Archive for April, 2009

INTERACTION OF ETHICAL VALUES AND MORAL INTUITIONS

Saturday, April 18th, 2009

“As we look around the world, we are constantly evaluating what we see. Seeing and evaluating are not two separate processes. They are linked and basically simultaneous.” (David Brooks in NYT, April 7, 2009). In doing the evaluating, we rely on moral intuitions that are heavily emotion-based.

For a brief but timely look at the science behind these remarks, you can take a look at David Brooks’ article. In important places his ideas converge with those in some of IPPA’s previous blogs, or, for more details, see Donald Munro’s book, Ethics in Action: Workable Guidelines for Private and Public Choices.

But Brooks’ piece is incomplete, and this is where IPPA’s basic positions fill the gaps. Brooks says that moral judgments are “rapid intuitive decisions and involve the emotion-processing parts of the brain.” He is right about the involvement of the emotional parts of the brain, but not about limiting moral judgments only to “rapid” gut reactions. Given this stance, he provides no way for the person doing the evaluation to deal with conflicts among her intuitions or between basic intuitive values. This missing piece is flagged in the very title of the article, “The End of Philosophy.”  But people also do need to consider something like either philosophical or theological thought. They would do so in order to identify a standard to which they can refer to make a choice between competing intuitions and judgments. IPPA can help readers find a standard, as well as relevant values
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IPPA takes them beyond what they can expect to find in the words of politicians and pundits, who occasionally invoke the word “moral” without any reference to what it is. For example, Paul Krugman cited Franklin Roosevelt’s second inaugural address, “We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.” And Krugman went on to say, “And right now happens to be one of those times when the converse is also true, and good morals are good economics.” (NYT 11/07/08)

Because the politicians and pundits often don’t give us any content for the term “moral,” readers may want to turn to IPPA for suggestions about that content. After all, in its core statements, IPPA announced, “Policies rooted in our shared human principles serve us better than policies based only on a purely economic model that says material success alone is the best measure of human happiness and well-being…We favor using moral guidance to inform the standard economic model.” IPPA is about content, to use in making moral evaluations. Please see the August 25th IPPA 2008 blog entry, IPPA Introduction and Statement of Intent. Additional IPPA reference material is found under the listing pages in the menu on the right hand side of the home page. Listed there is more information about IPPA and a printable version of IPPA’s core principles.

When there is a conflict of emotionally competing moral choices in your own mind, to what sources would you yourself appeal, in addition to specific information about each alternative choice to help you in justifying the choice you select?

Are the IPPA sources offered helpful?  Could you share with IPPA any additional
sources that you may have found useful?