Interesting Book by Lukianioff and Haidt

I’m part-way through reading an interesting book by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt, The Coddling of the American Mind. It touches on a number of topics, including freedom of speech, the culture of “safetyism” on university campuses, and psychology, including social psychology.

To fend off in advance the automatic assumption that any book recommended by Eddie will be written by creationists and/or members of the religious and political right, I mention (a) that both the authors are atheists; (b) that they assume the truth of evolution throughout their argument; ( c ) that they make a number of negative comments about Donald Trump; (d) that at least Haidt started out as a firm Democrat, and describes his politics as “centrist”.

Haidt is an Ivy-League trained social psychologist with an undergraduate background in philosophy; Lukianoff is a Stanford-trained First Amendment-focused lawyer.

They argue that the culture of “safetyism” on university campuses, which had led to the censorship of ideas and in some cases to campus violence (they give examples) is a bad thing, and more broadly that an overfocus on feelings as opposed to reason, on safety as opposed to risk-taking, is weakening universities, and American society overall.

People here who are trained in psychology (as I am not) may find the book interesting because of its consistent use of psychological research and psychological lines of argument.

Many of their arguments in the book regarding intellectual and academic freedom overlap with those of a number of other recent authors, and the evidence they provide lends support to things I have reported about Arts programs in modern universities.

I have not finished the book and therefore am not willing to engage in debate over it, so at this point I merely mention it as an interesting work which may interest some people here, including perhaps some regular commenters but also perhaps some of the the many readers who follow discussions here but remain silent.

By the way, if it matters to anyone, the book has already won numerous awards from reviewers and critics, and the decidedly leftist New York Times gave it high rankings, which should ease the minds of the predominantly leftist group of regular commenters here.

Happy reading!

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