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4: FEB 1


  • Nadelhoffer, Thomas. "Introduction - Moral Responsibility has a Past - Has it a future?" (16)
  • Waller. Bruce. "Moral Responsibility is Morally Wrong" (15)
  • Rubric Training

Rubric Training

  • We will look at some writing by my Fall 2020 Ethics students. In this case, they were writing about a different chapter of Sapolsky, in which he lays out how evolution explains evolved behaviors. Here's the prompt for this 600 word writing exercise:
  • "Topic: In "The Evolution of Social Behavior," Robert Sapolsky reviews the resources in evolutionary theory for explaining social behaviors like cooperation and group behavior. In a 600 word essay, answer this question: "Drawing on resources from this chapter, how does an evolutionist explain how cooperation and other moral behaviors start and are sustained in a human community?" Give examples of processes which promote or impede moral behaviors. Be sure to consider how humans both fit and do not fit evolutionary patterns which apply to other animals. How does Sapolsky explain this?"
  • Browse the Assignment Rubric - Note the importance of sensitivity to the prompt.
  • Explain the structure of a peer assessed assignment. Note your SW1 coming soon on Waller. Review that. Writing (possible 21 points), peer review and assessment, my evaluation, back evaluation of your evaluator (additional 10 points).
  • Look at some peer reviews and scoring of Whale (10), Egret (12), Macaw (15). Then the writing.
  • Take 4 minutes to "audit" one to two pieces from this assignment. Note helpful and unhelpful peer comments. See if you agree with the assessments.

Nadelhoffer, Thomas. "Introduction - Moral Responsibility has a Past - Has it a future?"

  • Example of 9/11 crimes -- arguably launched retribution on big scale. War in Afghanistan and Iraq, Guantanamo. Man hunt and execution of bin Laden.
  • global skepticism about MR -- "no one is responsible" vs. local. External vs. internal (revisionism).
  • sources: theoretical argument vs. empirical evidence.
  • Summary of Waller reading. 1. Problems with "hitting back". 2. Connected to BJW. 3. Faith in self-making powers. Cross cultural analysis to show superiority of non-retributive system.
  • Summary of Nagel's Luck argument. Luck pincer. bt. constitutive and present luck, no MR. Caruso and the quarantine/public health model.
  • Summary of Lemos. While an event causal libertarian, Lemos argues that given the bad alternatives of abandoning MR, and the lack of certainty about free will, we should act as it we have it. This requires replying to the "hard heartedness" of punishment with desert.
  • Summary of Shaw. Legal reform arguments. Social protection approaches.
  • Summary of Coates: Background to Coates: "Manipulation arguments" for incompatibalism try to show that determinism compromises MR as much as manipulation. Original arguments from Mele and Perboom (p. 25). Soft compatibalists accept that manipulation compromises MR, but not that determinism does. Coates uses possible world semantics to make the distinction. The idea is that in a near possible world that is indeterministic, the agent would have the same desires and goals, and his behavior would be likee the determined self on this world.
  • Summary of Vargas: Instrumentalist - Revisionist. How does MR system benefit us ind/socially? Argues that MR-system is part of how we navigate social space and become a full member of a moral community. Revisionist side argues that we can jettison problematic folk psych theories or metaphysical underpinnings of MR and focus on justifying practices.

Waller. Bruce. "Moral Responsibility is Morally Wrong"

  • MR: atavistic holdover, obsolete, fules retribution, populist punitivism, undermines right, promotes shaming, distorts FW, blocks understanding of behavior, comforts privileged, afflicts the poor.
  • Example of libertarian theorist who ack. limits of theory, but advocates pretending. Waller considers this damning evidence, but we will read a more sympathetic accounting of this position.
  • Peter Van Inwagen considers MR denial "absurd" - character in philosophy, ND. Quote from SEP, "MR Skepticism, p. 39": "I have listened to philosophers who deny the existence of moral responsibility. I cannot take them seriously. I know a philosopher who has written a paper in which he denies the reality of moral responsibility. And yet this same philosopher, when certain of his books were stolen, said, “That was a shoddy thing to do!” But no one can consistently say that a certain act was a shoddy thing to do and say that its agent was not morally responsible when he performed it. (1983: 207) "An Essay on Free Will" (With all due respect to this famous philosopher, what's wrong with this answer?)
  • MRS (MR system): assumed, need excuses to leave it, "strike back desire" suggests with the "Larry, Mo and Curly" comment that MRS promoted hierarchy and dominance.
  • Central Park 5 case as example.
  • 3 features: desire to pass along pain, belief in just world (BJW), belief in self-making.
  • BJW related to "secondary victimization" (35). ex. blaming rape victims. But History of Philosophy (and C. Church) line up for BJW. But even Dennett, who denies BSW, defends the ultimate "fairness" of differences in capacity. "luck averages out in the long run" (Really? The Son Also Rises. Feeds ideology of "try harder"
  • p. 37- begins historical discussion of problem of evil and problem of free will. Renaissance - Lorenzo Valla, St. Paul, but then Pico della Mirandola - quote on our Protean nature. Special powers of self-making.
  • "people make their choices from characters that are self-made" Note the "humunculus" problem here. "Who is doing the making?" We must read the Nietzsche quote.
  • Dennett's version: "I have created and unleashed an agent who is myself". (note the sense in which that is intuitively true. "OMG, what have I done!" (Note concession at p. 39)
  • "folk metaphysics account of agency" -- transparency of csness, everyone has delib. reason. Cites standard view in psychology: System 1 and System 2.
  • "The skill and fortitude and optimism and confidence with which you "play the cards that were dealt you" are ultimately among the care that were dealt you."
  • Example of the "chronic cognizer" (Cassandra) and "cognitive miser" (Laura) --
  • Effects in CJ system: Foreshadows Caradino reading.