Elephant And The Rider Dichotomy

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Ancient and modern philosophers alike have all pondered the question of human morality. Are moral virtues— justice, for instance— things that are innate and unlearned, or are they something that must be taught? A modern take on the question of human nature is explored by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, who frequently discusses the metaphor of “the elephant and the rider” (Haidt, 4). In this analogy, the elephant represents the more unconscious, automatic areas of the human mind and the rider represents the conscious, controlled part. This dichotomy is used by Haidt numerous times to distiguish between things that are innate in humans and things that are learned. In his work entitled Nichomachean Ethics, the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle…show more content…
In other words, all humans possess the capabilities required to be virtuous, but it is not our natural instinct to be virtuous. However, it is not our natural instinct to eschew moral virtue either. Virtue is something that we must work to develop. Aristotle believed that virtuous habits can be cultivated through practice, and that it is imperative for one to practice virtues in moderation for these habits to be formed correctly. Aristotle also discusses how pleasure and pain factor into the virtue equation, stating that the pursuit of the former and avoidance of the later can have a significant impact on the cultivation of virtuous habits. These ancient views regarding habituation and the effect of pleasure and pain on virtue are relevant even today, and can be compared to the views of modern-day thinkers like…show more content…
Early on, Aristotle introduces his idea of “the doctrine of the mean,” which states that in order for good, virtuous habits to be formed, they must be practiced in moderation. The mean, according to Aristotle, is the middle ground between “deficiency” and “excess.” On page 20 of Nichomachean Ethics, Aristotle emphasizes his point by first discussing eating and exercise, stating that exercising or exercising too much (excessively) will lead to injury or other health problems, but not eating or exercising at all (deficiently) will cause a body to deteriorate. Aristotle then applies the idea of moderation to virtue, saying that “the same is true, then, of temperance, bravery, and the other virtues. For if… someone avoids and is afraid of everything, standing firm against nothing, he becomes cowardly; if he is afraid of nothing at all and goes to face everything, he becomes rash” (1104a20,

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