This is part of my series on “How to Make a Christian“. In that post, I illustrated what an adult’s modular mind looks like before they become a Christian (seen to the right). This post elaborates on the inner workings of our Moral Minds. Keep in mind that the Tribal Mind supplies the Moral Mind with classifications of how to value the various people addressed in our moral calculations (thus the arrow).
In the diagram below I have enlarged the Moral Mind to illustrate some of its inner workings. You will note that, like the mind itself (above), this module is also composed of sub-modules. These modules often work rather independently of each other (except where arrows show otherwise) and thus our minds are often divided when it comes to moral behavior.
- Utilitarian Ethics: “The greatest good for the greatest number.” Here, the outcome matters. (Consequentialism)
- Deontological Ethics: “Do to others what you would have them do to you.” (and similar rules). Here, the action matters. (Kant, Natural Law)
- Virtue Ethics: “The virtuous person is the moral person.” Here, the person’s heart is what matters.
You will note that in my model, these three calculators (and others) are working simultaneously in the person’s mind. This illustrates part of the reason why philosophers have not reached agreement on morality. The calculators (sub-modules) have all biologically evolved to solve different sorts of behavior decisions (moral choices) depending on different environmental settings and thus they have contradictory outputs at times. Thus Philosophers and Theologians, trying to build one, simple, coherent intellectual system, run into the problem of trying to reconcile all these into one consistent. systematic, prescriptive ethical system. Please note: Two other common normative ethical systems not captured in this cute illustration above are: 1) Ethical Egoism and 2) Contractualism.
My model is nowhere near complete nor accurate but instead is just my attempt to sketch for you some of the complexity that is inherent in addressing morality. Oh yes, please note: No gods, spirits or ghosts where used or sacrificed in the making of this model. But I will be later discussing how these sub-modules are commandeered to serve spirits and gods.
To finish this post, let me include below this SUPERB video by Andy Thomson from the 2009 Atheist Alliance International Conference where he explains this issue of contradictory moral modules in the mind. My model basically agrees with much of what is in Dr. Thompon’s lecture. Dr. Thomson has a private practice of general psychiatry and forensic psychiatry as well as serving as a staff psychiatrist at the University of Virginia’s Institute of Law, Psychiatry and Public Policy and also at the Counseling and Psychological Services of the University of Virginia Student Health Services. He has a B.A. from Duke University, and MD from University of Virginia School of Medicine. Enjoy !