FEB 18

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10: FEB 18


In-class content

  • Libertarianism as a moral and political theory

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.
  • 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.
  • 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".

Hibbing, Ch 6, Different Slates

  • Introductory stuff
  • Story of Phineas Gage -- 1848 -- early example of biology and personality change.
  • Oliver Sachs work.
  • 149: lobotomies.
  • 149: transitions to idea that lots of brain diffs are correlated to non-pathological conditions as well. (mention reading and face recognition)
  • 150: Some Parkinson's drugs can trigger behavioral changes like addictions and gambling.
  • Could some brain diffs correlate with political orientation?
  • I Feel it in my Gut -- psychophysiology - based on idea that we experience the world partly through our physiology. -- emotions as "action dispositions" -- we also trigger each other (story about ac and brother in law).
  • 151: physiology of anger, stress (digress on cortisol), polygraph.
  • 151: how emotional states are instantiated in neural and physiological activity.
  • CNS - central nervous system (head and spine) ANS - Autonomic Nervous system. Within ANS - SNS (sympathetic) "fight or flight" and PNS (parasympathetic) "rest and digest" activation reduces heart rate, sends blood to the gut.
  • 153: from Hibbing's lab: patterns of activation are pretty stable. Some people are agitated by dark rooms and loud noises. Same years later.
  • Politics on and in the Brain (two studies)
  • Kanai and Rees MRI study -- looking at ACC (anterior cingulate cortex) and amygdala. ACC activated by tasks involving error detection and conflict resolution -- results on 156: found correlation between liberalism and size of ACC. Bigger. However, amygdala (which is involved in face recog and emotion regulation) Conservatives have bigger amygdalas (156: more active in face recognition and threat detection (also C5) . (Mask wearing and conservatism.)
  • Note connection to BeanFest.
  • 157: caution in reading these results. Still, you could predict pol orientation from brain differences.)
  • Amodio 2007: looked to see if ACC activity is correlated to political ideology in "go/no go" task, specific brain wave identified that varied by pol. orientation.
  • Politics Makes Me Sweat
  • EDA studies -- electrodermal activity -- skin conductivity, especially as it varies with sweat. Simple way of measuring SNS activity. SNS activity also triggers focused attention. Largely unconscious (study).
  • Study from Hibbing in 2008 (161): EDA activity correlated to policy positions on "socially protective policies" (those involving a threat). "People more physiologically responsive to threat stimuli were more likely to support policies aimed as reducing or addressing threats to the social status quo" 161.
  • Also "disgust" reactions: greater for conservatives, especially around sex-issues, not taxes. Note sig: not a general skin response to policies you favor, only a cluster. (We will be covering this in Haidt soon.) 162: more on disgust -- nature's way of helping us avoid things (but not perfect).
  • EDA disgust studies line up with fartspray studies. Morality and smell are connected.
  • Hibbing EDA study 163: disaggregate data and its the sex-issues driving the SNS response.
  • EDA studies have shown increase activity around inter-racial interactions. Note: resisting preferential race policy needn't be racist, could be based on strong value on equal treatment. But it could be racist. Very hard to tell the diff in surveys since open racism isn't cool.
Practical issue: studies showing unconscious response to group affiliation. SNS activates in presence of politically relevant out-groups.
  • French study on response to out-groups. 165 Verbal reports non-racist, but EDA showed activation for non-white image. (Our bodies can betray us.) (Unconscious racism? At least unconscious activation of potential threat.)
  • Emory study 165 - application bias study. Test subjects with higher SNS activation show greater pref for white applicants.
In Your Face Politics
  • Studies assessing our ability to determine political orientation from faces (not including hair or dress!). Proxies for this judgement could include "emotional expressivity" (168), which Liberals score higher on.
  • Your face is communicating, pretty much all the time..... "the visual Twitter accounts of our nervous system"167 Not just communicating emotion, but group membership.
  • Looking for physiological markers of facial signaling or pol. orientation. Drawing on Berkeley Expressivity Questionnaire (validated instrument correlating expressivity and liberalism). (Note that this fact pattern would explain ability to recognize group affiliation.)
  • Study involving the facial muscle corrugator supercilii (the eybrow furrowing muscle). Females of all pol. orientations more expressive than males. Liberal males about as expressive as females. (Apologies to macho liberal guys!) Conservative males were distinctive for lack of emotional expressivity.

Small Group Discussion on Physio-politics

  • Are you surprised by this research? (both Hibbing C5 and C6) Do you think people generally believe they can conceal their political group affiliation? If you do, does that make you skeptical about this research?
  • If "physio-politics" is real, then we're all having somewhat different physiological reactions to news, issues, and each other.
  • Start by sharing anecdotes of times you have noticed how people in a social setting (if you can remember those!) react physically (and facially and non-verbally) when politically charged topics come up. Even generalizations are good to start.
  • Q1: What are the implications of physio-politics for perpetuating division and lack of cooperation? How do you keep physio-politics from having a bad influence on social cooperation? Consider skills and techniques for preventing this. Students who have friends with diverse political orientations may have experience negotiating these differences. Also, you may draw from family life for anecdotes, as family members do not all share the same political orientation. What should we say or do to keep us all from "sweating" over politics? Do we have an inability in this culture to even acknowledge political difference overtly? Or is it more understandable now that we don't?
  • Q2: Do you see these socio-physical mechanisms we appear to get from our natural history primarily as posing "problems to solve" or primarily as "resources for solving problems"?

Libertarianism as a moral and political theory

  • (US conservative) Libertarianism: fundamental concern with human freedom understood as avoidance of coercion; minimal state; some morals legislation - often anti-abortion; no redistribution of income or wealth. Strong concern with equality of liberty and avoidance of oppression, understood as forced labor.
  • Basic intuition: taxation (beyond minimal state functions) is a form of forced labor. Only legitimate for a narrow range of goals that we mutually benefit from, such as defense.
  • Facts about concentration of wealth: 1% have 1/3 of wealth, more than bottom 90%. :*objections to redistribution: utilitarian and rights-based. Could there be forms of forced labor that come from inequality?
  • (US Liberal) Libertarianism: Also focused on freedom, especially regarding respect for identity differences and private behaviors (favors decrim/legalization of drugs), but retains some of the original left-wing concerns of socialism. More material interpretation of rights.
  • Some of these notes based on Sandel.
  • Libertarianism in Six Minutes (notes)
  • Historical look: 17th century resistance to oppressive conditions. “Rent seekers”. Payne. Similar to socialism and capitalism, a view about what is fair. Original Libertarians were "Libertarianism originated as a form of left-wing politics such as anti-authoritarian and anti-state socialists like anarchists,[6] especially social anarchists,[7] but more generally libertarian communists/Marxists and libertarian socialists." (from wiki).
  • US libertarianism closer to free market capitalism vs. European, which is more socialist. Assumption of natural harmony among productive people with liberty of contract. Laws limited to protection and protection of natural rights. (Non-aggressive principle). No regulation of market. Social spending. Taxes are presumed to be coercive and confiscatory. "Night watchman" state. (Not so close to anarchy, except consistent with strong sense of public order.)
  • Problems identified in Thought Monkey youtube:
  • No libertarian candidates on the national stage in two party state.
  • No successful libertarian states. No one's tried.
  • Monopolies, poverty. Bleeding out in the street.
  • Non-aggression principle unlikely in free market. Market can be quite aggressive. Putting people out of their homes. Eviction.
  • Favoring economic freedom assumes it correlates with happiness. (Mention Easterlin and Happiness studies)
  • Environmental regulation seems necessary.
  • Ethics not realized in the market perfectly. Lack of information transparency.
  • A puzzle for philosophers on a Thursday afternoon.
  • How can a political/moral philosophy emerge from left-wing politics and form a "variant" in the US that is so much more conservative than the original?