Not Robin Hanson or Tyler Cowen
By Arnold Kling
But Jonathan Haidt sounds like them.
The answer, according to Mercier and Sperber, is that reasoning was not designed to pursue the truth. Reasoning was designed by evolution to help us win arguments. That’s why they call it The Argumentative Theory of Reasoning. So, as they put it, and it’s here on your handout, “The evidence reviewed here shows not only that reasoning falls quite short of reliably delivering rational beliefs and rational decisions. It may even be, in a variety of cases, detrimental to rationality. Reasoning can lead to poor outcomes, not because humans are bad at it, but because they systematically strive for arguments that justify their beliefs or their actions. This explains the confirmation bias, motivated reasoning, and reason-based choice, among other things.”
Science works very well as a social process, when we can come together and find flaws in each other’s reasoning. We can’t find the problems in our own reasoning very well. But, that’s what other people are for, is to criticize us. And together, we hope the truth comes out.
Later, he writes,
The two major ethical systems that define Western philosophy were developed by men who either had Asperger’s, or were pretty darn close. For Jeremy Bentham, the principal founder of utilitarianism, the case is quite strong.
His point here is that systemetizers have low empathy, which leads them to ethical reasoning that cuts against the ethical intuition of most people.
I believe that morality has to be understood as a largely tribal phenomenon, at least in its origins. By its very nature, morality binds us into groups, in order to compete with other groups.
Of course, read the whole thing.