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Intution, reason, and Harris’ moral realism

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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17 July 2018 05:52
 

The current debate in moral psychology can be captured in a dichotomy that raises a question.  When it comes to moral judgement, is conscious reason a servant of the “passions” (emotions, of course, but also innate dispositions cultivated by past experience), as Hume thought, or does reason direct the passions to their attachment to moral truth, as Kant argued?  To put the matter another way, do we intuit an answer to a moral dilemma first—an intuition based in the nexus of emotion, dispositions, past experience, and culture—then argue the reasons for this intuition second, like a lawyer arguing a case a stance on which is presupposed, or do we reason first, then attach to a moral conviction, an attachment to which is only then intuitive, erroneously or not, but in any case it’s reached like a scientist making a discovery or a judge arbitrating according to facts and principles, not like a lawyer arguing a case?  To sharpen the stakes here, consider the case of moral judgment as it is correctly deployed, not moral judgement as it happens to occur in many, if not most people; for many or even most people may simply incorrectly deploy moral judgment, as many or most do scientific judgment.  With this caveat in mind, in moral deliberation both intuition and reason clearly play a role, so the question arises: which has priority?  “unconscious” moral intuition followed by post-hoc conscious reasons, or “conscious” reasons establishing deeply held and rationally appreciated moral intuitions?

Though the dichotomy may be in some respect false, it never the less defines the current debate in moral psychology.  As Bloom notes in an opinion piece in Nature, the prevailing consensus in moral psychology is that Hume and the intuitionists are right: intuition, whatever hidden processes determine it, leads reason into defending convictions already held, meaning “although we like to think of ourselves as judges, reasoning through cases according to deeply held principles, in reality we are more like lawyers, making arguments for positions that have already been established.”  Bloom, however, warns against this consensus becoming a new dogmatism.  That is, he suggests its implication that “we have little conscious control over our sense of right and wrong” doesn’t account for how new moral ideas are born, a process admitted by all.  According to Bloom, if reason is rejected “wholesale,” how (to put the matter into Haidt’s metaphor) does the intuitive dog that wags the rationalist tail ever learn new tricks, as everyone admits it does?  What process changes intuitions, if not reason—with “reason” here broadly considered as conscious deliberation over causes and consequences?  Or again, what role, if any, does conscious reason play in shaping intuitions?  If none, then how do new intuitions arise, as they surely do, especially new intuitions we are prone to consider as moral progress?  The current dichotomy renders this a problem to be resolved, if what in fact is observed is to be made intelligible—that is, if what most people acknowledge as possible is in fact possible, namely, that new moral ideas arise that run counter to prevailing intuitions, and that these new intuitions are an improvement over the old ones.

To situate this debate in Harris work, Harris lies firmly in the rationalist camp, with a twist.  For Harris, reason discovers moral truths like a scientist discovers facts about nature, with the added stipulation—one foreign to the rationalist camp of moral psychology—that those moral truths are objective in the same way that scientific truths are objective.  In his podcast with Pizarro and Sommers (Very Bad Wizards, Episode 63), Harris points to his changed stance on the death penalty as evidence that his reason, not his intuitions, guide his moral judgment, and in the same podcast, he says Haidt exaggerates the role of intuition and wrongly downplays the role of conscious, deliberative reason.  For Harris, the rational head wags the dog’s intuitive tail, if even intuitions are involved in moral judgement at all (and for Harris, it’s unclear that they are, except as a distraction).  In any case, Harris falls into the rationalist camp in so far as like Kant, moral reasoning leads to moral truths to which one is first rationally, however emotionally, attached, and these truths are apriori objective, just waiting to be discovered (for him, by moral deliberation informed by the neuroscience of well-being).  Harris then is both a rationalist as a moral psychologist and a moral realist, two positions that need not go together, and in the scientific literature, rarely do (the science abstains on the ontology of morality itself).  For him, rational investigation leads to objective moral truths, not simply deeply held moral convictions held on principle.

So, with this dichotomy, problem, and Harris’ position in mind, what says the forum on Harris’ place in all this, or on the dichotomy in general, or on the problem of new moral ideas as moral progress or not?  Does intuition or reason lead?  Either way, how do new moral ideas form, and is a role for deliberative reason necessary for this formation?  Is Harris’s alignment with the rationalists warranted, with his twist on the objective, apriori basis of morality, something even Bloom balks at?  I throw this out to the rational deliberation that is the boards, intuitively led or otherwise….


[For reference:

Bloom, “How do morals change?”  Nature, 464, 25 March 2010, p. 490

Pizarro and Bloom, “The Intelligence of the Moral Intuitions: Comment on Haidt (2001),” Psychological Review, 110 (1), 2003, p. 193-196

Haidt, “The Emotional Dog Does Learn New Tricks: A Reply to Pizarro and Bloom (2003),” Psychological Review, 110 (1), 2003, p. 197-198.]

 

[ Edited: 17 July 2018 06:00 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
nonverbal
 
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17 July 2018 08:26
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 17 July 2018 05:52 AM

The current debate in moral psychology can be captured in a dichotomy that raises a question.  When it comes to moral judgement, is conscious reason a servant of the “passions” (emotions, of course, but also innate dispositions cultivated by past experience), as Hume thought, or does reason direct the passions to their attachment to moral truth, as Kant argued?  To put the matter another way, do we intuit an answer to a moral dilemma first—an intuition based in the nexus of emotion, dispositions, past experience, and culture—then argue the reasons for this intuition second, like a lawyer arguing a case a stance on which is presupposed, or do we reason first, then attach to a moral conviction, an attachment to which is only then intuitive, erroneously or not, but in any case it’s reached like a scientist making a discovery or a judge arbitrating according to facts and principles, not like a lawyer arguing a case?  To sharpen the stakes here, consider the case of moral judgment as it is correctly deployed, not moral judgement as it happens to occur in many, if not most people; for many or even most people may simply incorrectly deploy moral judgment, as many or most do scientific judgment.  With this caveat in mind, in moral deliberation both intuition and reason clearly play a role, so the question arises: which has priority?  “unconscious” moral intuition followed by post-hoc conscious reasons, or “conscious” reasons establishing deeply held and rationally appreciated moral intuitions?

Though the dichotomy may be in some respect false, it never the less defines the current debate in moral psychology.  As Bloom notes in an opinion piece in Nature, the prevailing consensus in moral psychology is that Hume and the intuitionists are right: intuition, whatever hidden processes determine it, leads reason into defending convictions already held, meaning “although we like to think of ourselves as judges, reasoning through cases according to deeply held principles, in reality we are more like lawyers, making arguments for positions that have already been established.”  Bloom, however, warns against this consensus becoming a new dogmatism.  That is, he suggests its implication that “we have little conscious control over our sense of right and wrong” doesn’t account for how new moral ideas are born, a process admitted by all.  According to Bloom, if reason is rejected “wholesale,” how (to put the matter into Haidt’s metaphor) does the intuitive dog that wags the rationalist tail ever learn new tricks, as everyone admits it does?  What process changes intuitions, if not reason—with “reason” here broadly considered as conscious deliberation over causes and consequences?  Or again, what role, if any, does conscious reason play in shaping intuitions?  If none, then how do new intuitions arise, as they surely do, especially new intuitions we are prone to consider as moral progress?  The current dichotomy renders this a problem to be resolved, if what in fact is observed is to be made intelligible—that is, if what most people acknowledge as possible is in fact possible, namely, that new moral ideas arise that run counter to prevailing intuitions, and that these new intuitions are an improvement over the old ones.

. . .

I don’t think human judgement-insight happens only one way even if Michael Shermer may appear to claim such a thing.

Emotion can certainly warp life’s realities and cause no end to grief. But it closely accompanies what we consider cognition, and it assists us in numerous ways. Emotion permits us, for instance, to be able to form judgements without needing to remember all the minute details that led to the formation of any individual emotional feeling we experience. Learned emotional responses are like shorthand, and our interactions with others don’t always provide us with all the time we need for longhand.

Our emotions get informed by experience and education. Sometimes they’re stupid and worse than useless, but for the most part, our emotions allow us to function in ways that reflect our past lessons and indoctrinations.

[ Edited: 17 July 2018 08:29 by nonverbal]
 
 
Jan_CAN
 
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17 July 2018 08:56
 

Interesting post.

(I must admit that some of the ‘academic’ language and knowledge/understanding of the philosophies is a bit over-my-head, so to speak.  However, I think we ALL need to examine our moral positions carefully, at whatever level we’re able to do so, and that this can be done well by all of us.)

“Does intuition or reason lead?”  And “which has priority?”

As such things can’t be measured in any ‘real’ sense, and because of individual variability, I expect there can never be clear-cut answers.  The importance lies in asking the questions.

It seems to me that emotion/intuition and reason are both needed to make solid moral decisions, and which should lead (if not equal) in order to arrive at a ‘correct’ balance would depend on the individual.

I would think that, in order to intuitively come to valid moral decisions, one must have a solid base to draw on.  An upbringing from an early age that nurtures this ability.  Examples and teachings that do not distort what is ‘right’.

In addition to the effects of our upbringing, we are also born with a temperament – the emotional types, the logical types, and everything in between.  Emotional types (like myself?), should purposefully use logic to examine our reactions before coming to conclusions; not to dismiss the intuition, but to be sure that it’s useful and valid.  The logical types should try to draw on and not dismiss any intuition that might help, to listen to that little voice in their head that says ‘this is wrong’.

And in democracies, (hopefully) when the majority of individuals are able to arrive at fair and humane moral decisions, the society would benefit and reflect these values.

 
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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18 July 2018 04:09
 
nonverbal - 17 July 2018 08:26 AM

I don’t think human judgement-insight happens only one way even if Michael Shermer may appear to claim such a thing.

Emotion can certainly warp life’s realities and cause no end to grief. But it closely accompanies what we consider cognition, and it assists us in numerous ways. Emotion permits us, for instance, to be able to form judgements without needing to remember all the minute details that led to the formation of any individual emotional feeling we experience. Learned emotional responses are like shorthand, and our interactions with others don’t always provide us with all the time we need for longhand.

Our emotions get informed by experience and education. Sometimes they’re stupid and worse than useless, but for the most part, our emotions allow us to function in ways that reflect our past lessons and indoctrinations.

Actually, there’s a passage in The Moral Arc to the effect that ‘intuition leads reason, reason clarifies intuition’ that I liked so much I may be misremembering it.  It’s just one line, but I think it shows the symbiotic nature of the two, in ideal circumstances—circumstances sometimes shirked by both camps, but particularly the rationalists.  It may even offer a clue to the problem of new intuitions, the dilemma Bloom raises.

Contra Bloom’s statement about “wholesale” rejection of reason, Haidt and the intuitionists do no such thing.  Intuitions as products of ‘system I’ remain amenable to reasoning (‘system 2’) when reasoning is put into investigative, not justificatory mode, something Haidt specifically describes, though perhaps not as often as he should.  In any case, I agree with you about emotions, and I’d add that the “shorthand” has its own intelligence, one that grounds the ‘higher’ functions of reason, even to the extent of doing a far better job of navigating a situation than explicit, cognizing reflective thought.  It remains a mystery to me how reason actually works to clarify the intuitions we rely on, but clearly it does somehow.  To note your phrase, how do “emotions get informed by experience and education”?  Clearly it happens, but in the system I and system II theoretical literature, the process is left undescribed; instead a functional division between intuition (or emotion) and reason persists, not an elaboration of their conjunction.  Yet conjunction there is, as the refined intuitions of experts and the refined emotional perceptivity of adults shows. 

There’s probably a good paper in unpacking the idea that “intuitions get informed by experience and education.”  Working that out might even solve Bloom’s problem.

 

 
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18 July 2018 04:23
 
Jan_CAN - 17 July 2018 08:56 AM

Interesting post.

(I must admit that some of the ‘academic’ language and knowledge/understanding of the philosophies is a bit over-my-head, so to speak.  However, I think we ALL need to examine our moral positions carefully, at whatever level we’re able to do so, and that this can be done well by all of us.)

“Does intuition or reason lead?”  And “which has priority?”

As such things can’t be measured in any ‘real’ sense, and because of individual variability, I expect there can never be clear-cut answers.  The importance lies in asking the questions.

It seems to me that emotion/intuition and reason are both needed to make solid moral decisions, and which should lead (if not equal) in order to arrive at a ‘correct’ balance would depend on the individual.

I would think that, in order to intuitively come to valid moral decisions, one must have a solid base to draw on.  An upbringing from an early age that nurtures this ability.  Examples and teachings that do not distort what is ‘right’.

In addition to the effects of our upbringing, we are also born with a temperament – the emotional types, the logical types, and everything in between.  Emotional types (like myself?), should purposefully use logic to examine our reactions before coming to conclusions; not to dismiss the intuition, but to be sure that it’s useful and valid.  The logical types should try to draw on and not dismiss any intuition that might help, to listen to that little voice in their head that says ‘this is wrong’.

And in democracies, (hopefully) when the majority of individuals are able to arrive at fair and humane moral decisions, the society would benefit and reflect these values.

Thanks.  I try to keep the academic language to a minimum, but sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be a way around it on the first go.  This may be a function of my training, of course.  In any case, I suspect once demystified none of it is over your head.

I suspect you are right about tendencies in individuals, but I’m not so sure which should lead depends on the individual.  To some extent, this is certainly true.  Autistic individuals who lack the social intuitions would need special training to learn to reason through moral situations absent intuitive guidance, just as especially intuitive, reasoning-impaired types (say Down’s syndrome) would need special training to learn which intuitions are situationally appropriate, absent natural reasoning to guide them.  In one respect, both extremes represent something all normal people must do, but I suspect the norm isn’t as variable as the abnormal extremes suggest.  There could be one ‘optimal’ relationship between intuition and reason across normal individuals—one answer to the priority or relationship question—with a caveat that various individuals need more or less training in one or the other to compensate for variable lack.  This is speculation on my part, but it suggests that individuality doesn’t determine “which should lead” as much as “which needs special training to compensate for a lack” in normal leading.  There is of course a sense of “should” here compatible with “compensation,” so maybe we’re not saying anything that different after all.  What needs compensation may vary quite a bit across individuals, suggesting that where the effort is placed differs, even as the eventual outcome is to reconcile reason and intuition into what normal judgment accomplishes, i.e. the outcome is to simulate the normal functioning of moral judgment, where in the normal a certain leadership or relationship takes place.  This aligns, I think, your idea that “emotional types (like myself?) should purposefully use logic to examine our reactions before coming to conclusions; not to dismiss the intuition, but to be sure that it’s useful and valid.  The logical types should try to draw on and not dismiss any intuition that might help, to listen to that little voice in their head that says ‘this is wrong’.”  But it adds the dimension of there being a normal way for the relationship to function, one not so variable if it is to function properly.  The “should” under this normative view represents “should try to re-establish the norm.”  But the ‘right’ relationship between intuition and reason wouldn’t vary so much as an “ought”, and perhaps not even that much as a fact.

There may be, of course, no norm, only variability.  But I suspect that’s not the case.

Yes, this issue bears directly on democratic governance, or at least civic participation.  Haidt’s book is all about understanding the strident disagreements we see today; about how to empathically understand and reconcile them, not take sides and reject (something he accuses the majority of academics in his field of doing).

 

[ Edited: 18 July 2018 04:30 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
Jan_CAN
 
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18 July 2018 05:30
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 18 July 2018 04:23 AM

Thanks.  I try to keep the academic language to a minimum, but sometimes there just doesn’t seem to be a way around it on the first go.  This may be a function of my training, of course.  In any case, I suspect once demystified none of it is over your head.

I suspect you are right about tendencies in individuals, but I’m not so sure which should lead depends on the individual.  To some extent, this is certainly true.  Autistic individuals who lack the social intuitions would need special training to learn to reason through moral situations absent intuitive guidance, just as especially intuitive, reasoning-impaired types (say Down’s syndrome) would need special training to learn which intuitions are situationally appropriate, absent natural reasoning to guide them.  In one respect, both extremes represent something all normal people must do, but I suspect the norm isn’t as variable as the abnormal extremes suggest.  There could be one ‘optimal’ relationship between intuition and reason across normal individuals—one answer to the priority or relationship question—with a caveat that various individuals need more or less training in one or the other to compensate for variable lack.  This is speculation on my part, but it suggests that individuality doesn’t determine “which should lead” as much as “which needs special training to compensate for a lack” in normal leading.  There is of course a sense of “should” here compatible with “compensation,” so maybe we’re not saying anything that different after all.  What needs compensation may vary quite a bit across individuals, suggesting that where the effort is placed differs, even as the eventual outcome is to reconcile reason and intuition into what normal judgment accomplishes, i.e. the outcome is to simulate the normal functioning of moral judgment, where in the normal a certain leadership or relationship takes place.  This aligns, I think, your idea that “emotional types (like myself?) should purposefully use logic to examine our reactions before coming to conclusions; not to dismiss the intuition, but to be sure that it’s useful and valid.  The logical types should try to draw on and not dismiss any intuition that might help, to listen to that little voice in their head that says ‘this is wrong’.”  But it adds the dimension of there being a normal way for the relationship to function, one not so variable if it is to function properly.  The “should” under this normative view represents “should try to re-establish the norm.”  But the ‘right’ relationship between intuition and reason wouldn’t vary so much as an “ought”, and perhaps not even that much as a fact.

There may be, of course, no norm, only variability.  But I suspect that’s not the case.

Yes, this issue bears directly on democratic governance, or at least civic participation.  Haidt’s book is all about understanding the strident disagreements we see today; about how to empathically understand and reconcile them, not take sides and reject (something he accuses the majority of academics in his field of doing).

To be clear, I don’t wish in any way to inhibit your use of academic language or want you to dumb-down your writing; I was just trying to explain my own limitations.

I think I understand what you’re saying – just trying to get my head around the concept of “which should lead”.  Your following statements in particular make it clearer to me:

There could be one ‘optimal’ relationship between intuition and reason across normal individuals—one answer to the priority or relationship question—with a caveat that various individuals need more or less training in one or the other to compensate for variable lack.  This is speculation on my part, but it suggests that individuality doesn’t determine “which should lead” as much as “which needs special training to compensate for a lack” in normal leading.
- and -
What needs compensation may vary quite a bit across individuals, suggesting that where the effort is placed differs, even as the eventual outcome is to reconcile reason and intuition into what normal judgment accomplishes, i.e. the outcome is to simulate the normal functioning of moral judgment, where in the normal a certain leadership or relationship takes place.

And I agree that “maybe we’re not saying anything that different after all”.

I appreciate your courtesy in responding to ALL of the responses you receive on your threads.

 

 
 
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18 July 2018 06:59
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher, to nonverbal - 18 July 2018 04:09 AM

. . . T]here’s a passage in The Moral Arc to the effect that ‘intuition leads reason, reason clarifies intuition’ that I liked so much I may be misremembering it.  It’s just one line, but I think it shows the symbiotic nature of the two, in ideal circumstances—circumstances sometimes shirked by both camps, but particularly the rationalists.  It may even offer a clue to the problem of new intuitions, the dilemma Bloom raises.

Yes, and science methodologies mirror the way these things tend to work.

TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher, to nonverbal - 18 July 2018 04:09 AM

There’s probably a good paper in unpacking the idea that “intuitions get informed by experience and education.”  Working that out might even solve Bloom’s problem.

Somewhat unrelated, the approach can also serve as a partial explanation of the apparent puppet-like human behavior resulting from Libet’s slight delay between conscious evaluation and the brain spitting things out to “us” as though we were all no more self-styled than wooden puppets.

Actually, we tend to mentally rehearse all sorts of imagined future conversations and situations because we actually already understand how our unconscious brains have a way of producing signals that precede any of our conscious intentions. But Harris leaves out an important aspect of the whole process, and that is that our brains can indeed lead us puppet-like into poor judgement unless we’ve previously done a bit of self-programming. We can mentally rehearse possible approaches for us to take in future specific situations and favor those that play out well in our imaginations. Free will, or a modern nonreligious take on it, remains intact at least on some level. Libet certainly dings free will, but he doesn’t destroy it altogether.

 
 
Nhoj Morley
 
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19 July 2018 00:36
 

I do not see why these lads kant get along unless there is a reason why only one could be right.

We have biases that are written into the internal procedures of taking in outside stimuli. Any emotional reaction comes first before there is mental chatter to ponder. We uncomfortably couch this with terms like passion, intuition and sense of right and wrong. These are all things that are already happening to you by the time one non-sub-consciouosly knows what one is looking at.

One’s gut response is part of the conscious perception but once consciously perceived, it becomes an opportunity to reinform or redirect the process into a modified reaction. If the conscious perception can deduce or assemble some conclusion that could only be known because it is conscious perception, then either by EYEBALL steering or internal recall, the conscious observation presents new input to the sub-conscious procedure with a result of modified passions. We learn cinematically through observation of our conscious perceptions. The feedback loop can be as simple as having a secondary pilot briefly steer where our eyes are pointing or how our long pink ears are aligned.

This process can play out fast enough to be practically unconscious but here we already have two ways of telling ourselves what to do. As in, dog with new trick. There is no morality to see at this scale of perception, only acts that could be judge morally, if there were a judge lurking about.

Luckily for humans, there is. How many observations of morally judgable acts does it take to see a morality? A reasoned decision about what to tell ourselves to do based on the Big Picture is delivered as advertised to our sub-conscious perception as a mightily scaled-down picture. With repitition or conditioning or experience, the intuitive gut sense can be modified.

All the lads are right, just not all at the same time. I have doubts about an apriori morality and shudder at how many skillions of observations is must take to see it.

 
 
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19 July 2018 04:03
 
Jan_CAN - 18 July 2018 05:30 AM

To be clear, I don’t wish in any way to inhibit your use of academic language or want you to dumb-down your writing; I was just trying to explain my own limitations.

I think I understand what you’re saying – just trying to get my head around the concept of “which should lead”.  Your following statements in particular make it clearer to me:

There could be one ‘optimal’ relationship between intuition and reason across normal individuals—one answer to the priority or relationship question—with a caveat that various individuals need more or less training in one or the other to compensate for variable lack.  This is speculation on my part, but it suggests that individuality doesn’t determine “which should lead” as much as “which needs special training to compensate for a lack” in normal leading.
- and -
What needs compensation may vary quite a bit across individuals, suggesting that where the effort is placed differs, even as the eventual outcome is to reconcile reason and intuition into what normal judgment accomplishes, i.e. the outcome is to simulate the normal functioning of moral judgment, where in the normal a certain leadership or relationship takes place.

And I agree that “maybe we’re not saying anything that different after all”.

I appreciate your courtesy in responding to ALL of the responses you receive on your threads.

Gotcha.  Avoiding “academese” is something I strive for in any case, hopefully without dumbing issues down.  Per the topic of this thread, I think that behind the jargon of the academy (which does have necessary uses) rests founding but simple intuitions, kind of like Darwin’s idea of natural selection, which despite all its sophisticated development can still be expressed on a note card perfectly understandable to any high school student.  That kind of intuition and clarity is what I strive for, and if I ever achieve it, then I’d like to think just about anyone with normal intelligence could understand it.  You, for instance, would more than qualify.

As for the replies, you are right that I think they are a courtesy, but I also reply for selfish reasons.  I am here to think, either through the new ideas I find here or through the stimulants to my own that arise.  Anyone doing the same is thus by definition part of why I am here, so responding is both self-interested and necessary.  In virtually all cases it’s been a pleasant necessity, and the challenge comes in how to respond to those evidently not here for the same reasons.  But, to each their own, I say.  Let the conversations unfold as they may…

 
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19 July 2018 04:28
 
nonverbal - 18 July 2018 06:59 AM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher, to nonverbal - 18 July 2018 04:09 AM

. . . T]here’s a passage in The Moral Arc to the effect that ‘intuition leads reason, reason clarifies intuition’ that I liked so much I may be misremembering it.  It’s just one line, but I think it shows the symbiotic nature of the two, in ideal circumstances—circumstances sometimes shirked by both camps, but particularly the rationalists.  It may even offer a clue to the problem of new intuitions, the dilemma Bloom raises.

Yes, and science methodologies mirror the way these things tend to work.

TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher, to nonverbal - 18 July 2018 04:09 AM

There’s probably a good paper in unpacking the idea that “intuitions get informed by experience and education.”  Working that out might even solve Bloom’s problem.

Somewhat unrelated, the approach can also serve as a partial explanation of the apparent puppet-like human behavior resulting from Libet’s slight delay between conscious evaluation and the brain spitting things out to “us” as though we were all no more self-styled than wooden puppets.

Actually, we tend to mentally rehearse all sorts of imagined future conversations and situations because we actually already understand how our unconscious brains have a way of producing signals that precede any of our conscious intentions. But Harris leaves out an important aspect of the whole process, and that is that our brains can indeed lead us puppet-like into poor judgement unless we’ve previously done a bit of self-programming. We can mentally rehearse possible approaches for us to take in future specific situations and favor those that play out well in our imaginations. Free will, or a modern nonreligious take on it, remains intact at least on some level. Libet certainly dings free will, but he doesn’t destroy it altogether.

I am not familiar with Libet, but what you say here reminds me of a version of prayer, one that Harris acknowledges in one podcast somewhere without giving it its full due.

In ritual prayer for guidance on a major decision for instance, one can be said to be opening one’s “conscious” mind to the signals produced by the “unconscious,” a production riddled with self-programming due to the formations of experience and its generated expectations—what you described about emotions in the previous post.  In this kind of prayer, one can be said to instigate a letting go that reveals to oneself the hidden ruminations of one’s own unconscious mind, ruminations that determine desires without knowledge or awareness.  Harris himself insists that the appearance of these ruminations to consciousness remains a mystery; that their source is inscrutable and formed irrespective of our “will.”  He can’t, for instance, even understand why he wants tea one morning or coffee the next.  Why not, then, credit this “revelation” of the products of this mysterious inscrutability to the “divine.”?  Why not say that one has received “divine” guidance when these unconscious determinants of desire are revealed to oneself?  One is after all not the author; this much Harris admits.  If one is not the author, why not a divine “author”?  So long as this divinity is not some omnipotent dude in the sky with which one has a personal relation but instead is something sacred and holy because of both its relevance and complete mystery, ritual prayer for guidance makes perfect sense—or as much sense, I would say, as consulting a fMRI (if not more, frankly).  In any case, prayer can be seen as an abstaining from the rehearsed conversations you mention in order to open oneself to the hidden determinants of those conversations, the deteminants, that is, that “one” is actually rehearsing with “oneself,” just without knowing it.  Under this interpretation, who is Harris to say that an ascription of sacredness and divinity to this process is a delusional and barbaric hold-over from Iron Age ignorance?  Why understand prayer under the least charitable light of an American evangelical or fundamentalist (who frankly, once Socratically examined, probably doesn’t actually believe what he says he believes anyway)?  Why not put the best spin on payer in light of what we know about mind and brain and go from there?  I ask rhetorically to Harris and his cadre, not to you specifically….They consistently fail in this regard…

Incidentally, I bet I could find a dozen theologians or mystics from Meister Eckhart to Thomas Merton who would endorse this “neuroscientific” understanding of prayer.  That and any number of priests you’d care to name, not to mention practicing Christians….

[ Edited: 19 July 2018 12:10 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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19 July 2018 04:41
 
Nhoj Morley - 19 July 2018 12:36 AM

I do not see why these lads kant get along unless there is a reason why only one could be right.

We have biases that are written into the internal procedures of taking in outside stimuli. Any emotional reaction comes first before there is mental chatter to ponder. We uncomfortably couch this with terms like passion, intuition and sense of right and wrong. These are all things that are already happening to you by the time one non-sub-consciouosly knows what one is looking at.

One’s gut response is part of the conscious perception but once consciously perceived, it becomes an opportunity to reinform or redirect the process into a modified reaction. If the conscious perception can deduce or assemble some conclusion that could only be known because it is conscious perception, then either by EYEBALL steering or internal recall, the conscious observation presents new input to the sub-conscious procedure with a result of modified passions. We learn cinematically through observation of our conscious perceptions. The feedback loop can be as simple as having a secondary pilot briefly steer where our eyes are pointing or how our long pink ears are aligned.

This process can play out fast enough to be practically unconscious but here we already have two ways of telling ourselves what to do. As in, dog with new trick. There is no morality to see at this scale of perception, only acts that could be judge morally, if there were a judge lurking about.

Luckily for humans, there is. How many observations of morally judgable acts does it take to see a morality? A reasoned decision about what to tell ourselves to do based on the Big Picture is delivered as advertised to our sub-conscious perception as a mightily scaled-down picture. With repitition or conditioning or experience, the intuitive gut sense can be modified.

All the lads are right, just not all at the same time. I have doubts about an apriori morality and shudder at how many skillions of observations is must take to see it.

Ok, so this sounds like Trioonity at work.  It helps.  Thanks.  I think I can re-read it now and get more of what you are driving at.

There is no morality to see at this scale of perception, only acts that could be judge morally, if there were a judge lurking about.

Right.  I think moral realism in all its forms is a conceptual error.  It amounts to making existence arguments for what are ultimately adjectives.  “Right” and “wrong” are judgements of acts we deem moral; as such it makes no real sense to say either precedes or conditions or antecedently determines those acts.  They are always consequent assessments.  Under this view, no skillions of observations will ever suffice to call an act “right” or “wrong” as such it because there is no “as such” to observe, only individual judgements to maintain.  The truth of “relativism” is that this judgement is always individual, not universal to a class of acts.  It’s error is to see this individuality as entailing arbitrariness or indeterminability….

[ Edited: 19 July 2018 12:11 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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19 July 2018 13:56
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher, to nonverbal - 19 July 2018 04:28 AM

. . .

I am not familiar with Libet, but what you say here reminds me of a version of prayer, one that Harris acknowledges in one podcast somewhere without giving it its full due. . . .

. . .

I hadn’t thought of my inner-thought example as prayer, but I suppose it qualifies to some degree. Or meditation, maybe. But I mentioned it as one example of many specific tendencies people have to work toward influencing future events. Planning for the future, after all, is a popular thing to do. For instance, if I have a savings plan in place so I won’t need to work when I’m too old to, my brain might instruct me to spend it all on a Ferrari one fine afternoon while I’m still years away from retirement. If I don’t buy the Ferrari, I’m allowing old lessons I’ve either taught myself or have been taught by others, to prevail over my brain’s current signals.

People project various possible future events in lots of ways, including conversation with others or taking courses in a favorite or profitable subject, and it’s a good skill to have in most jobs.

 
 
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19 July 2018 14:14
 
nonverbal - 19 July 2018 01:56 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher, to nonverbal - 19 July 2018 04:28 AM

. . .

I am not familiar with Libet, but what you say here reminds me of a version of prayer, one that Harris acknowledges in one podcast somewhere without giving it its full due. . . .

. . .

I hadn’t thought of my inner-thought example as prayer, but I suppose it qualifies to some degree. Or meditation, maybe. But I mentioned it as one example of many specific tendencies people have to work toward influencing future events. Planning for the future, after all, is a popular thing to do. For instance, if I have a savings plan in place so I won’t need to work when I’m too old to, my brain might instruct me to spend it all on a Ferrari one fine afternoon while I’m still years away from retirement. If I don’t buy the Ferrari, I’m allowing old lessons I’ve either taught myself or have been taught by others, to prevail over my brain’s current signals.

People project various possible future events in lots of ways, including conversation with others or taking courses in a favorite or profitable subject, and it’s a good skill to have in most jobs.

Yeah, prayer was my tangent off of your tangent, for sure.  The Ferrari example is more on point.  Absent the conscious self-programming, the intuitive solution may be more tempting than it should be.

 
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19 July 2018 18:01
 

I’m with Hume, at least in terms of individuals using reason in isolation, or groups of people who all share the same intuition. The Moral Landscape is an elaborate rationalization of Harris’s own moral intuition.

 
 
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20 July 2018 03:27
 
Antisocialdarwinist - 19 July 2018 06:01 PM

I’m with Hume, at least in terms of individuals using reason in isolation, or groups of people who all share the same intuition. The Moral Landscape is an elaborate rationalization of Harris’s own moral intuition.

What is his underlying moral intuition?  Does he have one or many?  He seems to boil down his reasoning to a single foundation—his worst possible misery for everyone thought experiment.  Does that bear on his moral intuition, or does he have a separate intuitions for each moral issue he discusses, and The Moral Landscape is a web of rationalizations to justify them all…?

[ Edited: 20 July 2018 10:41 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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20 July 2018 17:56
 

His worst-possible-misery-for-everyone thought experiment is part of a web of rationalizations to justify his intuition that stoning adulteresses is objectively wrong, etc..

 
 
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