FEB 17

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12: FEB 17 (extra spring semester date #1)


  • Henrich, Joe. Prelude and Chapter 1, "WEIRD Psychology" from The WEIRDEST People in the World (37-57)


  • The Paradox of Moral Experience

Paradox of Moral Experience

  • The Paradox of Moral Experience involves a conflict between two "standpoints" for seeing values. 1 and 2 below:
  • 1. We experience our morality as beliefs we hold true. They are compelling to us in a way that leads us to expect others to find them compelling. We can be surprised or frustrated that others do not see our reasons as compelling. From this standpoint, our moral truths feel necessary rather than contingent.
  • Examples: "What's wrong with those (lib/con)s, don't they see X/Y?" "How can anyone think it's ok to act like that?")
  • 2. But, when we study morality as a functional system that integrates people who see and interpret the world differently, it is less surprising that we often do not find each others' reasoning or choices compelling. We can also see how groups of people might develop "values cultures" that diverge on entire sets of values (or, "cooperative toolkits") while still solving some of the same underlying problems that all human societies face. From this standpoint, the functions of morality are universal, but the specific strategies that individuals and cultures take seem very contingent. But, knowing this, why don’t we experience our own values as contingent?
  • Examples: Sociocentric / Individualist cultures, Specific histories that groups experience (Us vs. Europe vs. ...)
  • Roughly, 1 is normal experience, when you are "in your head". 2 reflects an attempt, through knowledge, to get a "third person" experience, to "get out of your head".
  • Likely evolutionary basis: Belief commitment (believing that our beliefs are true) is advantageous, but we also need to be open to belief revision through social encounters.
  • Some implications:
  • We have a bias against seeing others' moral beliefs as functional. Rather, we see them as caused, and often wrongheaded. (Italians are more sociocentric because their culture makes them that way. Rather than, sociocentric culture function to solve basic problems, just like individualistic ones.)
  • Different moral "matrices" are connected to our personality and identity. Areguing for the truth of your moral orientation (as opposed to focusing on issues) can be like telling someone they shouldn't be the people they are. (!)