January 23, 2008

Moral Intuitions

Here is what I do all day, read smut like this:
"Julie and Mark are brother and sister. They are traveling together in France on summer vacation from college. One night they are staying alone in a cabin near the beach. They decide that it would be interesting and fun if they tried making love. At very least it would be a new experience for each of them. Julie was already taking birth control pills, but Mark uses a condom too, just to be safe. They both enjoy making love, but they decide not to do it again. They keep that night as a special secret, which makes them feel even closer to each other. What do you think about that, was it OK for them to make love?"

So what are the thoughts on this? If there is something wrong with this forbidden love, what is it? Can you give reasons? Whatever the reasons are, they shouldn't appeal to the negative consequences of inbreeding - there were two forms of birth control used. And they shouldn't appeal to the repercussions on their relationship, it got better afterwards. So why is this wrong?

I just read an interesting paper on this. Haidt argues that we don't reason our way to moral judgments, but instead are driven by our gut feelings towards the situation. Reason merely plays an after the fact role in justifying our intuitive feelings. This is partly why this example is so strange (the other one is that it involves incest, eeewwwwww). Our gut reactions are separated from reason because nothing bad happens - reason can't come to the aid of our moral intuitions.

Strange huh, the idea that we don't reason through these things but merely feel them. Also, sex with a sibling is creepy. But is it creepier than masturbating with a chicken before cooking and eating it? But that is another paper for another time.


Justin said...

They were in France so it was okay. Had it taken place in Bulgaria, for instance, the sibs would have felt dirty afterward and gone straight to church pray for their sins.

shannon said...

my gut feeling made me barf.

Johnclimbrok said...

um, I did your sister.

mandi said...

I'm glad I don't have a brother to think about after I read this.

Anonymous said...

i don't think it's strange that we can't use reason to reach a moral judgment on this situation. none other than society says that having sex with your sibling is "wrong." there is the retarded baby thing, and maybe at some point in history someone decided that incest was wrong because it had a higher chance of producing retarded babies, but there was definitely a point where the whole thing turned gross, and it may have been as a result of being banned for so long (like...picking your nose in public...gross now, maybe wasn't such a big deal thousands of years ago). At this point we have definitely lost sight of the original "reason" and society makes a strong appeal to our "gut feeling" when we hear a story like this. the whole thing feels gross, reasons aside. where does morality fit in? well you can stick that shit anywhere, i don't care much for morality. morality for me is just rules that the majority agrees to, and that definitely, almost always changes in retrospect. we all mostly agree that killing an innocent baby is morally wrong. why? well i guess it's a christian/islamic/judaic system at play here...you are responsible for your actions, you get what you work for/deserve/in all fairness/fill in the blank with some other nonsense that sounds judicious. equality. justice. i can throw lists of arbitrary words. we all agreed to it at some point, probably because it was the most efficient way to run society ("you are responsible for your actions"...it keeps the serial killers at bay, mostly). now we agree to it because we're born into it and it's all we know. we're all suckers.

Justin said...

wait...picking your nose in public is gross? Oops!