The Ultra - Short version:

  • People don't usually think rationally about moral choices.
  • People think about morals intuitively and reflexively.
  • When there are no moral guidelines or the situation is unprecedented they can think about morals intellectually and logically.
  • Unless they have been specially trained they usually still won't.
  • Moral intuitions and reflexes come form aping behavior not actual linguistic transfer usually.
  • There is a chain of behavior and feedback that build moral patterns see diagrams.

The Not At All Short But Still Beats Reading The Papers Version:

  1. The Traditional Models:

There are two classic models offered to describe the phenomenon – the CRM and the EM:

  1. The Conscious Reasoning Model (CRM): The basic idea of this model is that moral judgments are the outputs of conscious reasoning from explicit moral principles. An example along the lines of this model would be someone deducing that “abortion is wrong” from the principle that “abortion violates a fetus' right to life.” So here a person in order to make a judgment about the morality of abortion, consciously accesses a moral principle, applies it to the case of abortion and then deduces a conclusion about the morality of abortion. Very abstractly, the model for this theory of moral judgment appears below.
    1. Perception → Conscious Reasoning → Judgment (→ Emotion)
  2. The Emotional Model (EM): The basic idea of this model is that moral judgments are the involuntary outputs of unconscious emotional processes. More generally we have certain negative emotions in response to an action, so we judge it impermissible, or we have positive emotions in response to an action, so we judge it permissible. An example along the lines of this model would be someone judging that abortion is wrong, because thinking about abortion evokes negative emotions in them. Very abstractly, the model for this theory of moral judgment appears below.
    1. Perception → Emotion → Judgment (→ Conscious Reasoning)
  3. Arguments against the Traditional Models:
  4. One argument against the CRM is based on a phenomenon which Hauser talks about in passing called moral dumbfounding. MD is a phenomenon that consists in the in ability of people to articulate coherent justifications for their moral judgments.
  5. The Argument from Moral Dumbfounding
    1. If people reach moral judgments by consciously reasoning from explicit principles, then they would be able to clearly articulate those principles.
    2. People are often unable to do so, i.e., they suffer from moral dumbfounding.
    3. Thus, people don’t come to moral judgments by conscious reasoning; the CRM is wrong.
  6. The Argument from Psychopaths:
    1. If moral judgments are simply based on emotions, then psychopaths who lack emotions should not make moral judgments.
    2. Psychopaths do make moral judgments.
    3. Thus, moral judgments are not simply based on emotions; the EM is wrong.

Possible Objections to the Arguments from MD and from Psychopaths

  1. A New Model: The basic idea of this view is that moral judgments are the involuntary outputs of unconscious reasoning processes based on consciously inaccessible moral principles. An example along the lines of this model would be where someone judges that abortion is wrong, and the basis of the judgment is not an emotional effect associated with thoughts of abortion, but some unconscious principle. The process of moving from the principle to the judgment is completely unconscious as well. A basic model for this theory of judgment appears below.
    1. 5. The Unconscious Reasoning Model (URM):
      1. (First: Cons. Reasoning)
      2. Action Analysis → (Unconscious Reasoning/emotion) → Judgment
    2. URM predicts and is consistent with both MD and the fact that psychopaths make moral judgments. It seems that given the evidence from moral dumbfounding and from psychopaths that model 3, the URM, is the best model out of all the ones considered.
And some additional material by Joe

Perhaps this should be in the what the experts say section but expert or not Joe wrote at least half the paper so here it is. Conceptual Disgust and Moral Judgement

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