Emotional authenticity as a central basis of moral psychology

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If emotional inauthenticity in the form of confabulation with regard to moral issues is not a universal human condition, or at least is not always present in the same degree, then the dynamics of moral confabulation, as illustrated by the phenomenon of authoritarianism, should be able to teach us something by way of negative example about the motivation to pursue well-grounded ethical beliefs, which of course is a central question in moral psychology. My thesis is that what David Hume called a “love of truth” plays a more dominant role in moral psychology than either “fellow feeling” (natural empathy) or cooperative gamesmanship motivated indirectly by self-interest. I argue that the love of truth is grounded biologically in the exploratory drive, which is an independent and endogenous emotional system. This love of truth, along with our enhanced ability to universalize sentiments by seeking universal truth, is precisely what humans add to the natural mammalian tendency to selective altruism, and allows us to generalize altruism and think about issues like distributive justice. I explore the problem of the naturalistic fallacy in this regard, and also some recently examined neurophysiological correlates of the love of truth, by way of dispelling a reduction of altruism either to empathy with select individuals or to indirect egoism through “cooperation” for mutual self-interest.


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