? If so, what function does it serve? While The Happiness Hypothesis compellingly answers these questions, it is Haidt's second book The Righteous Mind: Why Goo

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