Does Reason Exist to Serve The Passions? Or Vice Versa?

Posted by Beetle B. on Sun 11 September 2016

The rationalist delusion: The worship of reason and the distrust of passions. It is a delusion because once you declare it to be an object of worship, you lose the ability to think clearly about it.

Dilemma: Does reason exist to serve the passions (Plato)? Vice Versa (Hume)? Or are they co-dependent (Thomas Jefferson)?

Social Darwinism Or Blank Slate?

Blank Slate

Social Darwinism: The richest and most successful nations/people are the fittest. Do not give charity to the week nor allow them to breed.

Note that Darwin did not endorse this.

Hitler being a social Darwinist did not help…

Radical reform in the 60’s and 70’s, that viewed the mind as being a blank slate. The belief that one can achieve anything if they put their minds to it prevailed. Believing otherwise led to accusations of anti-gender equality.

Hence, Pinker’s rebuttal in his book: The Blank Slate.

Wilson and sociobioligy: He claimed human nature influenced human behavior.

The Need For Emotions

In the 90’s, Dimasio and his studies of people who had damaged their ventromedial prefrontal cortex demonstrated that emotions and passion were necessary to function. The subjects had no emotional responses whatsoever. In lab conditions, they demonstrated full rationality to various scenarios. As such, they had no “gut instinct”.

But when dealing with everyday situations, they would have to weigh the pros and cons of every decision. It would overwhelm them, and they resulted in bad decisions.

Hence, reason requires the passions. Fully eliminating emotions from decision making probably should not be viewed positively.

Morality and Cognitive Load

Haidt demonstrated that making moral decisions incurred no cognitive load. Doing cognitively intensive tasks did not slow down moral decisions.

In another study, he provided two disgusting but morally agnostic scenarios (e.g. drinking apple juice when a very sterile cockroach had been in it). In the control group, most of the respondents refused to drink the juice, but when pressed, framed it as a preference and not a moral issue.

Then he gave two harmless but morally disgusting scenarios. Subjects were quick to condemn and very flustered to provide a reason when pressed (they were harmless!)

This supports that morality came first and reason existed to serve it. Hume was correct.

Seeing-That vs Reasoning Why

Margolis came up with this.

Seeing-that” is intuitive. System 1 thinking. Very innate (like eating food when seeing it).

Reasoning-why” is higher order (System 2). It is disrupted by cognitive load.

We morally reason not to explain why we made the judgment, but to convince others to join us. [1]

The Rider and the Elephant

Cognition and emotions are a false dichotomy! Do not separate and study each independently.

Emotions are part of information processing! Hence they are part of cognition. Think Demasio and the vmPFC patients.

Judgment arises from intuition. Reasoning justifies it. We may change our intuition through introspection. This is relatively rare. More often, others’ reasoning arguing with us causes change (social influence).

Social change impacts us often without even any reasoning! Just a statement of like or dislike within the social circle has an influence.

How to Win An Argument

If you want to change people’s minds, talk to their elephants (system 1). Dale Carnegie was the master of this.

This is part of stepping into someone’s shoes. To see things their way means to see it their elephant’s way. Not just their rider’s way.

[1]Think Khutbahs: We feel something is wrong, and we hunt for verses/Ahadith to support us.

tags : trm, morality, Haidt