Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Do Some Feel That Organ Donation is Polluting?

My "Happy Society" class has conducted a project to sign up the entire Centre College community as organ donors.  We have had excellent success with the faculty, pretty good success with students, but only so-so with the blue-collar staff.

A couple of the latter said they would not sign up as organ donors because they "came in with all their organs, and they plan to go out with them."

I have a hypothesis about why this is so, which I don't have enough data to test.  Jonathan Haidt, in The Righteous Mind, argues that all kinds of people tend to have immediate emotional reactions to moral questions.  Educated people, though, have trained themselves to only accept judgments that serve to prevent harm and advance care, or prevent inequality and advance fairness.  But most people also have an emotional commitment to liberty, sanctity, loyalty, and purity.  If they are not trained in Enlightenment theories, most people will go with their first emotional reactions.

My hypothesis is that when some people imagine their organs going in to other people react with disgust at the impurity of it, the pollution of their identity that would result.

4 comments:

clintnewman said...

I think the educated people posited by Haidt (I haven't read the book, just going off your summary) get a serious emotional charge from self-sacrifice and from the idea that they are enacting the purity and goodness of their intentions toward society. Overall a good thing I would think – contributing to your own happiness while also contributing positively to society. However I think characterizing the reaction of blue-collar staff as "emotional" while characterizing the reaction of the educated as "enlightened" and serving to "prevent harm/advance care" colors the issue in ways that are not helpful and ends up causing resentment. If the enlightened (we?) have trained ourselves to do anything, perhaps it's to call our emotional responses anything other than “emotional” as a way of satisfying the unconscious desire to differentiate, in the eyes of society, ourselves from the “unenlightened.” Sorta playing the backlash’s advocate here…

gruntled said...

Ah - I did not mean to contrast "emotional" with "enlightened" - nor does Haidt.

Rather, Haidt argues that the Enlightenment, as an intellectual movement, has a more restricted range of ethical goods that it can validate, out of the wider range of emotional moral judgments that all people share.

Anonymous said...
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clintnewman said...

A ha - just read a review of the book. Should've done that before commenting. Now i'm sufficiently intrigued to read the book!