Jump to content

The Righteous Mind - Chapter 2


Recommended Posts

Two – The Intuitive Dog and its Rational Tail

 

Haidt continues, in this chapter, to build his case that morality is basically intuitive and not reasoned. He begins with what he calls “the rationalist delusion;” the false notion that our moral values are derived from reason. He notes that Darwin was very much a nativist (vs. rationalist) about morality; he thought that natural selection gave us minds preloaded with moral emotions. This fits into the realm of what we call “human nature.”

 

In this chapter, Haidt gets into the evolutionary basis of morality. He says that emotions, something we share with apes, are building blocks for morality. He cites studies of brain damage to specific parts of the brain that disable emotion. People who suffer this damage have difficulty in decision making. They had no intuitive emotional reaction to right and wrong although they retain full rationality. He says that people make awful decisions when deprived of emotional input. He says that these situations were “a shocking revelation that reasoning requires the passions.”

 

In an experiment using the incest taboo, Haidt demonstrates that our moral reaction is intuitive, not rational. Subjects are given a hypothetical “harmless-taboo” scenario in which a brother and sister have sex using condoms. The subjects were asked if it was okay. They would say no. Then they would be asked why and reasons such as the possibility of genetically defective offspring would be given. When they were reminded that the couple used condoms, the subjects could not give a rational reason. This is an example of “post hoc search for reason to justify the judgments people had already made.”

 

I think we have all experienced this when someone tries to convince another, using reason, that their position on an issue is wrong. In spite of all the good reasons given and the illogical explanations the other offers, they remain unconvinced. We hear things like, ‘Well, I can’t explain it, I just don’t agree.’ My grandfather used to say, “Convince a man against his will and he will be of the same opinion still.” This is the “rationalist delusion.”

 

Questions and comments?

 

George

Link to post
Share on other sites

I have not read the book George but i have no problem agreeing with what you describe as his concept of "ralionalist delusion". Or the notion that our moral values are derived from reason. It seems to me we often fool ourselves concerning moral values into thinking that it was a product of or a result of our careful and rational thought process. In my experience the process is highly subjective and usually follows the intuition and is used to make the reasoning or rational thought the source rather than the product it actually is.

 

About his point concerning " people make awful decisions when deprived of emotional input " i fail to understand unless it is only referring to the damage to the brain scenario Perhaps i need to read the chapter or am misunderstanding as my experience is of clearer thought when calm from emotional input.

 

Joseph

Link to post
Share on other sites

About his point concerning " people make awful decisions when deprived of emotional input " i fail to understand unless it is only referring to the damage to the brain scenario

 

Sorry, it wasn't well worded. He is talking about people with brain damage such that their emotional input is impaired. He says they have great difficulty making decisions despite the fact that their reasoning ability is fine.

 

For what it is worth, sales people know this quite well. They depend on emotional reaction to their products.They advertise the sizzle rather than the steak.

 

George

Link to post
Share on other sites

Two – The Intuitive Dog and its Rational Tail

 

 

In this chapter, Haidt gets into the evolutionary basis of morality. He says that emotions, something we share with apes, are building blocks for morality. He cites studies of brain damage to specific parts of the brain that disable emotion. People who suffer this damage have difficulty in decision making. They had no intuitive emotional reaction to right and wrong although they retain full rationality. He says that people make awful decisions when deprived of emotional input. He says that these situations were “a shocking revelation that reasoning requires the passions.”

 

 

George

 

This is almost identical to the Somatic Marker Hypothesis of Antonio Damasio. Damasio is well known for his book Descartes Error (1994). Does Haidt cite Damasio in this book? He is most likely the source of the research Haidt is talking about.

 

Myron

Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a suble difference between rationality and decision making. Patients with focal brain damage in or near the cingulate gyrus lack communication between the emotional processing center of the brain with the rational processing center. The can generate many rational options, but are unable to decide which one to use.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Damasio is well known for his book Descartes Error (1994). Does Haidt cite Damasio in this book? He is most likely the source of the research Haidt is talking about.

 

Yes he does, extensively. I counted 12 citations.

 

George

Link to post
Share on other sites

There is a suble difference between rationality and decision making. Patients with focal brain damage in or near the cingulate gyrus lack communication between the emotional processing center of the brain with the rational processing center. The can generate many rational options, but are unable to decide which one to use.

 

Steve, that is essentially what Haidt says.

 

George

Link to post
Share on other sites

That was me, Myron ... not Steve. I was commenting on the research from Damasio.

 

Whoops, sorry. I think I had just seen his name on another thread and somehow it got stuck in my head. (I suspect Haidt and/or Damasio would have something to same about that - priming?).

 

George

Link to post
Share on other sites

i liked when he asked the subjects to sign away their souls to the interviewer. I'm not sure if I would sign that piece of paper. i dont for a second believe that i would be actually signing my soul away, but i think i would certainly break a sweat if i was going to do it. what do you all think you would do?

Link to post
Share on other sites

i liked when he asked the subjects to sign away their souls to the interviewer. I'm not sure if I would sign that piece of paper. i dont for a second believe that i would be actually signing my soul away, but i think i would certainly break a sweat if i was going to do it. what do you all think you would do?

 

I would not sign it, partly because I'm not sure whether it means "in this lifetime" or assumes an "afterlife". I have a small problem with Haidt on the matter of background assumptions.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

terms of service