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Part 1: Two Systems 
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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
I'd be willing to check that out. I fancy myself as a one man experimental psychologist, due to my depressingly acute introspection. But every time I try to apply controls to myself, I go into a fit of spasms. I'm definitely 'riding an elephant'.


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Thu Aug 30, 2012 2:58 pm
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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
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I'm definitely 'riding an elephant'.


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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
I am enjoying reading Thinking, Fast and Slow. The extent to which experiment has proved our thoughts are conditioned by unconscious factors is intriguing. We are easily primed to shift our opinion depending on context. Voting booths located in schools tend to vote higher for education related spending measures, just because of the unconscious associations from the environment. People who are nodding are more likely to agree than people who are shaking their heads. Eating glucose improves thinking. Putting words in people's minds causes associated ideas to spring more easily to mind. Words associated with oldness cause people to walk more slowly. We imagine internally that we are rational, without realizing the extent to which our views are primed externally by our context.

I am particularly interested in how these psychological findings affect people's views on religion. Priming the mind through positive association with church community must drive out the capacity for logical thought. Faith is a form of pleasure, providing a comforting explanation of the world. Ideas that conflict with our faith are an affront to our sense of comfort. People often construct a plausible reason to reject a difficult idea, without realising that their response is largely an unconscious reflex rather than a coherent engagement with the content.

Kahneman observes that tests on self-control, mental laziness, reluctance to check the accuracy of answers, etc, correlate well to success in life. Thinking about how to form good habits of mind by engaging System Two (logic) rather than System One (intuition) depends far more on physical and cultural factors than we usually recognise.


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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
I read the final chapter of this book in a bookstore and hope to get further into it. Systems 1 and 2 seemed to align with Jonathan Haidt's elephant and rider. I checked the index and found one mention of Kahneman in a note, where Haidt draws the parallel and recommends the book. I guess because Haidt was focused on morality and moral reasoning, and Kahneman appears to work the cognitive angle, Haidt could avoid covering the same ground.



Mon Sep 03, 2012 8:42 pm
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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
I remember in college it was all introspection and discussion of topics relative to social and psycological experimentation. What this told us about ourselves. How religion was something we were fed as youngsters, but we were older and wiser now and did not subscribe to that pap. We were realists, free from prejudices, and rational thinkers!!!

Since I was in college in the Ice Age, we did not have current discoveries to guide us in our talks. We did recognize the way we were raised played a huge role in what we thought before we became adults and were independent. Then we could, of course, move to our own viewpoints. We now had open minds.

A few at college with me are part of these new experiments. They went on to a much higher level of learning and are now committed to their findings. Of course it is current science and we can't very well argue with that. (Although there are various groups that questions scientific facts every single day!!! And of course they are idiots because while science does learn new things every day, there is usually enough verification of the experiments to be pretty sure of the findings.) But the greater majority of us are not as well-informed as these scientists. I probably fall none too gracefully into that category. And telling people often has no result. Look at how scientists have tried to warn of global warming. And how many documentaries were shown predicitng that New Orleans could not withstand a level 5 hurricane?

Of course I have friends and acquaintances telling me what to wear, what to think, which religion is best (and who will and will not go straight to Hell), what my political viewpoints should be (the country will be destroyed if "X" gets elected). The older we get, the more fixed our thinking becomes. I see people being interviewed as to how they will vote in our upcoming national election and some of the crap I hear is ridiculous. That President Obama meets secretly with Islam terrorists in order to take over the United States; that if a Mormon is elected most of his time will be spent trying to convert Americans because that is what Mormons do!!! (Can anyone remember when some voters thought Kennedy would be calling the Pope every day for directions as he was Catholic?)

This is the real world. If you sat some of these people down and explained why and how they were thinking the way they were, they would (a) think you were some Godless heathen, or (b) set the dogs on you while they went for their shotgun. They can't remember and don't care how they came by their beliefs.

Of course everyone hopes people who are way off will do no harm to others. We do see this type of thing more and more. (Like the guy that said he listened to an AC/DC record backward and someone told him to go out and kill a bunch of people.)

But what about situations where there is no harm done; where individuals just feel better with beliefs that science may see as irrational and not proven by science? Religion may soothe the suffering of people who have lost too many loved ones. They feel better saying it is a higher power who took the people they love. The more people they lose, the more they need this. Sometimes I wish I could find such an easy out and feel this same comfort.

For centuries people have visited oracles, or mystics, or spiritualists or mediums (or whatver). They want to see their own future, ensure that their loved ones are safe, or just talk with them again. As long as they don't get carried away and give all their money to crackpots, what is the harm? Because science has never proven the reality or lack of existence of these types of happenings (and they certainly have had centuries to do so), and people are soothed by the belief, are others harmed?

There are probably just as many books telling people the "truth" about the various deities and soothsayers as there are about the science being discovered every day revealing the reasons people think the way they do and how their brains work. And tomorrow science will make new discoveries as they are doing every day.

It is great that science has discovered exactly the parts of the brain that are responsible for each activity and how they work. Like me thousands of people suffer from panic attacks and anxiety disorder. I watched my mother go through this without knowing what was going on. And I and my friends who have this also experienced a lot of uncertainty when we were younger. Most of the peopel around us did not understand that there are chemical imbalances responsible, there were not medications and discrimination was rampant.

I am very hopeful that more will be learned. (Although frankly there is still a huge amount of discrimination and lack of understanding about this and all mental illness and it seems that the most criticism seems to come relative to illnesses suffered predominantly by women!)

So, what is all this in aid of? New scientific discoveries are wonderful. And it is great that many scientists and those who read the new discoveries are aware of why people do what they do and act the way they act. But regardless we are flawed humans. It is unlikely that any of this new science is going to change some behavior. Some that is harmless, some that is not so much.



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Tue Sep 04, 2012 5:24 am
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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
Casey, thankyou for your well-written and well-thought-out post.

Although I admit, I am plodding through 'Fast and Slow', really finding it a plod. I do think it helps to know the reasons why we think and feel the way we do. If we can understand a mental reaction, we can stop being quite so afraid of it, if it is a bad one.

I haven't ever had a panic attack, but I do know a those who have. In my case, both were 17 year old boys.

I have, however, for a brief period, suffered from acute clinical depression. Now, that was scarey because it was inexplicable. The doctor explained that anyone could suffer from this illness, it wasn't caused by outward circumstances (although they could trigger it) but the major cause was 'chemicals' in the brain. The brain not producing enough serotonin. I took some pills for six months, stopped gradually, didn't feel right, so then took pills for another month or two, then came off them gradually and I have been OK since then. I was very grateful indeed, to know what was causing the problem.

I was very grateful for the research carried out. Because I knew there was something I could do to help myself, I didn't feel quite so much like a headless chick (as our Antipodean friends say).

I am trying to make up my mind, whilst reading this book, whether fast thinking is inferior to slow, rational thinking. Or whether we need to feel encouraged to use both types. Do we really have a primeval, intuitive mechanism, which is addled from lack of use?

Well, I think we do. Life is much faster paced in these times. We don't always have the time for deliberation. I think we need to develop our fast-thinking facility and that we shouldn't undermine it. It is vital.


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Tue Sep 04, 2012 9:41 am
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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
denisecummins wrote:
Although some interpretations of dual process theories of morality is that rationality is needed to override emotion-based moral judgments, not everyone subscribes to that. Detaching moral judgment from compassion typically has disastrous consequences, such as witch burning.


Denise, responding to your comment from last week, and to your detailed comments on Hume and Kant, I disagree with your argument here about the role of compassion and reason in morality. Compassion often produces flawed decisions, for example when charity destroys capacity and incentive for self-improvement and creates dependence on the giver. Emotive feelings need to be grounded in a rational understanding of consequences in order to achieve the best results. I don't think your example of witch burning makes sense here, since you link it to "rationality overriding emotion-based moral judgments" although it is primarily emotional rather than rational. Morality should be about how passions are controlled by rational principle.

Questioning the status of compassion in morality also links to a critique of the popular moral claims of Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume. One of Hume's most famous statements was "Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions." This is a flatly ridiculous claim, not just because it contradicts his dictum that you can never derive an ought from an is. If, for a British Enlightenment example, someone is a passionate supporter of British Imperialism, then, like JS Mill's support for the opium trade, he or she will subordinate their rational faculties regarding moral rights to their economic interests, making reason slave to passion. That is the underlying heuristic for Hume's argument, and it is evil.

Kahneman's brilliant analysis of how we substitute easy questions for hard ones helps to disentangle what these philosophers were really conveying. Their agenda was to construct a mythic narrative for modern capitalist individualism, quite a hard question. But Hume and Mill and Locke had to conceal this heuristic(using Kahneman's term), which they saw as an intuitive judgment of common sense, beneath a more plausible argument. So Hume derided the role of abstract principle in guiding our moral sentiments.

Hume's 'slave of the passions' line bears comparison with "Honi soit qui mal y pense" a French phrase meaning: "Shamed be he who thinks evil of it", and the motto of the English chivalric Order of the Garter, appearing on the national coat of arms of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland known as the Arms of Dominion. Like Hume's argument, which on face value suggests that he can rationalise any desire, the Empire power slogan justified brazen domination by an arrogant disdain for what anyone else thought. It is a philosophy of might makes right, and is contrary to basic moral principles.

'Reason as slave of passion' also implies that if I am passionate about compassion, as a primary emotive view, then I will enslave reason to justify my feelings, and ignore rational argument and evidence that contradicts my emotion. But that is rationalisation, not logic.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:05 am, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
Yes, we do disagree. And that is because people disagree about what the "greater good" is. The holocaust happened in large part because the Nazi's believed sacrificing entire populations of people was necessary in order to achieve "a greater good", namely a pure Aryan race. Suicide bombers believe that (e.g.,) killing 3,000 innocent people is justified for "the greater good" of destroying the alleged foes of Islam. The entire Spanish Inquisition was based on a principle of "greater good".

What stops people from engaging in these atrocities even when authorities are telling them it is for "the greater good"? Compassion for the victims.


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Tue Sep 04, 2012 11:31 am
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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
I'm plodding too. Can't really win can we? If we smile to lift our mood then we are more likely to make rash decisions, and if we frown and try and use system 2 we are miserable. I tried the pencil trick to make me smile and therefore in a happier mood but I just gagged on it


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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
denisecummins wrote:
What stops people from engaging in these atrocities even when authorities are telling them it is for "the greater good"? Compassion for the victims.

But you are just using compassion here in its legitimate role as an evidentiary factor in critiquing dogmatic ideologies. That is quite different from your original claim that compassion could be placed above reason as an organising principle for morality. Yes, compassion is central to morality. But compassion applied in isolation can be just as irrational as any dogma. Compassion should be placed within a systematic logical understanding in order to contribute to a good morality. Reason is a more powerful critique of fanaticism than compassion alone is. Extreme fanatical examples only show that people can be deluded about the content of the greater good, not that we are incapable of forming some rational consensus about what the greater good actually is.


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Last edited by Robert Tulip on Tue Sep 04, 2012 12:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.



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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
Quote:
Robert wrote:

Compassion should be placed within a systematic logical understanding in order to contribute to a good morality.


We cannot 'place' our compassion where we want it to be. Compassion is an emotion, it is not logical!!!!


Hatred combined with logic and understanding can create great evil.

Compassion (Love?) can't ever do that.

I remember the admirable Professor Ira Berlin, on 'Desert Island Discs' on the radio, announcing, 'Evil can always grow from hatred, but never, ever from love and compassion'.

It brightened an otherwise dull Sunday morning for me!!! :)


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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
Robert, where did get the impression that I was arguing compassion should be placed "above reason"? I don't believe that, so your post surprised me. I re-read my earlier posts, and I don't see anything that could be construed that way. I hope you didn't conclude that because I am female, and women are "emotion driven"??

I agree that morality is or should be the outcome of a process that combines reason, emotion, and intuition. That, incidentally, is what the System 1/System 2 division is all about. System 1 comprises a rapid affective, heuristic, and intuitive processes. System 2 comprises slower deliberative processes, such as probability estimation and consideration of aggregate cost-benefit analyses.

Like Hume, though, I also believe benevolence (or compassion) should be a crucial component of our moral judgments. Other emotions, such as anger, disgust, or outrage, can often lead us to be vindictive. Compassion tempered with rational considerations is an excellent method of moral judgment.


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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
denisecummins wrote:
Robert, where did get the impression that I was arguing compassion should be placed "above reason"?

Hi Denise, I'm just teasing out an apparent non-sequitur I may have misconstrued from your statements that I quoted above: "Although some interpretations of dual process theories of morality is that rationality is needed to override emotion-based moral judgments, not everyone subscribes to that. Detaching moral judgment from compassion typically has disastrous consequences, such as witch burning."

How I read this comment, which you have now clarified, was that firstly, you think it is wrong to use reason to override emotion. "Not everyone" reads as "I don't" in this context because you go on to illustrate why reason should not override emotion. Your second sentence reads as an example to illustrate how reason overriding compassion is bad, as a particular illustration of a general argument. These two sentences considered in isolation seem to equate "rationality overriding emotion" with "detaching judgment from compassion." But "override" and "detach" have extremely different meanings which your argument appears to elide. So we have these rational witch burners (Calvin comes to mind) who have a cold logical system in which compassion does not figure. In Kahneman's sense, you have "primed" the reader to equate the primacy of reason with the burning of witches, a very dubious proposition, especially with the emphasis you provide through the words "typically disastrous".

If rationality is not "needed to override emotion" and compassion is the primary example of emotion, then compassion is indeed placed above reason. Linking that back to Hume's theory of reason as slave of passion suggests a view that morality should be primarily driven by sentiment rather than logic. That argument, in my view, jars against rule of law, in which reason is tempered by compassion but where the rationality of state power routinely overrides compassion towards criminals.

I'm sorry if I have built a straw man, but my purpose was to clarify this complex issue. Compassion is primarily a "System One" intuitive form of thought, while logic is "System Two". I am interested in the problem of moral coherence, and how intuition bleeds into and infects reason. You are emphasising how reason alone is insufficient for morality, as in Kant's willingness to betray a victim because he places truth above practicality in his system of moral principle.

Hume's valid point is that moral sentiments are expressions of value preference rather than observations of fact. Yet there is this big problem of the interplay between intuition and reason in morality. So I disagree with Penelope's comment that "We cannot 'place' our compassion where we want it to be." Of course we can and we do it all the time. We support rule of law. We are compassionate to our friends and indifferent to those we don't know. That is why the injunction from Christ to love your enemies is so baffling and confronting.

We are compassionate to people we believe are deserving and harsh to people we see as undeserving. This assessment of 'moral desert' is based on a complex combination of evidence and prejudice. I would like to see an increase in the use of evidence in the formation of moral values. That means placing compassion within a rational framework.


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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
Robert, just to clarify further: In Joshua Greene's dual process of model of morality, two systems process the situation in parallel. System 1 is a rapid system that outputs judgments quickly based on emotion, heuristics, or intuition. System 2 is a slower system that outputs judgments more slowly based on deliberation.

If both systems output the same judgment, a decision has been made.

If the systems output different judgments, then further deliberation is made to resolve the conflict. The conflict can be resolved in favor of either output. System 2 can override System 1 outputs or vice versa.

The question is which one is the "right" answer. Moral judgments are not like math decisions; there aren't clear right or wrong answers. Even moral philosophers disagree, so normative moral theories are frequently based on consensus.

To use again the "murderer at the door" example, Kant believed it was always wrong to lie, even if lying would save an innocent life. Utilitarians like Bentham and Mill believed saving a life outweighed the minor wrong of lying. Kant was concerned with deriving universal categorical imperatives that applied to everyone everywhere and every time. Obviously, not everyone agrees with that.

So what is "rational/relevant" and what is "irrational/irrelevant" is not clear cut. Psychopaths and people with damage to ventromedial prefrontal cortex act like strict utilitarians. Psychopaths also show virtually no compassion or empathy for others, and are capable of great harm to others as a result.

Bottom line: I think we agree that cost-benefit analyses and compassionate/empathetic concerns are integral parts of the moral judgment process. When we exclude either, we make bad judgments that too often have led to atrocities.


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Tue Sep 04, 2012 7:10 pm
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Post Re: Part 1: Two Systems
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So what is "rational/relevant" and what is "irrational/irrelevant" is not clear cut.


There's a Rationally Speaking blog about the distinction between rational and irrational posted just this morning. Helpful disambiguation for myself.

http://rationallyspeaking.blogspot.com/


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