Archive for October 1st, 2010

Alleged problems with small attorneys riding big elephants

| October 1, 2010 | Reply
Alleged problems with small attorneys riding big elephants

I’ve previously written about Jonathan Haidt’s approach to human moral psychology. His approach is termed the “Social Intuitionist Model” of moral motivation and it suggests that

moral behaviors are typically the product of multiple levels of moral functioning, and are usually energized by the “hotter” levels of intuition, emotion, and behavioral virtue/vice. The “cooler” levels of values, reasoning, and willpower, while still important, are proposed to be secondary to the more affect-intensive processes.

Haidt has used the metaphor of an intellectually-nimble lawyer riding on top of a huge emotion-permeated elephant to illustrate his counter-intuitive approach, suggesting that the small articulate lawyer on top often lacks meaningful control over the elephant. Moral judgments are usually dominated by emotions such as empathy and disgust (the strength of these is represented by the big-ness of the elephant). In short, Haidt is quite sympathetic to David Hume’s suggestion that moral reasoning is essentially “the slave of the passions.”

In the March 25, 2010 edition of Nature (available here), Paul Bloom expressed concern that something important has been left out of Haidt’s model. In reaction, Haidt defended himself against Bloom’s attack (see below), indicating that Bloom (whose work Haidt admires, for the most part) has misconstrued Haidt’s Social Intuitionist Model. I believe that summarizing this exchange between Haidt and Bloom sharpens the focus on the meaning of Haidt’s Social Intuitionist Model.

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Separation of Church and State?

| October 1, 2010 | 23 Replies
Separation of Church and State?

I was on my way to lunch today, when I saw an ad on a local ‘mega-church’ billboard. It was promoting a “Restoring America Conference”.

This is a church. It pays no taxes. It should have no say, as an entity, in our political process.

Based on the speakers, this will not be about Restoring America in any social sense – something that a church should indeed participate and lead. This ‘conference’ will undoubtedly be a rabidly right-wing diatribe from start to finish.

I have absolutely no problem with free speech, not do I have a problem with Partisan speech. I do have a problem when political speech is not only associated with religion, but sponsored and promoted by a religious organization.

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