Emotions and Bombs

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A major criticism of Lawrence Kohlberg's theory on moral reasoning is that his model assumes that our behavior is influenced first by moral reasoning and then by our emotional reasoning. I find this very hard to believe because I think that when making decisions, the moral aspect is secondary to the emotional aspect. An example of where this is evident is with Sara Jane Olson. Sara was a former member of a terrorist organization in the 1970s. She had planned to bomb 2 LAPD police cars because they previously had killed members of her organization. She was not caught until almost 30 years after planting the bombs and it is at this time when Kohlberg's theory begins to fall apart. If moral reasoning had been the most important factor in decision making, then people would not have stood up for her because of how nice she had been later on in her life. Morally, it should make no difference whether a person was caught right after trying to kill 2 police officers and they had been in jail for almost 30 years or if the person didn't get caught until much later. In this case, however, because people became emotionally attached to her, they let their emotions guide their decisions instead of morals.


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Interesting post! I had never heard of this woman or the situation before, but it is a good example for morals versus emotions. I however think that the two go hand-in-hand when determining our influence. For example, when thinking about something I know is wrong, I have a feeling of guilt based on the idea of doing something morally incorrect. My moral reasoning and emotional reasoning influence each other to guide my behaviors.

Of course your argument stating that morals come into play also kind of does play into emotions (like kinc stated above me). For example, you said it wouldn't make a difference if they caught her right after the bombs, or 30 years after. But what if the 30 years were spent helping sick and needy people, or volunteering hundreds upon thousands of hours to charity work? What if she personally changed hundreds of lives for the better? At this point you could say morally she might have made up for it, while emotionally if you were one of the cop's family members you might want her to be prosecuted fully anyways.

Emotions are very hard to define, and it's also very difficult for people to be on the same wavelength on a certain subject. However, I think morals are very consistent.

This is an interesting story that I haven't heard of before and it is a good argument. But I also believe that they go hand-in-hand and influence each other like the poster above mentioned. Thanks for sharing the story.

That is super interesting! I'm glad that people will stand up for other people based on how they know them. It makes me appreciate loyalty. Also, this is a really interesting case because I wouldn't think it possible for people to stand up to someone who planted two bombs.

I agree with some previous comments that emotions and morals go hand-in-hand when making decisions. The people who stood up for Sara Jane Olson must have known her after she left the terrorist organization. They were basing their decision to support her on their own emotions and their current perception of her. It's hard to understand why nice people do immoral things, but since Ms. Olson wasn't caught soon after she killed the 2 police officers, she got a chance to start her life over, in a moral way, at least for a few decades.

I guess I wouldn't know how to handle this situation. I mean, after 30 years, people can change drastically. She could have just had teenage angst or not been able to control her anger for her friends killed. However, a bomb is one of the most dangerous situations you can get into and should be punished. I think that the problem is that the crime should have been solved many years earlier, and cases like this shouldn't be dropped until there is someone guilty.

I also had never heard about this case before either. Although I do think they should still face consequences for what they have done no matter how long ago it was. But also if in that time they were a good person and didn't do anything else wrong you could almost say that they don't need to be because really the reason for putting people in prison is to change their behaviors so they don't do that kind of thing again.

But does our moral reasoning change when we know more about the person? If people think she's a nice lady, and they've gotten to know her, then might their knowledge of her behavior impact their reasoning, outside of their emotional influence? When you know someone, you are less likely to make the fundamental attribution error. If I hear someone did something bad, I might say they need to be punished. But if I know they are a good person (let's say Mr. Rodgers had punched someone in the face) I'd reason that whoever the "victim" was deserved it.

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This page contains a single entry by stetl007 published on April 1, 2012 11:53 PM.

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