Spring 2014 Ethics Course Lecture Notes A

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Return to Ethics

JAN 14

Course Introduction

1. Call roll. Brief student introductions.

2. Introduction to the course topic.

3. Introduction to the course websites.

4. Turning Point clicker technology.

5. Ereserves, Grading Schemes, and the Prep Cycle.

JAN 16

Ariely, Why We Lie

  • Research on honesty with the "matrix task"
  • Shredder condition
  • Payment condition
  • Probability of getting caught condition
  • Distance of payment condition
  • Presence of a cheater condition
  • Priming with 10 commandments or signature on top of form
  • Implications

Tips on How to report study findings

  • observational, survey, experimental
  • study setup: for observational: who were the test subjects, what were they asked to do; for survey: what instrument was used, to whom was it given?
  • what conditions were tested?
  • what was the immeditate result?
  • what was the significance or inference to be made from the results?

JAN 21

Haidt, Chapter 1,"The Divided Self"

  • opening story
  • Animals in Plato's metaphor for soul; contemporary metaphors. metaphors.
  • Mind vs. Body
  • Left vs. Right
  • New vs. Old
  • Controlled vs. Automatic
  • Failures of Self-control [[1]]
  • Haidt's "disgust" studies.
  • Add in sociological dimension to consider values as socially instantiated.

Cooper, Chapter 1, "Intro to Philosophical Ethics"

  • p. 3: definition of ethics; in terms of value conflict
  • some terminology
  • Zimbardo; implications for ethics

JAN 23

  • Group exercise: Describe some values from your personal and family background that are quasi-moral or moral.
  • Examples: removing shoes at the door, allowing urine to stay in the toilet, particularity about the cleanliness of tables at restaurants.

Haidt, The Righteous Mind, Intro and Chapter 1

  • Moral reasoning as a means of finding truth vs. furthering social agendas.
  • Harmless taboo violations: eating the dog / violating a dead chicken.
  • Brief background on developmental & moral psychology: nativists, empiricists, rationalists
  • Piaget's rationalism: kids figure things out for themselves if they have normal brains and the right experiences. "self-constructed" - alt to nature/nurture.
  • Kohlberg's "Heinz story" - note problems, p. 9.
  • Turiel: kids don't treat all moral rules the same: very young kids distinguish "harms" from "social conventions"
  • Haidt's puzzle about Turiel: other dimensions of moral experience, like "purity" and "pollution" seem operative at young ages and deep in culture (witches). Found answers in Schweder's work.
  • Schweder: sociocentric vs. individualistic cultures. Interview subjects in sociocentric societies don't make the conventional/non-conventional distinction.
  • Point of harmless taboo violations: pit intuitions about norms and conventions against intuitions about the morality of harm. Showed that Schweder was right. The morality/convention distinction was culturally variable.

JAN 28

Cooper, Chapter 5: Cognitive and Moral Development

  • Review of Piaget's stages of cognitive development:
  • Sensorimotor, Symbolic, Concrete, Formal
  • Critics: missing variability from rich vs. poor environments. (Vygotsky)
  • Importance of Formal Operational level for "breaking" with situational control.
  • Kohlberg's stages of moral development
  • Preconventional, Conventional, Postconventional
  • Application to My Lai massacre

Singer, Chapter 1, "About Ethics," from Practical Ethics

  • Ethics and religion
  • Ethics and relativism -- different versions of relativism:
  • Ethics varies by culture: true and false, same act under different conditions may have different value. Examples?
  • Marxist relativism and non-relativism
  • Problems for relativists: consistency across time, polls could determine ethics
  • Problems for the subjectivist: making sense of disagreement
  • Singer: Ok to say the values aren't objective like physics, but not sensible to deny the meaningfulness of moral disagreement. Ethical reasoning.
  • Singer's view (one of several major positions): p. 10
  • The sorts of reasons that count as ethical: universalizable ones.
  • "Interests" in utilitarian thought

JAN 30

Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Book 1

  • First: What do ancient Greeks mean by "virtue" (arete).
  • Politics as the master science: its end: happiness
  • Defects of the life of pleasure, honor, even virtue as the meaning of happiness. Defect of money-making.
  • Section 7: argument for happiness as the final end of life.
  • something not desired for the sake of something else: happiness.
  • But what is happiness? Search for the function of man to find the answer to the nature of happiness.
  • Nutrition and growth?
  • Perception?
  • Activity of the soul implying a rational principle, in accordance with virtue? (perfective activities)
  • Other characteristics needed: complete life, active life.
  • Section 13: Aristotle's tripartite division of the soul:
  • Rational
  • Appetitive (desiring) (partly rational)
  • Vegetative
  • Summing up:

Grading Schemes


Haidt, Chapter 2, "The Intuitive Dog and Its Rational Tail"

  • Philosophy's "rationalist delusion"
  • 30: Plato, Hume, and Jefferson
  • moralism (Anti-nativism): reactions against bad nativism, like Social Darwinism, 60s ideology suggesting that we can liberate ourselves from our biology and traditional morality (as contraception appeared to).
  • Nativism (natural selection gives us minds "preloaded" with moral emotions) in the 90s: Wilson, de Waal, Damasio
  • Evolutionary Psychology in moral psychology
  • Roach-juice
  • Soul selling
  • Harmless Taboo violations: Incest story; Cadaver nibbling; compare to Kohlberg's Heinz stories (reasoning vs. confounding) -- evidence that the elephant is talking.
  • Ev. psych. research outside moral psychology
  • Wasson card selection test: seeing that vs. seeing why
  • Rider and Elephant
  • Important to see Elephant as making judgements (processing info), not just "feeling"
  • 45: Elephant and Rider defined
  • Social Intuitionist Model


Haidt, Chapter Three, "Elephants Rule"

  • Personal Anecdote: your inner lawyer
  • Priming studies:
  • "take" "often" -- working with neutral stories also
  • Research supporting "intuitions come first"
  • 1. Brains evaluate instantly and constantly
  • Zajonc on "affective primacy"-- applies to made up language
  • 2. Social and Political judgements intuitive
  • flashing word pairs with dissonance: "flower - happiness" vs. "hate - sunshine" (affective priming)
  • Implicit Association Test
  • flashing word pairs with political terms. causes dissonance.
  • Todorov's work extending "attractiveness" advantage to snap ju-- note: Dissonance is pain.'
  • judgements of competence. note speed of judgement (59)
  • 3. Bodies guide judgements
  • Fart Spray exaggerates moral judgements (!)
  • Zhong: hand washing before and after moral judgements.
  • Helzer and Pizarro: standing near a sanitizer strengthens conservatism.
  • 4. Psychopaths: reason but don't feel
  • 5. Babies: feel but don't reason
  • Theory behind startle response studies in infants
  • helper and hinderer puppet shows
  • reaching for helper puppets
  • 6. Affective reactions in the brain
  • Josh Greene's fMRI studies of Trolley type problems
  • When does the elephant listen to reason?
  • Friends... The Importance of Friends

FEB 11

Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, Book II

  • Virtue not possessed by nature, but potential.
  • Role of habit (ethos --> ethike) compare to other things we need training for.
  • Note: Moral virtue continuous with other kinds of human excellence (driven by reason).
  • Section 2: Already talking about your "virtue" as something to be nurture, avoiding excess/deficiency
  • Section 3: Observing our responses, pleasure and pain (note connection with the "valence" of intuition)
  • Objects of choice and avoidance: the noble, advantageous, and pleasant vs. the base, injurious, painful.
  • Section 4: Differences between virtue and the arts. Virture requires:
  • Act chosen in knowledge
  • Chosen by the agent
  • For its own sake
  • Proceeding from character. Not only the right thing, but done in the right way.
  • Section 5: Virtue defined as state of character rather than passions or faculties (note argument)
  • Virtue in the soul: passsions, faculties or states of character.
  • Virtue makes its object excellent.
  • Section 6:
  • Virtue as "state of character concerned with choice," choosing a mean (relative to a rational principle) that is also an excellence
  • Courage as the mean between fear and foolhardiness
  • Generosity (liberality)
  • Temperance
  • Proper pride
  • Anger (?)
  • Wittiness (vs. Buffoonery and Boorishness)
  • Assessing Aristotle's view

Aristotle, Book III, Nichomachean Ethics

  • Distinguishing the "voluntary" from the "involuntary" (chracteristics and cases)
  • Acting from compulsion
  • Acting "in ignorance" vs. "out of ignorance"
  • Choice, more specific than the voluntary, distinguished from wish
  • Deliberation
  • Aristotle on the topic, "No man errs willingly" (cf. Plato/Socrates) - "becoming wiked"
  • Courage: not just about fear. Noble ends.
  • Temperance: exemptions for pleaures and activities informed by reason.

FEB 13

Haidt, Chapter 4, "Vote for Me (Here's Why)"

  • Ring of Gyges
  • Tetlock: accountability research
  • Exploratory vs. Confirmatory thought
  • Conditions promoting exploratory thought
  • 1) knowing ahead of time that you'll be called to account;
  • 2) not knowing what the audience thinks;
  • 3) believing that the audience is well informed and interested in truth or accuracy.
  • Leary's research on self-esteem importance- "sociometer" -- non-conscious level mostly.
  • Confirmation bias
  • Wasson again -- number series
  • Deann Kuhn -- 80: We are horrible at theorizing (requiring exploratory thought)....
  • David Perkins research on reason giving
  • Can I believe it? vs. Must I believe it?
  • (section 5) Application to political beliefs:
  • Does selfish interest or group affiliation predict policy preferences?
  • Drew Westen's fMRI research on strongly partisan individuals. dlPFC.
  • Good thinking as an emergent property.
  • Statement, 90, on H's view of political life in light of this way of theorizing. read and discuss.

Small Group Work

  1. Identify situations in which you were with people deliberating together and things went particularly well or badly (That is, in retrospect, you judged the quality of group deliberation as relatively good vs. bad.) How useful is the evidence in this chapter in thinking about that difference?
  2. Reread Haidt's statement about political life. What does it imply about political differences? What would it mean to engage in politics in light of the research he is working from?

FEB 18

de Waal, intro & p. 5-21

  • Veneer Theory -
  • Theory of Mind - (xvi)
  • Clue from intro about how commentators will respond: not as veneer theorists, but to question continuity between moral emotions and "being moral".
  • Homo homini lupus
  • Thesis: No asocial history to humans. And note: unequal in competition for status.
  • Distinction between: 1) seeing morality as a "choice" humans made; and 2) morality as "outgrowth" of social instincts.
  • T. H. Huxley: gardener metaphor. (contra Darwin, who includes morality in evolution.)
  • Freud: civilization as renunciation of instinct.
  • Dawkins: genes are selfish, but in the end we can break with them.
  • Veneer Theory: "Scratch an altruist and watch a hypocrite bleed"
  • Robert Wright (contemporary evolutionist): morality as mask for selfishness.
  • Evolutionary "selfishness" vs. moral "selfishness" -- role of intention. Seem opposed, but major thesis for de Waal is that they are not: a "selfish" evolutionary process can produce altruism as a strategy.
  • Darwin influenced by Adam Smith
  • Westermark: observation of camel's revenge.
  • Chimps punish and seek revenge also. Engage in reconciliation.
  • "reciprocal altruism"
  • "moral emotions" p. 20

FEB 20

Small group work: The phenomenology of sympathy and empathy

  • Consider the basic definition of sympathy and empathy and then look at some examples from your experience. Does sympathy and empathy involves feeling the same feelings as another person? If not, what is the difference?

de Waal, "Morally Evolved," 21-42

  • Empathy -- posits more complex forms (moral emotions) from simpler (ex. emotional contagion)
  • Evidence in primates of simple emotions:
  • comforting, response to distress (25) -- from emotional contagion to empathy.
  • sympathy defined (26) -- empathy is broader "changing places in fancy" (Adam Smith)
  • Rhesus monkeys won't shock each other (29)
  • Anecdotes:
  • How does Ladygina-Kohts get her monkey off the roof?
  • Kuni and the starling
  • Krom's helping behavior with the tires "targeted helping"
  • Binit Jua, zoo gorilla, rescues child.
  • Consolation behavior in apes (chimps and apes and gorillas, but not monkeys)
  • de Waal study on post aggression comforting contacts (34)
  • Why not monkeys? Self-awareness level -- mirror self-recognition (MSR) in apes. Correlates with children.
  • de Waal's "Russian Doll" metaphor: from emotional contagion to cognitive empathy.
  • mirror neurons, muscle contractions
  • defintion of empathy (finally!) at 39 (roughly, all of the ways that one individual's emotional state affects anothers') and 41: def of cognitive empathy -- targeted helping, distinction bt self/other.

FEB 25

de Waal, Morally Evolved, Part 3

  • Reciprocity and Fairness
  • testing hypotheses about food sharing in chimps "spontaneous services" (inc. grooming)
  • competing hypotheses: good mood sharing vs. partner-specific reciprocity (favoring those who previously cooperated)
  • evidence favored latter hypothesis.
  • studying fairness in terms of reward expectation or "inequity aversion"
  • limits to monkey fairness: no sharing between rich and poor.
  • Mencious and "reciprocity"
  • Community Concern: evolution in human thought to expand circle of moral concern.
  • Dark side of morality. Groupish behavior.
  • Mention of Haidt: intuitionism compatible with de Waal's viewpoint.
  • Alien thought experiment. sort of like a trolley problem.
  • The Beethoven Error

FEB 27

Discuss Mid-term

Korsgaard, "Morality and the Distinctiveness of Human Action"

  • On Veneer Theory
  • not coherent: views morality as contraint of self-interest maximization
  • Do we really pursue our self-interests (ha!)
  • Not coherent concept for a social animal as complex as us.
  • Morality not constraints on self-interest, but defining of a way of life. treating as ends/means. What could latter mean?
  • On continuity/discontinuity of ethics with evolution
  • we're more like apes than people think, but there's still a deep discontinuity
  • we're "damaged" in some way that suggests a break with nature.
  • de Waal is like some sentimentalists who incorrectly infer intention from behavior. Embarks on analysis of different levels or meanings of purpose or intention.
  • range or scale: anything with "function organization" can be said to have purposes (ex. p. 107)
  • next stage: perceptual animal's movements have purposes, but those purposes are not "before the mind"
  • next stage: animal that has purposes "before the mind" and can "entertain thoughts about how to achieve them" -- closer to being an agent. Still, at this level there is no choosing. "the animals purposes are given to him by his affective state"
  • Is the capuchin "protesting the unfairness" or "angling for a grape"
  • next stage: Asking "Is wanting this a good reason for pursuing it?" (justification)
  • normative self-government 112: we choose not only means to ends but ends themselves
  • 117: "not a mere matter of degree"


Singer, "Morality, Reason, and the Rights of Animals," p. 140-151

cites his own work arguing for biological basis of morality. but...
  • de Waal too harsh with Veneer Theory
  • Roots of ethics in social/evolved nature, but not all ethics is derived from evolved nature as social animals
  • Darwin quote from Descent of Man
  • De Waal passage on "disinterestedness," impartial spectator, universalization
  • when de Waal notes the groupish aspect of our morality (the yin/yang aspect) and the "fragility" of impartiality, he's not so far from veneer talk.
  • 145: It's reason that lets us make the leap to impartiality. Reason comes from nature and evolution, but it's not specifically tied to sociality. 145 (consider intuitive evidence for this.)
  • 146: follow talk about reason, takes us to places not related to survival/fitness
  • Singer objects to de waal's use of trolley problem: Singer's reading of the J.D. Greene fMRI research on Trolley problem: shows that getting the right answer in the second condition (pushing the big dude) requires overcoming emotion. 149: "automatic emotional responses" (not judgements)
  • Kant - reason over emotion

MAR 18

Haidt, Chapter 5, "Beyond WEIRD Morality"

  • WEIRD morality is the morality of Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic cultures
  • just as likely to be bothered by taboo violations, but more likely to set aside feelings of disgust and allow violations
  • only group with majority allowing chicken story violation.
  • "the weirder you are the more likely you are to see the world in terms of separate objects, rather than relationships" "sociocentric" moralities vs. individualistic moralities
  • framed-line task 97
  • Shweder's anthropology: ethics of autonomy, community, divinity 99-100
  • claims schweder's theory predicts responses on taboo violation tests
  • ethic of divinity: body as temple vs. playground
  • vertical dimension to values. explains reactions to flag desecration, piss Christ, thought exp: desecration of liberal icons.
  • Discussion questions:
  • Are WEIRD moral cultures more rational and therefore "better" (embodying a most distinctively human morality, for example, following Singer & Koorsgaard?)
  • How WEIRD are you?

Haidt, Chapter 6, "Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind"

  • explaining moral diversity. argument against the reductive project of philosophical ethics
  • "the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors"
  • Enlightenment thought, two sources of transcendence: God & Reason
  • Hume represents a third enlightenment option: Nature
  • Austism, Bentham (utlitarianism), Kant (deontology)
  • Avoiding bad evolutionary theory or evolutionary psychology: "just so stories"
  • Modularity in evolutionary psychology: original vs. current triggers
  • See chart, p. 125

MAR 20

  • Evolutionary / Cultural divergence.
  • Model for relationship between CFLAS --> Mechanisms making reciprocal altruism possible --> Social Values matrix

Haidt, Chapter 7

  • Homo economicus vs. Homo sapiens -- column a b -- shows costs of sapiens psych. commitments "taste buds"
  • Note on Innateness
  • Notes on each foundation:
  • Care/Harm -- ev.story of asymmetry m/f, attachment theory. current triggers.
  • Fairness/Cheating -- Trivers and reciprocal altruism. "tit for tat" ; equality vs. proportionality
  • Loyalty/Betrayal -- tribalism. liberals experience low emphasis here.
  • Authority/Subversion -- hierarchy in animal and human society; liberals experience this differently also.
  • Sanctity/Degradation -- Miewes-Brandes horror. Mill. ev.story: omnivores challenge is to spot foul food and disease (pathogens, parasites). (Being an omnivore is messy. One should not be surprised to find that vegetarians often appreciate the cleanliness of their diet.) neophilia and neophobia. Images of chastity in religion and public debate. understanding culture wars.
  • Group Discussion: Critical Evaluation of Moral Foundations Theory as explanation of moral and political difference. Is it a problem that we don't experience our moral and political life this way?

MAR 25

Haidt, Chapter 8: The Conservative Advantage

  • Hadit's critique of Dems
  • The MFQ
  • Mill vs. Durkheim
  • More on Proportionality
  • 6th Moral foundation: liberty and oppression
  • Evolutionary story about hierarchy, p. 170. Example from Chimps: revolutions "reverse dominance hierarchies" are possible. Introduces strategy at the outset.
  • note the same capacities as needed for reciprocal atruism, but applied to dominance relationships.
  • fairness not completely captured by reciprocal altruism, which is about equality (of exchange).
  • Pubic Goods games.
  • Without "memory" behavior approximates theoretical predictions. We're not idiots.
  • 84% pay to punish, punishment supported public good.

Sandel, Libertarianism

  • Facts about concentration of wealth
  • Free Market philosophy
  • Redistribution and self-ownership
  • First four objections
  • Jordan is Lucky.
  • Markets in kidneys, assisted suicide, consensual canabalism (again!)

MAR 27

Sandel, Utilitarianism

  • life boat case: They eat Parker(more canabalism!) - similar to Trolley Problem.
  • Is this a case of costs vs. benefit? How does it come out?
  • Contrast in Approaches to Justice: consequences vs. right and duties.
  • Bentham's defense of the principle of utility.
  • Workhouse for poor
  • Panopticon
  • (also the start of social welfare statistics)
  • Objection 1: Rights are primary. (develop argument on board)
  • Case of torture under extreme conditions. New condition: torturing terrorist's daughter.
  • Objection 2: Is there a common currency for comparison of pleasures? (develop argument on board)
  • Case: Phillip Morris in Czech Republic.
  • Case: Ford Pinto '70s.
  • Issue: Does life span enter into value. Older cost less.
  • Empirical approach: Actual cost we pay in driving fatalities.
  • Whose problem is it?
  • Small Group Assessment: How should we value human life in cases involving compensation or investment (e.g. in safer highways) given that we have a deep intuition that lives are not objects to be bought and sold?
  • Mill and the defense of Liberty
  • Progressivism: liberty promotes happiness over the long term. (Update on desirability of "liberty" and self-determination as a political ideal.)
  • Small Group assessment: Is liberty just another cultural ideology? What should our attitude be toward socio-centric societies that regard it as a threat to their culture?
  • Can a Utilitarian admit difference in kind between pleasures?
  • Doctrine of the qualified judge.
  • Other approaches to human difference.
  • Sandel's claim that appeal to ideal of human dignity independent of wants and desires is an inconsistency.


Sandel, Chapter 5: Immanuel Kant


  • Contrast with Utility. Kant bases moral value on idea of "rational being" (challenge is to give this content from further study of his theory).
  • Analysis of Freedom
  • real freedom can't just be choosing preferences external to me (heteronomous).
  • neg/positive freedom
  • choosing best means to end vs. choosing end (but what would that mean?)
  • Thinking about Motives
  • Caculating Shopkeeper; incentive for good behavior.
  • Can we have a duty to preserve our lives? (compare to libertarian or Millian society) Class discussion
  • How do motives become more visible? moral misanthrope, spelling bee hero

Main Theory

  • Contrast so far:
  • duty / inclination
  • autonomy / heteronomy - brings in strong notion of free will (p. 117)
  • categorical / hypothetical imperatives
  • motive of action "good in itself" or "necessary for a will which is in accord with reason" 119 (some examples)
  • Categorical Imperative: Two formulations
  • 1 - p. 120 - Universalizability (recall Singer's similar point)
  • 2 - p. 121 - Treating rational being as ends in themselves. Discussion: What does that entail?
  • Standard Criticism: Kant's moral theory beautifully captures our intuitions about what's morally important about persons, but undertheorizes moral choice. Kant's theory is compatible with everything from libertarianism to the paternalistic state. (develop argument).


Sandel, Chapter 6: Rawls

  • Problem of choosing principles of justice for a society
  • thought experiment: veil of ignorance - note: important that we know human psychology.
  • we would exclude both utilitarianism and libertarianism
  • Two main principles
  • equal basic liberties for all
  • differences in social and economic equality must work to advantage of the least well off.
  • Nature of a contract
  • fairness of contract may dep. on circumstances of execution
  • expectations change with timeline and events (ex of lobsters)
  • Two main concepts underlying contracts:
  • autonomy
  • reciprocity
  • Consent and Benefits -- examples of fair/unfair contracts
  • baseball card trade among diff aged siblings
  • contractor fraud in the leaky toilet case
  • Hume's home repairs -- no consent but still obligation
  • repair guy -- what if he fixed the car? would benefit alone confer obligation.
  • squeegee men -- potential for benefit to be imposed coercively
  • Point: Rawls veil of ignorance establishes theoretical equality of participants to contract. Contract could be fundamentally fair and guarantee autonomy and reciprocity
  • Justifying the Difference Principle
  • Why not be libertarian about it?
  • Concept of morally arbitrary criteria for distributing benefits of labor: birth, class, somewhat taken care of with equality of education and opportunity, but starting points are still different.
  • Even if you could solve that problem, you would still have the problem of relying on the moral arbitrariness of natural talent -- a "natural lottery"
  • Even if you could solve that problem, you'd have the arbitrariness of what the society values (try being a basketball player in the middle ages.
  • Rawls thinks he's found a form of egalitarianism that mediates between morally arbitrary distributions and overburdening the most talented members of the society.
  • Objections
  • diminished incentives
  • rewarding effort
  • In the end, Rawls view of justice does not involve rewards based on moral desert. odd result. In trying to avoid morally arbitrary features, he arrives at something like "respect for persons as fairness" as the morally relevant feature.


Discuss paper strategies

Comment on modern slavery and libertarianism

Singer, Ch. 1, "A Changing World"

  • Globalization: Terrorism, climate change, (added: human migration)
  • US interests: political consensus (dems/repubs) on Bush remark.
  • Should political leaders adopt an internationalist stance (beyond interests of their nation-state)?
  • competing models of leadership
  • Historical parable: reaction to 1914 assasination of Crown Prince Ferdinand (and wife) by Bosnian Serb nationalists, starting WW1. Objections to Autro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia. Compare to international reaction to US demands of Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden. principle p. 7, new today vs. WW1.
  • Rawls "old school" scope for theory of justice
  • Is the Nation-state on the decline?
  • Should we be internationalists? Why is multilaterism no longer a political topic in the US?

APR 10

Singer, "One Atmosphere"

  • Facts and level of consensus
  • Who is affected?
  • 19: how are our value systems prepared/unprepared for this issue?
  • Means of addressing climate change: polluter pays, cap and trade
  • thinking about equitable distributions:
  • historical vs. time slice
  • rivalrous vs. non-rivalrous goods
  • aiding worst off - how "diminishing marginal utility" comes into utilitarian calculus.

APR 15

APR 17

Haidt, Chapter 9, "Why Are We so Groupish?"

  • Part III: wants to complete the picture: sure we're selfish (or pursure enlightened self-interest), but we're also groupish.
  • track meanings of terms: selfish, enlightened self-interest
  • what sort of groupishness: soley for self-interest or independent (parallel) mechanisms?
  • Slogan for part three: morality binds and blinds.
  • Darwin quote: 192. Multi-level selection.
  • Why would "groupish groups" have an advantage over a group of individualists?
  • Revisit the connection between concern about appearing good and being good: reputation functions in both ways.
  • background: Williams, 1966, Adaptation and Natural Selection. favored lower level structures to explain selection. altrusism reduces to self-interest. Also Dawkins, 76, Selfish Gene. Williams quote on morality 198.
  • Evidence for a group selection (mult-level selection) view of morality.
  • Exhibit A: Major transitions in organism structure involving wholes.
  • From biology: cell structure with non-competition among parts. single celled eukaryotes
  • next transition: multi-cellular organisms
  • example of wasp cooperation: hymenoptera divide reproduction labor from maintainance of "hive".
  • "the genes that got to ride around in colony crushed the genes that "couldn't get it together" and rode around in selfish and solitary insects" (note: a groupish trait spreads among individuals)
  • Eusociality -- the human story (as opposed to ants, bees, and wasps)
  • Exhibit B: Shared Intentionality
  • Chimps vs. Us -- shared intentionality
  • two ways to hunt
  • research on chimp and young child tasks involving cooperation.
  • thesis: we crossed the rubicon when we achieved shared intentionality and linked reward/punishing emotions with it. (also Tomasello's)
  • Exhibit C: Gene-culture co-evolution
  • Learning, accumulation, (mention The Great Sea)
  • Homo habilis' big brains, then 2.4 million years of them.
  • Achueulean tool kit.
  • Hunting with spears - Hono heidelbergensis: 600-700K "the rubicon"
  • Lactose intolerance
  • "self-domestication"
  • Exhibit D: Speed of evolution
  • controversy over speed of selection: Gould vs. recent evidence of acceleration
  • breeding foxes (mention dogs social cognition)
  • group selected hens
  • [mention Pinker's hypothesis]
  • population bottlenecks.
  • concluding point about competition vs. war.

APR 22

Haidt, Ch 10, "The Hive Switch"

  • Humans are "conditional" hive creatures
  • Muscular bonding
  • Hive switch in celebration and dance: cultures which repress dance. Durkheim's "collective effervescence"; sacred / profane
  • Awe in nature: Emerson's transparent eyeball experience.
  • Entheogens - in history of religion; contemporary versions
  • Oxytocin - note studies: effect on bonding, but not with outgroups.
  • Mirror Neurons - in humans hooked more into emotional systems.
  • Leadership studies -
  • Evaluating the Hive Switch

APR 24

Haidt, Ch 12, "Can't We All Disagree More Constructively?"

  • evidence of polarization in American politics (cf. to Italy)
  • "right" and "left", historical origins, basis in heritable traits
  • 1: Genes make brains - diff responses to threat and fear.
  • 2: Dispositional traits lead to different experiences, which lead to "characteristic adaptations"
  • 3: Life narratives; Moral Foundations Theory found in stories people tell about religious experience.
  • Political narratives of Republicans and Democrats.
  • Liberals worse at predicting conservatives responses.
  • Moral and Social Capital -- moral capital: resources that sustain a moral community. moral capital not always straightforward good (293).
  • Liberal blindspots and wisdom: 1) regulating super-organisms; 2)solving soluble problems.
  • Libertarian wisdom: 1) markets are powerful
  • Social Conservative wisdom: understanding threats to social capital (can't destroy the hive)

APR 29