Academic journal article The Journal of Mind and Behavior

Science and Sympathy: "Intuition" and the Ethics of Human Judgment

Academic journal article The Journal of Mind and Behavior

Science and Sympathy: "Intuition" and the Ethics of Human Judgment

Article excerpt

Decision makers whose judgments have the potential to cause harm have an obligation to exercise wise judgment. It is thus crucial that experts in judgment and decision making have something valuable to offer as guidance to those who strive to make wise judgments. Yet, after almost a half century of social science research on judgment and decision making, much still remains to be learned about how decision makers achieve wise judgments (Hammond, 2010). The main contention of this paper is that an improved understanding of wisdom in judgment requires a theory of integrated cognition, and that such a theory may differ from popular dual-system theories of human cognition (Keren and Schul, 2009).

The core concern is the philosophical question of whether there is something morally irresponsible or disingenuous about believing an assertion for which there is, or could be, no evidential support. Following James (1912), it will first be shown that it is neither desirable nor possible to omit from consideration unjustifiable aspects of judgment, and that wise judgment requires an ability to assume an attitude by which a decision maker becomes absorbed to a greater or lesser degree in the experience of those who may be affected by the consequences of judgment. Second, this attitude cannot stand alone, because there is nothing in it to prevent a decision maker from causing harm to others when the decision maker fails to apply relevant objective forms of knowing. Scientific thinking and an ability to lose oneself in the experience of another must be integrated in wise judgment. Third, the question of how decision researchers can contribute to an improved understanding of wise judgment will be addressed by examining theories of wisdom as integrated cognition (Bruner, 1986; Labouvie-Vief, 1990). Finally, Epstein's cognitive-experiential-self theory (Epstein, 2008; Epstein, Lipson, Holstein, and Huh, 1992) will be recommended as a basis for a better understanding of wisdom in judgment, but only if reinterpreted in terms of a single-system, rather than dual-system account ofjudgment (Hammond, 1996, 2010). A more fruitful approach to wise judgment may require abandoning the popular view that rational and experiential forms of knowing constitute opposing systems of thought.

The Moral Dimension of Judgment: Pascal's Wager and Clifford's Dictum

Pascal was an advocate of the complementarity of evidence and normative belief. In defense of belief, he formulated what is now famously called Pascal's Wager, whereby he argued that an analysis of risks and benefits of outcomes would show that one is justified in living as if God existed, even if one is not a true believer (Pascal, 1669/1958, Section IV, pp. 52-71). His argument was as follows. God either exists or He does not exist, and reason would be of no use in determining which the case is. A game is being played for which one has no choice but to place a wager, for withholding a wager is in effect to have already made a choice. For Pascal, himself a devote Christian, the reasonable choice seemed obvious, since wagering for the existence of God would lead either to an infinitely happy life or a finite loss, whereas wagering against God could lead to eternal damnation or a finite gain. If this is how it is, then certainly it would be prudent to heed Pascal's advice, and to wager in favor of the existence of God, for there would be everything to gain and little to lose. This reasoning is reminiscent of, and a precursor to, modern decision theory, which if the terms of Pascals argument were assumed to be true, would also conclude that a belief in God is the only rational decision.

The point is not so much whether Pascal's argument is valid, or even whether it is convincing. Rather, it is that Pascal's main goal was to persuade us that it was not irrational to believe or to continue to believe an assertion that lacks evidential support. But, consider a person who, though persuaded by Pascal's argument, cannot come to believe in God. …

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