Finalist Jonathan Moniz

The rider and the elephant equates the soul to a computer

One of Haidts’ theories in the book is that of the elephant and rider, a metaphor with which he attempts to delve into the motivations and workings of the human soul to unlock its’ mysteries. In my singular opinion, he fails miserably, because he equates the workings of the human soul to a system that consists of only reasoning and intuition. The intuitive elephant, the animal that is responsible for our emotions and basic morals, is not directed or controlled by the

rational rider but is instead using the rider to direct the best way to establish its goals. So he

insists that our basic morals and the ways in which we view the world are permanently engrained in our intuition, and not a product of rational thought or the analysis of our own emotion.

To explain this metaphor and why I disagree with it, Haidt, with his elephant and rider

metaphor, essentially reduces the human soul to a computer. How much do you know about computers? Well, first, you have the tools of the computer: the RAM, the hard drive, the operating system. These are all preset, and these could be likened to Haidts’ elephant. Haidt insists that because all these systems are preset, this determines your hardware and software that you can use and upgrade to: essentially, the tools as intuition directly control what emotions (the hardware) and rational thoughts (the software) you can have. I disagree with this, because as a human, I know I’m much more complex than that. If humans were all so simple as to have their motivations wrapped up in a single, intuitive mind: the various branches of psychology would never exist, and our problems would be easily solved. I know this is wrong, simply because I can change myself, and understand. By rational thinking, I can understand others, problem solve, change myself, and motivate myself to become a better person. These aren’t natural impulses part of my intuition, these are a result of my rational thoughts and processes.

If Haidt was right, essentially no one would ever change. Our thoughts and feelings would mean nothing, because they couldn’t change.

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