Wednesday, December 12, 2012

446: The Art Not to be an Egoist 11

The picture I am drawing of the nature of man and the origins of morality leads to the questing: who makes the decisions in moral matters? Our feeling or our reason.

In his "Treatise of Human Nature" (1739) the Scottish philosopher David Hume comes to two interesting observations.

The first one is that not reason or ratio controls man, but his feelings and emotions. The second is when feelings and emotions are the cause of our actions and not our rational deliberation, then there can be no free will.

Whatever I decide in a moral situation, I always am motivated by the strongest feeling of emotion. This is the winner and our reason is just the one who tells us afterwards, why we decided this or that.

Hume's message is clear: Our moral decisions are not the results of rational deliberation, but they are based on our intuition.

The idea that our morality is intuitive and thus largely beyond our reason, is currently more popular than it ever was.

For two hundred years these ideas enjoyed mostly a modest shadowy existence in philosophy. Today, however, it is as if it were the philosophical fashion of our time.

We'll not discuss the problem of the Free Will now, tho it has become a hot issue these days. For now we'll focus on the question whether our morality is based on and driven by intuition or reason.

You can observe this in daily life. Rational arguments are often qualified as cold. We must open up for feelings and emotions. Who doesn't know the painful effect of the reproach "Oh my, you are so rational".

When you wonder what to decide, your friend could say to you"When it feels good, then it is the right decision."  This even brought us the concept of Emotional Intelligence.

Many neuroscientists are trying to demonstrate on the computer screen, that Hume was absolutely right: The dark pulse of our feelings and emotions lights up first before the rational part of the brain lights up.

Jonathan Haidt (born 1963) is a professor at New York University Stern School of Business.His research focuses on the psychological bases of morality across different cultures and political ideologies.

According to his view, moral judgments are mostly the products of quick, intuitive evaluations of scenarios with certain content. 

Moral reasoning is usually a largely post hoc phenomenon. People are, as Haidt says, "intuitive lawyers" whose reasoning usually seeks to vindicate the person's own intuition rather than openly assess the case from an impartial point of view.

In a previous lecture I said that there seems to be a relation between how you see the nature of man and your political ideology.

Haidt reasons more or less also along those lines, it seems. He showed that we organize our moral values according to our ideology.

It is not so that our ideological beliefs are the source of our moral standards. Rational arguments for them, for what is right or wrong, valuable of worthless, fair or unfair, just come afterwards.

But how far does our intuition go?Did  Hume actually had it right, when he said that in moral actions always and only the strongest feeling is the decisive factor? 

And it is true that, as Haidt, many neuroscientists and some psychologists believe that the brain only works as an advertising department that justifies the decisions of feeling afterwards?

The Discussion

[13:19] herman Bergson: Thank you ^_^
[13:19] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Hmm Interesting stuff tonight
[13:20] Kime Babenco: Thanks Herman
[13:20] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:20] Debbie Dee (framdor): Interesting thanks Prof ;)
[13:20] Bejiita Imako: so basically what we think is right is just based on how we feel?
[13:20] herman Bergson: We're not done Debbie..still lots of questions to be answered ^_^
[13:20] herman Bergson: That Bejiita is the question....
[13:21] herman Bergson: The deeper arguments are related to evolutionary biology....
[13:21] herman Bergson: for instance...
[13:21] Chu Ann (hermine): mostly yes#cos ppl are not able to control their feelimgs
[13:21] Debbie Dee (framdor): so where does training come in? surely the commandments are taught, and reasonably observed?
[13:21] herman Bergson: take a response based on fear...
[13:21] Chu Ann (hermine): free will is really a myth for most people^^
[13:22] Chu Ann (hermine): it is very hard to be objective
[13:22] herman Bergson: Yes Chu....He already said so....
[13:22] Bejiita Imako: indeed
[13:22] Bejiita Imako: its a tricky subject
[13:22] herman Bergson: And training Debbie....yes...that is the next point to look into
[13:22] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I like to see the references to animals. I think such considerations can answer a lot
[13:22] Lizzy Pleides: intuitive decisions go faster than rational decisions, i guess that was important for mankind to survive
[13:23] Chu Ann (hermine): yes training of your feelings
[13:23] Chu Ann (hermine): well, the control of these feelings
[13:23] Midi Aeon: Where do goals fit into the moral decision process?
[13:23] Kime Babenco: So our behaviour is more according to emotional impulses than logical thinking ?
[13:23] herman Bergson: Indeed Lizzy that is the most heard argument to explain the operating of the different parts of the brain
[13:23] Chu Ann (hermine): yes kime
[13:23] Bejiita Imako: basically only by control of our feelings we can get free will if i understand everything right
[13:24] herman Bergson: Yes Kime…that is the debate of today in philosophy
[13:24] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): That seems to make sense Bejii
[13:24] herman Bergson: Very clever Bejiita...
[13:24] Debbie Dee (framdor): LIke budhism teaches?
[13:24] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): I think it gets a lot of training to get control over our feelings
[13:25] herman Bergson: Like Hume said....we can follow the emotion driven response and we can decide not to do so
[13:25] Chu Ann (hermine): true beertje not that easy^^^
[13:25] Chu Ann (hermine): and it is important to know yourself
[13:25] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): yes..very true
[13:25] Chu Ann (hermine): how u act
[13:25] Chu Ann (hermine): and why
[13:25] herman Bergson: You can add to that the idea of an ethics of Virtue...
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:26] Bejiita Imako: ssems logical
[13:26] herman Bergson: Like Aristotle proposed....and which is part of christian philosophy
[13:26] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I am thinking also about near-reflex actions due to intense training
[13:26] herman Bergson: ok...
[13:27] herman Bergson: A lot of arguments that our morality is based on our intuition...
[13:27] Debbie Dee (framdor): Merlins point is good... moral values are corrupted by training - look at a soldier
[13:27] herman Bergson: We have come to this point often here...
[13:28] Chu Ann (hermine): and?
[13:28] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): ty Deb, but good things too perhaps
[13:28] Debbie Dee (framdor): perhaps ;)
[13:28] herman Bergson: Well that we THINK we are rational beings and in fact show that we arent...
[13:28] Chu Ann (hermine): i do not think that^^^
[13:29] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:29] herman Bergson: Good for you hemine :-)
[13:29] Chu Ann (hermine): mh dunno if this is good
[13:29] Chu Ann (hermine): that keeps u thinking too much
[13:29] herman Bergson: The training of the soldier is based on fear....and the will to survive
[13:30] Debbie Dee (framdor): Well, we think a lot, even if we are irrational sometimes ;)
[13:30] Chu Ann (hermine): ^^
[13:30] Kime Babenco: It's maybe to the point, but the climate coneferences. Every politician knows what has to be done, but not one knows how to get re-elected after done that... Intuition ?
[13:30] herman Bergson: That is what Descartes said...
[13:30] Debbie Dee (framdor): Herman, to some extent. But what of special forces people? I've met a few killers in my time....
[13:30] herman Bergson: you can do what you want..but you cant escape tthinking ^_^
[13:31] Chu Ann (hermine): lol thats good herman
[13:31] Kime Babenco: Indeed
[13:31] Lizzy Pleides: i already met people who obviously don't think ^-^
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: true
[13:31] Bejiita Imako:
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: hehe ok
[13:31] Chu Ann (hermine): rofl lizzy me too
[13:32] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): lol
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: sometimes u wonder if people think indeed
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:32] Debbie Dee (framdor): define "rational being" in this context - is it enough to think?
[13:32] herman Bergson: lol
[13:32] herman Bergson: hold on ..this isnt' philosophy
[13:32] Debbie Dee (framdor): Language?
[13:32] herman Bergson: unfortunately all people think..also the stupid ones ^_^
[13:33] Lizzy Pleides: but our thoughts are also influenced by intuition
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: hehe
[13:33] Debbie Dee (framdor): so if they are stupid - and think - are they irrational?
[13:33] herman Bergson: yes LIzzy.....
[13:33] Chu Ann (hermine): but they think different things
[13:33] herman Bergson: In moral issues the question is...
[13:33] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): what is the diffinition of intuition?
[13:33] Chu Ann (hermine): and no one is stupid
[13:33] herman Bergson: is the ratio fighting with feeling or is feeling fighting with ratio :-)
[13:34] Chu Ann (hermine): everyone knows something in the world
[13:34] Debbie Dee (framdor): I feel the answer to that Beertje...
[13:34] Chu Ann (hermine): we r all one
[13:34] herman Bergson: The definition of intuition....
[13:34] Debbie Dee (framdor): I think we all feel, think and try to do the best we can
[13:34] herman Bergson: I would say....
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: one scary example i read before about the nazis what that they didnt do all that killing cause of blindly following orders, Hitler had brainwashed then so they actually thought it was right to kill and cause suffering
[13:35] herman Bergson: an unreasoned primary response to a situation based on primary emotional reflexes…
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: they bellieved it was actually the right to do
[13:35] Chu Ann (hermine): yes as the americans with the indians^^
[13:35] .: Beertje :. (beertje.beaumont): thank you
[13:35] Debbie Dee (framdor): I saw that in South AFrica before 1994. Inhuman actions, carried out with vigor.
[13:36] Lizzy Pleides: that doesn't excuse it Bejiita
[13:36] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Sorry Herman but I am uneasy with that definitiion
[13:36] Midi Aeon: I think that your goals determine if feelings and rationality fight or reinforce each other.
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: i mean how can u think that is ever right to kill someone
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: we are all the same
[13:36] herman Bergson: One moment...
[13:36] Bejiita Imako: however some people seem to have lost their minds for sure
[13:36] herman Bergson: have the floor
[13:36] Debbie Dee (framdor): Yes bejita!!!
[13:37] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): omg....
[13:37] Chu Ann (hermine): go merlin go^^
[13:37] Bejiita Imako:
[13:37] herman Bergson: I don't want to have you feeling uneasy with a definition Merlin ^_^
[13:37] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): I am not sure now, but it was the word 'Response' that bothered me. Perhaps I was thinking you meant action
[13:37] Debbie Dee (framdor): and the class lapsed into silence... you could hear a pin drop...
[13:37] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): lol
[13:37] Bejiita Imako: haha
[13:38] Chu Ann (hermine): ^
[13:38] herman Bergson: smiles
[13:39] herman Bergson: I have given a series of lectures on basic fear and love and anxiety etc...
[13:39] herman Bergson: which reside in a part of the brain that is evolutionary prior to the prefrontal lobe....The extra we have over the chimps for instance.
[13:39] herman Bergson: and where our ratio resides
[13:40] Merlin (merlin.saxondale): Well yeah, animals act on instinct much more than reason
[13:40] herman Bergson: So what we cll intuition refers to that part of the brain...
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: true
[13:41] herman Bergson: Exactly Merlin .animals not even take the trouble to reason :-)
[13:41] Merlin (merlin.saxondale) nods
[13:41] Chu Ann (hermine): but it is the feeling that comes without too much thinking about it
[13:41] herman Bergson: That is typically human....
[13:41] Debbie Dee (framdor): So Intuition is unreasoned, but can be trained, by experience?
[13:41] Chu Ann (hermine): and too much thinking is sometimes - or often - not the best to do
[13:41] herman Bergson: and here I'll already give you one thing to think about fo Thursday....
[13:42] Chu Ann (hermine): ok
[13:42] Debbie Dee (framdor): yay
[13:42] herman Bergson: On the one hand we seem to say that morality is intuitive....
[13:42] herman Bergson: But there is more...
[13:43] herman Bergson: whether we feel good about something or not....there also is the need to justify our actions.
[13:43] herman Bergson: What does justification mean and imply....
[13:43] Debbie Dee (framdor): Oh what a juicy subject....
[13:43] herman Bergson: Maybe we'll find our next Thursday ^_^
[13:44] Chu Ann (hermine): i hope to have time to come on thursday
[13:44] Kime Babenco: OK, maybe till then
[13:44] herman Bergson: Oh that reminds me....Debbie...
[13:44] Kime Babenco: Thanks and bye for now....
[13:44] Debbie Dee (framdor): yes?
[13:44] herman Bergson: You are not from Brazil but South Africa...sorry ^_^
[13:44] Debbie Dee (framdor): np herman ;)
[13:44] herman Bergson: Thank you all for your participation again...
[13:44] Lizzy Pleides: Thank you Herman
[13:44] Kime Babenco: I am from Brasil
[13:44] herman Bergson: Kime is from Brasil :-)
[13:45] Debbie Dee (framdor): ty for another intereting sl evening
[13:45] Kime Babenco: ;-)
[13:45] herman Bergson: Class dismissed...^_^
[13:45] Bejiita Imako: hehe this was great for sure
[13:45] herman Bergson: Thank you all...
[13:45] Kime Babenco: BYe everyone
[13:45] Bejiita Imako:  \o/
[13:45] Bejiita Imako:    ||   Hoooo!
[13:45] Bejiita Imako:   / \
[13:45] Chu Ann (hermine): thank u herman
[13:45] Debbie Dee (framdor):  ¸¸.·ღ❦º° էհɑղҟ վօմ :) °ºღ♡¸.·.¸¸
[13:45] Chu Ann (hermine): hope to see u all on thursday
[13:45] herman Bergson: You are always welcome Hermine
[13:46] Debbie Dee (framdor): bye friends xxx

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