How Neuroethicists Should Treat Moral Intuition and Emotion?

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How Neuroethicists Should Treat Moral Intuition and Emotion?
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  The International Neuroethics Society Student Essay Prize   1   How Neuroethicists Should Treat Moral Intuition and Emotion? By Hossein Dabbagh hosein.dabbagh@gmail.com m.h.dabbagh@pgr.reading.ac.uk    2   1.   How Philosophers and Neuroethicsists Use Moral Intuitions  What phenomenon, event or state moral intuition is? On the one hand, prominent  philosophers like Lewis (1983, x), Williamson (2007, 220) and Audi (2004) think that intuition denotes any  belief, inclination or disposition to believe. Some of these philosophers treat moral intuitions as a purely cognitive mental state which can be formed through reflection. On the other hand, Bealer (1998, 208-10) thinks that intuition is a  sui generis  mental state which cannot reduce to other mental states such as beliefs. He states one can have an intuition with certain content while one does not believe that content. Also, one can  believe that p whereas does not have intuition that p. Moreover, he introduces a new terminology for intuitions in terms of seemings states, i.e. “intellectual seeming.”  However, most of (empirical) moral psychologists treat moral intuitions as completely non-epistemic state like emotions. They think that intuitions are just immediate and spontaneous response which is caused by our “system 1” or “fast thinking”, as Kahneman (2011) labels it. Since intuitions are produced by our fast thinking, psychologists consider intuition as most dubious, epistemologically. For example, in a series of papers, Sinnott-Armstrong (2008), Singer (2005), Greene (2007) and Haidt (2001) have developed different arguments for a radical anti-intuitionist  position on the basis of recent empirical research (e.g. fMRI studies) into the psychological and evolutionary srcins of moral intuitions. They argue that since emotions  distort our intuitive judgments, intuition is unreliable, and therefore epistemologically unsound. Although philosophers often have different views about the nature of intuition, most of them treat intuitions as epistemic evidence which provide reason for us. They think that intuitions can be produced by our thinking and reflection or “slow thinking” . However, neuroethicsists treat intuitions as something that cannot provide reasons. To illustrate, look at the below table to see the difference between views about moral intuition:  3   Views About Moral Intuition Type of mental state Aetiology Claimed epistemic Standing Neuroethicists Emotional gut feeling Fast thinking/ System 1 Most consider Dubious Belief-Like State Belief or attraction to Assent Mere adequate understanding of content, which also  justifies belief Constitutes or is a source of knowledge of non-natural facts Seemings State Appearance/ seeming/presentation Merely thinking about the content Justifies belief in the absence of reason to doubt  From Antti Kauppinen, 2012, with minor changes In this paper, I develop a response to neroethicsists by arguing in favour of an account of moral intuition with reference to seemings state which provides us a salvation about the distortion of emotional experiences. In this account emotions can be parcel with moral intuitions without creating any epistemic threats. 2.   Superiority of Seemings Account to the Belief-Like State Account of Intuition Adherents of seemings account of moral intuition such as the intellectual seeming account need to refute the rival belief-like state account to prove that they are on the right path. Here is an argument one can appeal to it: the argument from intuition without belief  . To support what the argument is we can draw an analogy between intuition and perceptual experiences (e.g. Muller-Lyer illusion). The point is that, just like perceptual experiences which allow us to have sense perception without belief in the advent of optical illusion, seemings allow us to have intuition without belief. In fact, when we look at Muller-Lyer picture, the unequalness of the two lines is  presented   to us, although we believe that they are equal.   Moreover, perceptual illusions generally help us to see clearly that there is a gap  between our appearance  and belief. For example, t ake Adelson’s checker   shadow illusion (Below figure). When we look at the left picture, the square B seems to be of a brighter than the square A. However, the two squares are in fact of the exact color, as can be easily seen on the right picture.    4   This can be happened in the intellectual case as well. Consider a case of intellectual illusion or puzzle. Here is a simple puzzle which its answer often suggested by “lazy system 2” or “fast thinking”  (Kahneman, 2011):  Puzzle: A bat and ball cost $1.10. The bat costs one dollar more than ball. How much does the ball cost? Most people would say that the answer is 10 cent. The answer is intuitive and appealing, although it is wrong. By doing math we will see that the correct answer is 5 cent. The point is that it is sometimes hard to mange to resist the intuition came to our mind although our belief is different. The reason is that we actually do not believe in the thing which comes to our mind. The argument from intuition without belief seeks to find a reason to show that intuitions cannot be mere beliefs. So, the belief-like state account of intuition which totally rests on this claim, should be discarded. The argument simply states that since we have the intuition that p and at the same time we believe that not-p, therefore intuitions cannot be mere  beliefs. In fact, the argument hinges on the two claims which can be formally articulated as follows: P1: if intuitions are beliefs, when S has the intuition P, S must have the belief that P. P2: there are clear cases where S has the intuition that P but S lacks the belief that P. C1: therefore, intuitions are not beliefs.  5   It seems that the argument is valid, i.e., the premises entail the conclusion. But is the argument sound, i.e. whether the premises are true? Let me evaluate each premise in turn: P1, clearly, is a conditional claim of what adherents of belief-like state account of intuition presuppose. So, if intuitions are mere beliefs, then P1 is true. P2 looks to be true as well since it is very well supported. Certainly there are clear cases where S has the intuition that P but lacks the belief that P. One might have, for example, the intuition that “abortion is right” but s/he does not believe that so, as perhaps divine commands forbidden abortion and there is no ultimate reason in favour of abortion or it is very hard to do that, psychologically. Hence, if P1 and P2 are true, C1 must be true. So, intuitions aren’t mere beliefs after all. If this argument works, which I think it does, at least the account of intuition which identifies intuition with mere belief should be disqualified. 3.   Can Emotional Experiences Take Part in Seeming Theory of Moral Intuitions? Seemings are tightly connected to emotions and feelings. This means that seemings view might help us to have a clue about where emotions can stand in our theory of intuition.   However, this needs to be argued and articulated. If I can show that emotions are like  perceptual experiences, we have then a case that intuition and emotion can go hand in hand. Also, in this way we can explain how intuition (seemings) is related to emotion. Moreover, I want to show that emotional experiences can be a potential source for non-inferential moral  belief. So, moral agents can have some non-inferential moral beliefs on the basis of emotional experiences. In recent years there is an attention to the perceptual theories of emotions. For example people like Brady (2009), Prinz (2006) and Roberts (2003) state the view that emotional experiences can be similar to affective construals  or appearances  or  perceptions of value  in the sense that they can represent the world of value. It is natural to think that construals, appearances and perceptions are non-doxastic states. Therefore, it is plausible to draw an analogy between emotional experiences and perceptual-like states. I call this quasi- perceptualist account of emotion.
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