Our research on emotions and moral intuitions has left us with two puzzles. First, Why do feelings of disgust (and perhaps other emotions) moral intuitions? (And why do we feel disgust in response to moral transgressions?) Second, Why do patterns in moral intuitions reflect legal principles humans are typically unaware of?
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Why do feelings of disgust (and perhaps other emotions) influence moral intuitions? And why do we feel disgust in response to moral transgressions? (This puzzle arises from Moral Intuitions and Emotions: Evaluating the Evidence.)
The second part of the puzzle is nicely articulated by Chapman & Anderson (2013, p. 317):
‘What is the function of moral disgust? One of the most intriguing features of moral disgust is that it is not clear why it exists at all. Why should an emotion originating in defense against toxicity and disease be triggered by a social stimulus? The mystery deepens when we consider that human beings already have a social emotion that seems tailored to respond to moral wrongdoing, namely, anger […]. Why then do we feel disgust in response to moral transgressions?’
We start from the question, What do adult humans compute that enables their moral intuitions to track moral attributes (such as wrongness)?
We have seen two candidate answers:
Each view is a response to a different puzzle grounded in an interesting, empirically-motivated theory. But neither seems fully able to explain all the puzzles.
Our task is to develop a theory that can solve the puzzles, is theoretically coherent and empirically motivated, and generates novel testable predictions.
According to Sinnott-Armstrong et al. (2010, p. 256), moral intuitions are ‘strong, stable, immediate moral beliefs.’