Moral Intuition or How To Figure Out What is Right and Wrong

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caravaggio.jpg
David Brooks has a thought provoking ed-op in the NY Times today called, The End of Philosophy.   Brooks argues that moral judgments are intuitive and not really informed by reason and rationality (as the Western tradition has taught us).  Brooks points to modern research in cognitive science and psychology to argue that, “Moral judgments are…rapid intuitive decisions and involve the emotion-processing parts of the brain.”  These so called moral emotions are most likely shaped by evolution and the need to get along in large groups (after all, figuring out what is right and wrong is not an academic exercise related to sitting at a nice wood desk reading obscure text, rather morality is about one’s relation to his or her community and important influencers (i.e., mom, dad, Pastor Jones, etc.).
Brook’s op-ed got me thinking about the sorts of things in life that don’t need a deep analysis and the things that do require reflection and a little bit of rationality:
1. Reading people = Go with your gut (you can usually tell right away what sort of person is standing in front of you; look at his facial gestures, observe his smile or grimace, listen to the tone of his voice, pay attention to how he’s standing in relation to you, etc.).

2. Buying things = Use reason (you don’t want to go with your gut when you’re involved in the buying process; this is especially true with big ticket items such as a home, car, flat screen TV, home renovation, etc.).
3. Falling in Love = Go with your gut (this one is pretty obvious, but you first need to define what love means to you.  Does love mean a long term relationship filled with kindness and great experience or does it mean something entirely more practical?).
Do you have other examples?  When do you go with your gut versus a bit more thought?
On an entirely different bent (and to move away from the heavy thinking), I’ve been listening to the singer Adele and I’ve been completely mesmerized by her song, “Hometown Glory:”

* The image above is the Sacrifice of Isaac by Caravaggio (it depicts the moment when Abraham, about to sacrifice his son Isaac in obedience to God’s command, is approached by an angel).
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  • Simon

    Vin,
    This is a good question and it reminds me of a Kenny Rogers song
    …then the night got deathly quiet
    and his face lost all expression
    he said if you’re gonna play the game boy
    you got to learn to play it right..

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