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5: FEB 2


  • Haidt, Chapter 2, "The Intuitive Dog and It's Rational Tail" (25)

In-class topics

  • Everyday Ethics Discussion - a bit more on gossip writing.
  • Rubric Training

Gossip Writing

  • Among many successful entries, I chose 4. See "Selected Gossip" on the SharePoint site.
  • Some suggestions:
  • 1. Try to eliminate unnecessary references to you or the writing itself. "I think I believe..." Just believe. or, The approach I will take to this essay..." Just take it.
  • 2. Find a logical path for the writing. There are usually several starting points for explicating something, but each one poses a challenge: What needs to be said next? The "order of explication" should not appear random.
  • 4. Content issue: If you define gossip as bad, you make your job very easy. This generalizes.

Haidt, Chapter 2, "The Intuitive Dog and Its Rational Tail"

  • Some complaints about philosophers
  • Philosophy's "rationalist delusion" ex. from Timaeus. but also in rationalist psych. -- Maybe humans were once perfect...
  • 30: Plato - Reason ought to be the master of emotions. (Timaeus myth of the body - 2nd soul(emotional)), Hume (Reason is slave of passions), and Jefferson (The Head and The Heart model. Nature has made a "division of labor" - Haidt thinks Jefferson got it right.)
  • The "ultimate rationalist fantasy" is to believe that passions only serve reason, which controls them.
  • The troubled history of applying evolution to social processes
  • Wilson's Prophecy
  • Moralists (Anti-nativism): reactions against bad nativism, like Social Darwinism, 60s ideology suggesting that we can liberate ourselves from our biology and traditional morality (as contraception appeared to).
  • Nativism (natural selection gives us minds "preloaded" with moral emotions) in the 90s: Wilson, de Waal, Damasio Controversy in E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology.
  • Wilson advanced the claim we saw in Sapolsky: Evolution shapes behavior. But he dared to apply it to humans.
  • Wilson also suspected that our rational justifications might be confabulations to support our intuitions. Roughly, we are disgusted by torture so we believe in rights.
  • The emotional nineties de Waal, primatologist who studied moral behavior in primates. monkey fairness. (used to be in the course. See links to he Tanner lectures.); Damasio and Wilson -- 33 -- seems to be a very different picture than Plato's;
  • Some examples of evolutionary psychology
  • Evolutionary Psychology in moral psychology
  • Damasio's research on vmPFC disabled patients. could watch gruesome images without feeling. trouble planning. (Phineas Gage) reasoning (about some practical matters) requires feeling. Lesions shut down the "valence" (flashes of positive neg emotions) encoded in memory. (Quick examples.)
  • No problem making moral decisions under cognitive load. Suggests automatic processing. Note this also suggests that we shouldn't think of our "principles" as causal.
  • Roach-juice
  • Soul selling
  • Harmless Taboo violations: Incest story; note how interviewer pushes toward dumbfounding.
  • How to explain dumbfounding.
  • Margolis: seeing that (pattern matching - auto) vs. reasoning why (controlled thought); we have bias toward confirmation, which is seen in the mistake people make on the Wasson Card test. "Judgement and justification are separate processes." At least sometimes, it appears the justification is ex post facto. (Reason a slave to the passions.)
  • Rider and Elephant
  • Important to see Elephant as making judgements (Emotions are epistemic), not just "feeling" (Hard for traditional philosophers to do.) (Pause for examples of "intelligent emotions")
  • 45: Elephant and Rider defined
  • Emotions are a kind of information processing, part of the cognitive process.
  • Moral judgment is a cognitive process.
  • Intuition and reasoning are both cognitive. (Note: don't think of intuition in Haidt simply as "gut reaction" in the sense of random subjectivity.
  • Values of the rider: seeing into future, treating like cases like; post hoc explanation, but "expensive" in terms of attention and time. (Like education itself!)
  • Values of the elephant: automatic, valuative, ego-maintaining, opens us to influence from others.
  • Note Carnegie's advice -- fits with Haidt's model. If you want to persuade people, talk to the elephant. (Note: If the elephant is very afraid and powerless, this can lead to bad outcomes.)
  • Social Intuitionist Model: attempt to imagine how our elephants respond to other elephants and riders.
  • Bring up Repligate issue. [1]

Small Group Discussion

  • Go back to roach juice and soul selling. How would you react to this experiment now that you know it's a pschological trigger we have? What else works like this?
  • Is Feeling epistemic? Do we process information with emotions?

Rubric Training

  • We will look at some writing by my Fall 2020 Ethics students. In this case, they were writing about a Sapolsky Chapter 10. Here's the prompt for this 600 word writing exercise:
  • "Topic: In "The Evolution of Social Behavior," Robert Sapolsky reviews the resources in evolutionary theory for explaining social behaviors like cooperation and group behavior. In a 600 word essay, answer this question: "Drawing on resources from this chapter, how does an evolutionist explain how cooperation and other moral behaviors start and are sustained in a human community?" Give examples of processes which promote or impede moral behaviors. Be sure to consider how humans both fit and do not fit evolutionary patterns which apply to other animals. How does Sapolsky explain this?"
  • Browse the Assignment Rubric - Note the importance of sensitivity to the prompt.
  • Explain the structure of a peer assessed assignment. Note your SW1 coming soon on Waller. Review that. Writing (possible 21 points), peer review and assessment, my evaluation, back evaluation of your evaluator (additional 10 points).
  • Look at some peer reviews and scoring of Whale (10), Egret (12), Macaw (15). Then the writing.
  • Take 4 minutes to "audit" one to two pieces from this assignment. Note helpful and unhelpful peer comments. See if you agree with the assessments.