[ExI] L'Affaire Bradbury

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Sun Apr 12 23:35:58 UTC 2009

Damien Broderick wrote:

>> have the nerve to admit that logically and rationally they
>> were all wet, and that they had to concede the discussion
>> on rational and logical grounds, but that nonetheless their
>> side "had to prevail" because of... because of... because
>> [in essence] because they were right.
> <judiciously, stroking beard:>
> Hmm, there's much in what you say, Lee. Let us reason together, as 
> Richard Nixon once memorably said. Meanwhile, take a look at this (from 
> the NYT's tame conservative columnist):
> <http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/07/opinion/07Brooks.html?_r=1&th&emc=th>

Interesting. In particular (to sum up a bit)

 > Today, many psychologists, cognitive scientists and even philosophers
 > embrace a different view of morality. In this view, moral thinking is
 > more like aesthetics. As we look around the world, we are constantly
 > evaluating what we see. Seeing and evaluating are not two separate
 > processes. They are linked and basically simultaneous.


 > Moral judgments are like that. They are rapid intuitive decisions and
 > involve the emotion-processing parts of the brain. Most of us make
 > snap moral judgments about what feels fair or not, or what feels good
 > or not. We start doing this when we are babies, before we have
 > language. And even as adults, we often can’t explain to ourselves why
 > something feels wrong.
 > In other words, reasoning comes later and is often guided by the
 > emotions that preceded it. Or as Jonathan Haidt of the University of
 > Virginia memorably wrote, “The emotions are, in fact, in charge of the
 > temple of morality, and ... moral reasoning is really just a servant
 > masquerading as a high priest.”

What seems to be missing from the article (and perhaps
from the entire point of view) is that these "basically
simultaneous" and instant "rapid intuitive" decisions
involving "the emotion-processing parts of the brain",
is an *emphasis* that these are single-value judgments.

What I mean to say is that it fails to notice that one
must normally think of *many* such single instant episodes
in order to avoid whimsy.

Let me give an example.

Let's suppose that FDR and his advisers operated by
single-impression methods. Then he would have taken
one image of, say, some Japanese civilian being
roughly pushed by soldiers into a truck. The danger
of this---which is exactly why televised or YouTube
news is so dangerous---is that it is only *one*

To be rational is not to discard the emotional impact
of single images. Far from it. It is, instead, to
conflate many, many such images and take a measured
weighted average of the feelings that they generate
according to one's value system. The importance of
that last sentence can hardly be over-stressed.

So in pondering the mass internments of the Japanese,
Roosevelt would also have had to entertain the emotional
impact of many, many such images. Here is a very small
subset of those that surely entered his thinking:

1. Japanese civilian Y (instead of X) undergoing the
    same rough treatment.
2. Japanese child Z being yanked from his or her school...

3. Mobs of hysterical anti-Japanese whites, blacks, and
    other asians surrounding a Japanese/American house
    and throwing rocks, and maybe preparing to burn it down.

4. a scene in which a Japanese landing army is receiving
    help from a Japanese/American racialist who admires
    his own race and wishes it victory

5. subsequent (to 4) scenes involving "the Rape of Los

6. a Japanese/American having to sell his car for an
    outrageously low price and a grinning Anglo writing
    out a small check

and so on and so on. What is a "rational" response? It
is to bring to mind as many such images as possible,
and, *most importantly*, to let them affect any conclusion
by weight of their statistical number.

Brooks fails to mention the catastrophic result of being
blinded by *one* of those instant moral judgments, blinded
to thousands of others that must also be considered.

And it takes time, and a lot of what we call "thought"
to properly weigh many thousands of equally valid
images, and to inform (or to reject) many of them
by rational predicates.


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