Short Review – D. Narvaez. The Social-Intuitionist Model: Some Counter-Intuitions.

Narvaez, D. (2008). The Social-Intuitionist Model: Some Counter-Intuitions. In W. A. Sinnott-Armstrong (Ed.), Moral Psychology, Vol. 2, The Cognitive science of morality: Intuition and diversity


  • Praises Haidt’s corrective to the notion that we are essentially rational beings which make fully conscious decisions, agreeing that we are ‘largely influenced by unconscious systems’.
  • Also follows Haidt in acknowledging a greater role for socialisation on human cognition.
  • Critiques H for limiting ‘their discussion of moral judgment to the cognitive appraisal of the action or character of a person’. Claims that it is not clear how the SIT can address human cognition beyond this scope.
  • Disagrees that moral judgements are similar to aesthetic ones since they are more complex and draw on a wider range of information. Moral judgements often involve a whole gamut of issues ranging from principles, weighing up goals and objectives as well as consciously resigning from previously held beliefs – not just gut feelings.
  • Questions the neuroscientific basis of Haidt’s theory – from the fact that the existence of modules in the brain ‘are more rooted in creative thinking than in empirical evidence (Panksepp & Panksepp, 2000)’ to the fact that the frontal cortex is more something which is determined by experience rather than explicitly hard wired.
  • Rejects that enculturation and morality are one and the same, citing the case of MLK as someone who rejected the values of their culture in favour of a higher morality.


  • Perhaps does not give rationality and rational thought the credit it deserves – although fairer than Haidt.
  • A good point – especially since it is grounded in the findings of Panksepp & Panksepp).
  • Another fair criticism – I would also argue that he overlooks the possibility that these ‘intuitions’ are actually previously ‘learned’ rational judgements. In the same manner in which learners of a language overextend words beyond their concepts, we may also overextend prior rational judgements (e.g. concerning incest) to slightly different situations.
  • Undoubtedly true – yet Narvaez fails to show how we decide and deliberate between these (often) conflicting conscious and subconscious motivations – arguably a stage for the return of (with a deliberate capital R) Reason?
  • A valuable contribution – we might just as easily posit the existence of a soul
  • Another fair point but fails to show exactly why this is the case.

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