Here, a central snip of some of the text:
Moral judgments are like [this: You just know.] They are rapid intuitive decisions and involve the emotion-processing parts of the brain.Hooray, David Brooks. And hooray Born to be Good, a book that Brooks does not cite, but which gets into precisely these issues. This blog has three posts about Dasher Kiltner's book: (1), (2) and (3).
... What shapes moral emotions in the first place? The answer has long been evolution, but in recent years there’s an increasing appreciation that evolution isn’t just about competition. It’s also about cooperation within groups. Like bees, humans have long lived or died based on their ability to divide labor, help each other and stand together in the face of common threats. Many of our moral emotions and intuitions reflect that history. We don’t just care about our individual rights, or even the rights of other individuals. We also care about loyalty, respect, traditions, religions. We are all the descendents of successful cooperators.
Brooks does cite, and quote, Jonathan Haidt, a academician who, similar to Kiltner, also embraces "positive" evolution ideas. [My meat- and virtual-space friend Nagarjuna is a big fan of Haidt and is currently reading his book The Happiness Hypothosis.] Here is Brooks's citation of Haidt
:... 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.”[Haidt's words above come from 2001, from a book or paper I cannot fully ID. The 2003 book Handbook of affective sciences uses a paper Haidt wrote where Haidt quotes himself, with the ellipsis that Brooks uses, citing Haidt 2001 & Wilson 1993. Hmmm.]
Brooks ends his column with these fine words:
The rise and now dominance of this emotional approach to morality is an epochal change. ... it should ... challenge the very scientists who study morality. They’re good at explaining how people make judgments about harm and fairness, but they still struggle to explain the feelings of awe, transcendence, patriotism, joy and self-sacrifice, which are not ancillary to most people’s moral experiences, but central. The evolutionary approach also leads many scientists to neglect the concept of individual responsibility and makes it hard for them to appreciate that most people struggle toward goodness, not as a means, but as an end in itself.I love that last half sentence: "...most people struggle toward goodness, not as a means, but as an end in itself."