Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Emotions Are Judgments That We Make in Our Inner Conversation

Jonathan Haidt, in Righteous Minds, says that emotions are not just feelings but moral judgments. They move us to act.  Reason tries to guide our emotionally inspired actions.  Haidt thinks the right proportion between emotion and reason is like the proportion between an elephant and its rider.

Margaret Archer, in Being Human, says that emotions are part of an inner conversation between the self we are now (the 'I' in microsociological terms) and the self we want to be in the future (the 'You'). These emotions are also judgments. 

Archer's emotions include moral judgments drawn from social discourse, but also practical judgments drawn from our works, and natural judgments drawn from our biology.

I think both Haidt and Archer are on to something powerful.  The two theories can be reconciled.  I will try to pursue this fruitful idea.


Dennis Evans said...

I don't think my emotions are always very moral. Emotions are sometimes very self-serving and we think we are justified when we act out what we feel, or we attempt to justify such actions after we have performed them, and after "reason" sees them with a more objective eye. The emotion of compassion is usually moral, but not necessarily anger. "The wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."

gruntled said...

Haidt does not mean that our emotions are morally good, but that they represent judgments about morality.