The emotional dog and its rational tail

The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgement by: Jonathan Haidt.

Moral standards, an important basis of any moral judgment, are deduced to be knowledge structures (cognition) that are established through several reasoning activities (Darley 353 qtd. in Haidt 4). This theory suggests that every time humans derive a moral judgment, they are practically exhibiting a particular reasoning activity — one that covers morality.

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On the other hand, Haidt offers an alternative theory called the Social Intuitionist Theory which presents the moral judgment’s relationship to other significant factors — one such factor is the human’s intuition. Under this theory, the relationship between the two is considered sequential. He supports this by claiming “that moral judgment is caused by quick moral intuitions, and is followed (when needed) by slow, ex-post facto moral reasoning” (Haidt 5). Evidently, in terms of acknowledging the causal factor of a moral judgment, the first process to register and evaluate a circumstance (and then derive a judgment) is considered to have the closest relation or influence to the judgment made. Haidt’s theory claims intuition to be the first process our mind grasps in passing moral judgment.

An important difference between the rationalist and intuitionist theory is the interaction with other process factors aside from its perceived sequence. While the rationalist model focuses on reasoning and only emphasizes the participation of other processes with regard this central concept, the social intuitionist model introduces the significant play of emotion, intuition, social influence aside from reasoning (Haidt 22). The low interrelation evident in the rationalist theory seems to neglect the capacity of the human mind processes to simultaneously act together and pose one prime mover — reasoning. The high interrelation levels elicited by the social intuitionist theory illustrate the dynamism inherent in the human mind design.

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