Spring 2016 Ethics Course Lecture Notes

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Return to Ethics

JAN 12

  • First Day Notes:
  • Websites in this course.
  • Roster information -- fill in google form
  • Main Assignments
  • The Prep Cycle -- recommendations for success in the course!
  • Starting the discussion about ethics. Course questions.
  • To Do list:
  • Send me a brief introduction through the "Tell Me" form on the wiki. (Soon, please.)
  • Login to wiki for the first time and make a brief introduction on the practice page. (3 points if done by Friday.)
  • After rosters are posted, login to courses.alfino and look around. Retrieve reading for Thursday (and read it).
  • Browse wiki pages.

JAN 14

  • a couple of mail failures: mlancaster jgenge2

Philosophical Method

Please find time to review the wiki page Philosophical Methods. Today we'll be working with the following methods:

  • Theorizing from new or established knowledge
  • Identifying presuppositions
  • Defining terms
  • Fitting principles to cases
  • Counter-examples

Ariely, Why We Lie

  • Assumptions: we think honesty is an all or nothing trait.
  • 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: for current and possible new approaches to limit cheating.

Method: Tips on How to report study findings

  • Philosophy makes use of a wide range of evidence and knowledge. In this course you will encounter alot of psychological, anthropological and and cultural studies and theories. You have to practice the way you represent studies (as opposed to theories) and how you make inferences from their conclusions.
  • 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?

Group Work A

Use a google form to report findings from your discussion of the following prompt:

  • What does the Ariely research suggest about the nature of ethics or specific presuppositions one might have about the nature of morality?

Group Work B

Use a google form to report findings from your discussion of the following prompt:

  • Shifting a bit from "cheating" to "lying", Start by trying to define a lie. Try to state your definition carefully in one sentence. Then identify three reasons why lying is bad. Finally, consider cases in which it is ok not to tell the truth. Can you identify a principle that might govern these cases?

JAN 19

Cooper, Chapter 1, "Intro to Philosophical Ethics"

  • p. 3: definition of ethics; in terms of value conflict
  • some terminology, two points about the relationship between actions and justifications:
  • values of actions often reflect their context in institutional and social context.
  • just as there are levels of justification for any action, there are levels of justification for any theory of ethics.
  • Zimbardo; implications for ethics

Haidt, Chapter 1,"The Divided Self"

  • opening story
  • Animals in Plato's metaphor for soul; contemporary metaphors. metaphors.
  • Mind vs. Body -- the gut brain.
  • Left vs. Right -- confabulation
  • New vs. Old - importance of the frontal cortex. orbitofrontal cortex in particular.
  • Controlled vs. Automatic --
  • Failures of Self-control [[1]]
  • Haidt's "disgust" stories.
  • Add in sociological dimension to consider values as socially

Small Group Work

  • Use the Google form for small group discussion to report specific findings from the following question:
  • Within each of the four sections of Haidt's article, "The Divided Self," remind yourselves of the main claims or points, along with things you found particularly interesting. Then try to state, in one sentence, one implication of each feature of the brain for the nature of ethics.
  • Principle philosophical methods used: Speculation from new knowledge, finding entailments, finding implications.

JAN 21

Haidt, The Righteous Mind, Intro and Chapter 1

  • Intro
  • Track section and subsection title. The argument of the book is laid out clearly in them.
  • Intuitions come first, reasoning second. The mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider's job is to serve the elephant.
  • Method Note: This is explanatory writing. Not philosophy directly. Digression on difference between explanatory and justifactory writing.
  • Moral reasoning as a means of finding truth vs. furthering social agendas.
  • Chapter 1
  • Harmless taboo violations: eating the dog / violating a dead chicken.
  • Brief background on developmental & moral psychology: p. 5
  • nativists -- nature gives us capacities to distinguish right from wrong
  • empiricists -- we learn the difference between right and wrong from experience
  • rationalists -- circa '87 Piaget's alternative to nature/nurture -- there is both a natural developmental requirement and empirical requirement for distinguishing right from wrong.
  • Piaget's rationalism: kids figure things out for themselves if they have normal brains and the right experiences. "self-constructed" - alt to nature/nurture. 7: We grow into our rationality like caterpillars into butterflies.
  • Kohlberg's "Heinz story" - note problems, p. 9. (We'll look more at Piaget and Kohlberg in our next class.)
  • Turiel: kids don't treat all moral rules the same: very young kids distinguish "harms" from "social conventions". Harm is "first on the scene" in the dev. of our moral foundations. (Note: Still following the idea that moral development is a universal, culturally neutral process.)
  • 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.
  • In what ways is the concept of the self culturally variable?
  • Schweder: sociocentric vs. individualistic cultures. Interview subjects in sociocentric societies don't make the moral/conventional distinction the same way we (westerns) do. (To Kohlberg and Turiel: your model is culturally specific.) For example in the comparison of moral violations between Indians from Orissa and Americans from Chicago, it is important that group don't make the convention/harm distinction Turiel's theory would predict. That's a distinction individualist cultures make.
  • 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 itself culturally variable. Turiel is right about how our culture makes the harm/convention distinction, but his theory doesn't travel well.
  • Identify, if possible, some practices and beliefs from either your personal views, your family, or your ethnic or cultural background which show a particular way of making the moral/conventional distinction. (Example: For some families removing shoes at the door is right thing to do, whereas for others it is just experienced as a convention.)

Group Discussion

  • Use a google form to discuss Study Question 3 and report your findings.

JAN 26

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. (recall Zimbardo)
  • Kohlberg's stages of moral development
  • Preconventional, Conventional, Postconventional: review stages with each level.
  • Note theoretical claim: hierarchy represents increasingly more developed ways of staying in equilibrium with environment. Where does this leave ethnicity and culture? p. 78.
  • "Decentering" of ego crucial to post-conventional stage. Are we all supposed to get to this level?
  • Application to My Lai massacre
  • Questions for Kohlberg: Revisit Haidt's research story; should we all be postconventional moral agents? Is loyalty and a sense of authority an "inferior" basis for morality?

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

  • Ethics and religion
  • Mentions Plato's dialogue Euthyphro- review core argument. Still, religion may be part of motivational structure of moral life.
  • Singer's arguments against Ethics and relativism -- different versions of relativism:
  • Ethics varies by culture: true and false, same act under different conditions may have different value, but this is superficial relativism. The different condition, for example, existence of birth control, are objective differences. The principle might remain the same and be objective (don't have kids you're not ready to care for)
  • Marxist relativism and non-relativism: Morality is what the powerful say it is. But then, why side with the proletariat? Marxists must ultimately be objectivists about value or there is no arguement for caring about oppression and making revolution.
  • Problems for relativists: consistency across time, polls could determine ethics
  • Problems for the subjectivist: making sense of disagreement
  • 2 versions of subjectivism that might work: ethical disagreements express attitudes that we are trying to persuade others of (close to Haidt's "social agendas"). Or, ethical judgements are prescriptions that reflect a concern that others comply.
  • Singer: Ok to say the values aren't objective like physics (aren't facts about the world), but not sensible to deny the meaningfulness of moral disagreement. Ethical reasoning.
  • Singer's view (one of several major positions): p. 10 - ethical standards are supported by reason. Can't just be self-interested.
  • The sorts of reasons that count as ethical: universalizable ones.
  • "Interests" in utilitarian thought

JAN 28

Next time put Haidt's "out take" on virtue ethics here.

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?
  • def: 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: developmentalist, naturalist, rationalist, eudaimonistic, virtue ethics.
  • A note on his primary ethical insight about how to think about virtue: the Golden Mean, a mean between extremes of emotion.


Notes on Method: Giving an applied ethical analysis (1/2)

Major Sorts of Applied Ethics Rationales

  • We'll start with some basic kinds of argumentative rationales that can be used in applied ethics. We'll define them as "core rationales" and then look at how each give rise to application on both an individual and social (justice) level:
  • Virtue - eudaimonistic/instrinsic value
  • Utility - eudaimonistic
  • Respect for Persons - deontological
  • Libertarianism - deontological

Basic Method for Researching and Writing about an Applied Moral Issue

  • Immerse yourself in authoritative and expert opinion about the topic.
  • Collect positions and arguments, both from your reading and your own exploration of the logical possibilities.
  • Locate your own intuitions (ways that you (or your elephant) connect with core arguments and values.
  • Develop and respond to challenges to your "starting point" -- remain open to position change.
  • Refine your focus and core arguments, maintain opposing views.
  • Organize your writing to include relevant information, arguments, opposing views, and, hopefully, some insights.

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

  • Philosophy's "rationalist delusion" ex. from Timaeus. but also in rationalist psych.
  • 30: Plato (Timaeus myth of the body - 2nd soul), Hume (reason is slave of passions), and Jefferson (The Head and The Heart)
  • Wilson's Prophecy: brief history of moral philosophy after Darwin.
  • 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 Controversy in E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology.
  • Note, for example, debate over rights: rationalists(moralists) vs. nativists
  • de Waal (soon); Damasio -- 33 -- seems to be a very different picture than Plato's;
  • Evolutionary Psychology in moral psychology
  • No problem making moral decisions under cognitive load.
  • Roach-juice
  • Soul selling
  • Harmless Taboo violations: Incest story; Cadaver nibbling; compare to Kohlberg's Heinz stories (reasoning vs. confounding) -- evidence in the transcript, also, that the elephant is talking.
  • Ev. psych. research outside moral psychology
  • Wasson card selection test: seeing that (pattern matching) vs. seeing why (controlled thought); we have bias toward confirmation.
  • Rider and Elephant
  • Important to see Elephant as making judgements (processing info), not just "feeling"
  • 45: Elephant and Rider defined
  • Emotions are a kind of information processing
  • Moral judgment is a cognitive process.
  • Intuition and reasoning are both cognitive. (Note: don't think of intuition in Haidt simply as "gut reaction" in the sense of random subjectivity. Claims you are processsing information through emotional response.
  • Values of the rider: seeing into future, treating like cases like; post hoc explanation.
  • Values of the elephant: automatic, valuative, ego-maintaining, opens us to influence from others.
  • Small Group Discussion: Is emotion an obstacle or enabling condition for moral life and judgement or something in between? (Please report on Google form. Separate claims and reasons or explanations.)
  • Social Intuitionist Model: attempt to imagine how our elephants respond to other elephants and riders.


Haidt, Chapter Three, "Elephants Rule"

  • Personal Anecdote: your inner lawyer (automatic speech)
  • Priming studies:
  • "take" "often" -- working with neutral stories also
  • Research supporting "intuitions come first"
  • 1. Brains evaluate instantly and constantly
  • Zajonc on "affective primacy"- small flashes of pos/neg feeling from ongoing cs stimuli - even applies to made up language
  • 2. Social and Political judgements are especially intuitive
  • flashing word pairs with dissonance: "flower - happiness" vs. "hate - sunshine" (affective priming)
  • Implicit Association Test
  • flashing word pairs with political terms. causes dissonance. measureable delay in response when, say, conservatives read "Clinton" and "sunshine".
  • 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
  • Transcript from Robert Hare research
  • 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. The Trolley Problem
  • Pause on Joshua Greene quote, p. 67
  • When does the elephant listen to reason?
  • Friends... The Importance of Friends...Friends are really important...

Notes on Method: Giving an applied ethical analysis (2/2)

  • Some additional detail on the general argumentative appeal of virtue, utility, respect for person, and liberty
  • Virtue ethics: based on claims about human nature. Why should I care about developing others' capacities and virtues? Could tell a story about human growth and development, the social nature of it, how family and community give rise to virtues. See also "communitarianism"
  • Utility: Group house example. How can utilitarians make justice claims. act vs. rule. How can utilitarians show respect for persons? (Trolley Problem). Could be that better outcomes are promoted by not always maximizing good in a particular situation. Core intuition: you need a rationale for partiality. Everyone's utility is equally important to them as yours is to you.
  • Respect for Persons: the language of bodies vs. the language of persons. Adopting rules for persons: Golden Rule, Privacy, Rights, Consent, Autonomy.
  • Libertarianism: Liberty and self-ownership as a basis for a strong view of rights. Self-ownership as the basis for social relations (response to a critic alleging that lib is anti-social). Libs and charity. Libs and anarchy. (A right/left crossover position.)
  • Note how each position as relative strengths and weaknesses in dealing with various aspects of moral life. You can see this by posing particular issues that bring out these strengths.
  • Some ethical problems seem like more or less "paradigmatic" fits for specific argumentative appeals.
  • Why support public education?
  • How should we help people in absolute poverty?
  • Why is it important to respect property rights?


  • Today we review collaborative research pages on A Good Death, Treatment of Animals, and Basic Income Gaurantee.

FEB 11

Notes on Philosophical Method

Particularly for today's class:
  • Consider both what your head and heart tell you (Let the elephant speak, but makes sure reasoning comes in too.)
  • Philosophers collect, sketch, analyze compare arguments.
  • Consider opposing views, both radically different ways to frame a problem and near variants of your position.
  • Try to experience the "productive resistance" that considering opposing views gives you. You can use comparisons to clarify principles at work in your own thinking, values that have priority in the case, and to identify common presuppositions of arguments.
  • Philosophers as mid-wives.

FEB 16

Questions and Advice about your papers

  • Keep in mind the rubric and consider your use of philosophical methods
  • Scope of topic
  • Justifications and "ethical appeals" and more...

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

  • Ring of Gyges - example of veneer theory.
  • Functionalism in psychology
  • Reminder of big theoretical choice about ethics. 74
  • 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. individual neurons vs. networks. analogy to social intelligence.
  • Statement, 90, on H's view of political life in light of this way of theorizing. read and discuss.

Small Group Work

  1. 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? How do you explain the puzzle that we do not experience our political beliefs quite the way the explanation portrays them.

de Waal, intro & p. 5-21

  • Veneer Theory - starts in a story about Enlightenment efforts to explain morality. social to the core.
  • Clue from intro about how commentators will respond: not as veneer theorists, but to question continuity between moral emotions and "being moral".
  • Thesis: No asocial history to humans. And note: unequal in competition for status.
  • note critical comments on rationalist psychology 6.
  • 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 (13). Seem opposed, but major thesis for de Waal is that they are not: a "selfish" evolutionary process can produce altruism as a strategy. very important theoretical claim.
  • Darwin influenced by Adam Smith: look up scottish moral sense theory.
  • Key theoretical claim, bot 16.
  • Westermark: observation of camel's revenge.
  • Chimps punish and seek revenge also. Engage in reconciliation.
  • "reciprocal altruism"
  • "moral emotions" p. 20

FEB 18

Primate family tree.gif

de Waal, "Morally Evolved," 21-42

  • Empathy -- posits more complex forms (moral emotions) from simpler (ex. emotional contagion)
  • Culture modifies empathy just as higher order mental functions modify lower (prefrontal orders memory recall).
  • Evidence in primates of simple emotions:
  • comforting, response to distress (25) -- from emotional contagion to empathy.
  • sympathy defined "sorry and concern"(26) compared to "personal distress" in which we try to resolve our own pain -- empathy is broader "changing places in fancy" (Adam Smith) "feeling another's pain".
  • children and pets.
  • Rhesus monkeys won't shock each other (29)
  • Note the theoretical alternatives at 29: 1) aversion to distress signals; 2) distress from emo contagion; 3) true helping motivations.
  • Apes appear to engage in perspective taking more than monkeys. Hypothesis at 30: this is due to a cognitive overlay, a differentiation of self-other plus a capacity to imagine the other's perspective. Kuni and the starling. Kuni capable of imagining the "good" for a bird.
  • Anecdotes:
  • How does Ladygina-Kohts get her chimpanzee off the roof?
  • Kuni and the starling
  • Jakie's helping behavior toward Krom with the tires "targeted helping" (ToM - understanding intentions)
  • 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.
  • PAM - Perception - Action Mechanism - perception and action share cognitive representations. seeing disgust is like being disgusted, facile muscles mimic others.
  • defintion of empathy at 39 (ranging from "matching the mental state of the other" to cognitive empathy which includes knowing the reasons for another's emotions (as in Jakie's case)) and 41: def of cognitive empathy -- targeted helping, distinction bt self/other.

FEB 23

de Waal, Morally Evolved, Part 3

  • Reciprocity and Fairness
  • testing hypotheses about food sharing and grooming study in chimps
  • 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" results p. 47 --mention Ultimatum Game here.
  • limits to monkey fairness: no sharing between rich and poor.
  • Mencious and "reciprocity" (note: this is a way of making the "strong" argument for evolved morality.) (note veneer theory at work 50-51)
  • 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. consider the Crying Baby Paradox.
  • The Beethoven Error
  • some hints at theory...

Bloom, Chapter 2, "Empathy and Compassion"

  • violent psychopaths have understanding of what they are doing to people, but don't have the associated emotions. quotes p. 35.
  • by contrast, testimony of Darwin about his son, William. sympathy, then generosity, then guilt/shame at transgression.
  • terms:
  • compassion -- (like sympathy in deWaal) caring about a person.
  • empathy -- experiencing the emotions of the other person. empathy a relatively new word.
  • mirror neurons -- not really the answer, might not be sufficient for social learning, not in parts of brain governing emotion. [upshot is that the metaphor makes sense, but the mechanism is probably elsewhere, like in the face.]
  • claim: evolutionary function of empathy is to motivate compassion and altruism. 43
  • 1. Note that we choose whom to empathize with, typically. stranger shock study, p. 44 - note this bring in acceptance of punishment as well.
  • 2. We can experience compassion (and action) without empathy. Singer pond example.
  • 3. And empathy without compassion. Nazi example.
  • also, schadenfreude.
  • theoretical issue: How are empathy and compassion related to morality?
  • No morality without them. (But also, pre-moral: Widely observed in nature: distress response. rat example, chimp comforting - deWaal)
  • Consolation behaviors in 1 year olds. Could be self-soothing.
  • Toddler helping behavior -- hard to know the causes, but seems spontaneous. 51ff: children in helping study override request when more appropriate object is available. in other study, toddlers seem to track reciprocity (as in de Waal's primates, 42-43) (Alison Gopnik is all about this. Browse if interested.)
  • Toddler sharing behavior -- esp, emergence of sharing with strangers. around 4yo.
  • Toddler self-evaluation -- gradient of guilt in child toy study 55-56.

Small Group Discussion: Theorizing Empathy and Compassion

What is the future of empathy and compassion as part of human morality? Should we shift from emotional to cognitive judgements in cases of response to human suffering? In what circumstances? What principles should govern the extension of empathy and compassion beyond kin and in groups? Consider examples of "misplaced empathy" or inappropriate empathy. If you found out that empathy were in decline, would you think it was a problem or possibly just a transition?

Philosophy talk coming up related to these issues

Against Fairness: In Favor of Favoritism, April 14th.

Professor Stephen Asma takes a jab at the exalted concept of fairness, arguing instead for the hidden virtues inside favoritism. His recent book Against Fairness (University of Chicago Press, 2013) argues that religious and secular egalitarianism has flattened the ethical world into a grid of impartiality that works well for States, but not our emotional communities of kith and kin. In this lecture, Asma will describe the hidden favoritism lurking under the veneer of our fairness, and offer normative arguments in favor of favoritism.

FEB 25

Philosophical Method

  • Our work with Korsgaard today gives us a chance to look at some mainstream philosophical writing. Some features:

Korsgaard, "Morality and the Distinctiveness of Human Action"

  • On Veneer Theory
  • not coherent: views morality as contraint of self-interest maximization (morality as needing to defeat egoism)
  • Do we really pursue our self-interests (ha!)
  • Not a coherent concept for a social animal as complex as us. Can't define our interests in isolation.
  • Morality not constraints on self-interest, but defining of a way of life. not just a way of "having", but also of "doing" and "being"
  • 101-102: develops an image of the isolated self-interested monster you would have to think we were to believe in veneer theory.
  • animals don't have self-interest. need a conception your long term good and a rational motivation toward it.
  • treating as ends/means. What could it mean to treat someone as an "end in themselves"? (Short digression on Kant -- treating others as persons, as sources of their own life planning.)
  • On continuity/discontinuity of ethics with evolution
  • we're more like apes than people think, but there's still a deep discontinuity 103-104: language, culture, ability to befriend other species.
  • we're "damaged" in some way that suggests a break with nature.
  • de Waal is like some sentimentalists who incorrectly infer intention from behavior. Sceptical at 105 for example. Embarks on analysis of different levels or meanings of purpose or intention. Core argument here: inferring intention is difficult and inferring awareness of self-interest is unlikely. (Note digression on moral sense theorists of 18th century.)
  • 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" 108
  • 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"
(from earlier in the article: "Is the capuchin "protesting the unfairness" or "angling for a grape"?")
  • next stage: Asking "Is wanting this a good reason for pursuing it?" (justification)
  • we choose not only means to ends but ends themselves: another brief digression on Kant's deontology: to determine whether there is justification for wanting a particular end, you formulate a maxim about it and try to imagine it as a universal law. Can your maxim serve as a rational principle? Or it is self-contradictory or incoherent when imagined this way? Kant: we always have the possibility of setting natural desire aside for principle. duty to "normative self-government".
  • Smith and Darwin on the development of capacity for normative self-government. sympathy for Smith and memory of regret in letting desire overide social instincts for Darwin.
  • 117: "not a mere matter of degree" humans can put the idea of themselves before the action...


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

  • cites his own work arguing for biological basis of morality. Agrees that morality has "roots" in our evo history. kin altruism.
  • de Waal too harsh with Veneer Theory: note thesis at 141 - there is dualism running through the history of ethics.
  • 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 -- there is a big diff.
  • Singer's argument against deWaal's dismissal of veneer theory:
  • De Waal passage on "disinterestedness," impartial spectator, universalization" Does this capacity come from our evolved history? No, claims Singer -- crucial difference: emerged from in-group processes. (But how significant is this as a difference in kind?)
  • 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
  • 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) -- (Interesting how differently he is thinking about emotions, intuitions, and reason here. Reason can take the reigns.)
  • Kant - reason over emotion

Small Group Discussion

  • Focus on Singer's language for describing the role of reason in morality and his corresponding interpretation of the Trolley Problem. Which interpretation of the TP do you favor? Can you think of examples of ethical problems in which we ought to feel "reason overcoming emotion" and other times in which we ought to feel the conflict of reason and emotion. (Perhaps a third example in which that's what's up for discussion.)

Notes on Philosophical Method

  • Notice distinctive characteristics of Korsgaard and Singer essays: concern with argument, lack of concern about data, but concern about significance, ability to view things in different perspectives, close reading, conceptual arguments. S: finding cases to fit claim. K: identifying presuppositions.
  • Notice how argument burden shifts in light of either position. Putting forward intentionality or rationality as standards for morality raises new questions.
  • Philosophical Method Slogan of the Day: "Philosophy often uses a criticism of how we think about something as a way of coming to a recommendation for how we ought to think about it."


MAR 15

Debrief on Paper

  • What is like to advocate an ethical position?
  • Did you feel you were practicing some of the philosophical methods? What made it philosophy?

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
  • survey data on East/West differences in sentence completion: "I am..."
  • framed-line task 97
  • Shweder's anthropology: ethics of autonomy, community, divinity 99-100 - gloss each...
  • claims schweder's theory predicts responses on taboo violation tests, is descriptively accurate.
  • 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. (Note connection to contemporary conflicts, such as the Charlie Hebdot massacre.)
  • Haidt's Bhubaneswar experience: diverse (intense) continua of moral values related to purity. (opposite of disgust). Stop and think about how a mind might create this. Detail about airline passenger.
  • Reports growing self awareness of liberal orientation of intellectual culture in relation to Shweder's view. Social conservatives made more sense to him after studying in India.
  • Discussion questions:
  • Are WEIRD moral cultures more rational and therefore "better" (embodying a most distinctively human morality, for example, following Singer & Koorsgaard?) Notice the connection between championing rationality as a defining norm of morality and being WEIRD.
  • How WEIRD are you?

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

  • analogy of moral sense to taste sense. "the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors"
  • explaining moral diversity. argument against the reductive project of philosophical ethics 113-114.
  • Hume's three way battle: Enlightenment thinkers united in rejecting revelation as basis of morality, but divided between an transcendent view of reason as the basis (Kant) or the view that morality is part of our nature (Hume, Darwin, etc.)
  • Austism argument: Bentham (utlitarianism), Kant (deontology) Think about the person who can push the fat guy.
  • Bentham told us to use arithmetic, Kant logic, to resolve moral problems.
  • Avoiding bad evolutionary theory or evolutionary psychology: "just so stories" -- range of virtues suggested "receptors"
  • moral taste receptors found in history of long standing challenges and advantages of social life.
  • Modularity in evolutionary psychology: original vs. current triggers, 123
  • See chart, p. 125

MAR 17

Haidt, Chapter 7

  • Homo economicus vs. Homo sapiens -- column a b -- shows costs of sapiens psych. commitments "taste buds"
  • Note on Innateness: "first draft" metaphor; experience revises - pre-wired not hard-wired. innate without being universal
  • 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. (also Zimbardo); note claim that this is gendered 139. sports groupishness is a current trigger.
  • Authority/Subversion -- hierarchy in animal and human society; liberals experience this differently also; note cultural work accomplished by the "control role" -- suppression of violence that would occur without hirerarchy. "Authority Ranking" -- suggest legit recog of difference.
  • 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.) Omnivores dilemma -- benefit from being able to eat wide range of foods, but need to distinguish risky from safe. 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.
  • Take each of the moral foundations and try to find examples from your own experience (or others') that helps you identify your general place along the spectrum of each foundation (which is a mixed metaphor). For example, you might recall a reaction your had to something that showed your "trigger" for one of the foundations. Then try to explain to each other what accounts for the different places we occupy in each case. (You could check out political bumper stickers for fun and try to locate them among the moral foundations [2].)
  • Follow-up questions (after group work):
  • What is the status of our reports?
  • Is it odd that the picture of politics in H's theory is so different from our experience of it?

MAR 22

Note on Philosophical Method

  • With the reading on liberatarianism, we are "drilling down" a bit on a theoretical position in ethico-political morality.
  • What is the relationship between a theory like libertarianism and the rest of what we study in ethics?
  • How is it related to giving a critical analysis of a moral/political problem?

Sandel, Libertarianism

  • Libertarianism: fundamental concern with human freedom; minimal state; no morals legislation; no redistribution of income or wealth. Strong concern with equality of liberty and avoidance of oppression, understood as forced labor.
  • Facts about concentration of wealth: 1% have 1/3 of wealth, more than bottom 90%.
  • objections to redistribution: utilitarian and rights-based.
  • general commitments of libertarian. Uneasy to fit directly to conservatism. Cuts across several MFs.
  • Argument from self-ownership (Nozick)
  • Free Market philosophy
  • Redistribution and self-ownership
  • First four objections: 1. taxation; 2. importance of resources to poor; 3. social nature of talent; 4. implied consent/participation in democracy; 5. Jordan is Lucky.
  • "Hard cases" (note on method) -- Markets in kidneys, assisted suicide, consensual canabalism (again!)

Haidt, Chapter 8: The Conservative Advantage

  • Hadit's critique of Dems: Dems offer sugar and salt, conservatives appeal to all five receptors.
  • The MFQ: consistence across cultures; large n; tracks preferences in dogs, church (content analysis of different denominations sermons), brainwaves (dissonance, "fingerprint", first .5 seconds)
  • 164: Haidt's beef with liberal researchers. Note ongoing work on bias in the academy. Liberals don't get the Durkheimian vision. But note range of responses excerpted.
  • Mill vs. Durkheim - note the abstraction involved in Millian Liberty -- just like the MFQ data for very liberal. (supports a range of positions including liberatarianism, just is considered a conservative position.)
  • More on Proportionality (which is 5-channel and Durkheimian)
  • 6th Moral foundation: liberty and oppression: taking the "fairness as equality" from Fairness and considering it in terms of Lib/Opp.
  • Evolutionary story about hierarchy, p. 170. original triggers: bullies and tyrants, current triggers: illegit. restraint on liberty. Example from Chimps: revolutions "reverse dominance hierarchies" are possible. Introduces strategy at the outset. (Millian liberty is based on equality - intellectual freedom, liberty of thought and expression, equality of treatment (The Oppression of Women - largely influenced by Harriet Taylor.)
  • note the same capacities as needed for reciprocal atruism, but applied to dominance relationships. (You need loyalty in a group, but also some people who are prepared to have a revolution if necessary. Note "population effect".) Flag of Virginia, for example.
  • Tea Party (Santelli) is really talking about a conservative kind of fairness, which shares some features of the "reciprocal altruism", such as necessity of punishment. As seen in public goods games.
  • Public Goods games.
  • Without "memory" behavior approximates theoretical predictions. We're not idiots.
  • 84% pay to punish, punishment supported public good.

MAR 24

MAR 24


  • We continue our series of investigations of theoretical positions in ethics. Utilitarianism is a robust example of how a theory as a range of "resources" (basic appeals and arguments for its position). Getting inside a theory for critical purposes involves understanding how the theory might respond to critics.

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: we are driven by pleasure and pain, the rest is illusion. Alternative principles, like rights are ultimately advocated for by appeal to outcomes. (Kind of like Aristotle's teleology). Later Mill would provide the "equal happiness" principle.
  • Workhouse for poor: though the form of Bentham's imagining is rough, note that this is the start of modern social welfare.
  • Panopticon
  • (also the start of social welfare statistics, public health, sewers, etc. These things are easier to justify on grounds of utility.)
  • Objection 1: Rights are primary.
  • Case of torture under extreme conditions (Trolley Problem on steroids.). New condition: torturing terrorist's daughter. Harder. (Note how this triggers multiple moral foundations.)
  • How negotiable are rights in extreme cases?
  • Objection 2: Is there a common currency for comparison of pleasures?
  • 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.
  • Utilitarians respond:
  • Whose problem is it? The cost-benefit may not only be part of the theory, it may be part of our moral life: even our driving behaviors (trade offs of speed and fatality rate) have implications for how much we value life in monetary terms). generate examples: when is it ok to be "calculative" in social and moral life?
  • The theory can recognize higher and lower pleasures. Probably true that all value cannot be captured by pleasure and pain, but most can be captured by "flourishing and the avoidance of unnecessary suffering".
  • 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? Then, take the problem down to a personal level. In your social and moral lives, when is it ok to be calculative? When is it wrong? Think about how you would criticize someone who violates this distinction.
  • 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.)
  • 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.
  • not sure it is independent of wants and desires. p. 51: what does "moral ideals beyond utility" mean to a Millian?

MAR 29

Sandel, 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). Helpful to think of connections between "reason (and autonomy) as a source of dignity" and human rights.
  • Analysis of Freedom
  • real freedom can't just be choosing preferences external to me: "preference satisfaction" (antonomous/heteronomous), but choosing ends.
  • neg/positive freedom
  • choosing best means to end vs. choosing end (but what would that mean?)
  • Thinking about Motives
  • Calculating Shopkeeper; incentive for good behavior at U Maryland 113. "Doing well by doing good"
  • For Kant, we have a duty to preserve our lives so that we can exercise our moral duty. (Duty to reason!)
  • 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); reason is a source of causation outside of physics. consider.
  • 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) -- note: It's NEVER about consequences, just being consistent with the idea of yourself (and others) as rational beings.
  • 2 - p. 121 - Treating rational being as ends in themselves. Discussion: What does that entail? Not "using" others, but what else?

Some critical points from the questions 124-129

  • Not the same as the golden rule
  • Duty and autonomy: giving a law to yourself. (Consider how that might look to an anthropologist today.)
  • Choosing under conditions of universality --

MAR 31

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, but alot of other things: see list on 141.
  • we would exclude both utilitarianism and libertarianism - uncertainty of outcomes.
  • 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, but no contract can be judged fair or just simply by the circumstance of consent or agreement.
  • 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 - "bargaining endowments"
  • 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 utilitarian about it? Rawls doesn't believe utility would give us a firm enough guarantee of equal respect and protection of fundamental rights.
  • 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.


Singer, "Rich and Poor"

  • facts about absolute poverty
  • difference between grain consumption accounted for in terms of meat consumption. problem of distribution rather than production.
  • absolute affluence = affluent by any reasonable defintion of human needs. Go through paragraph on 221. Also, consider UN Millenium Dev. Goals [3]
  • figures on giving by country: OPEC countries most generous. U.S. and Japan least. (more in Sachs)

  • Is not giving to the relief of absolute poverty the moral equivalent of murder?
  • five purported differences:
  • 1. allowing to die not eq. to killing. no intention to kill.
  • 2. impossible to ask us to be obligated to keep everyone alive.
  • 3. uncertainty of outcome in not aiding vs. pointing a gun. less direct responsibility, less like 1st deg. murder.
  • 4. no direct and identifiable causal connection between consumerist action and death of individuals in other countries.
  • 5. People would be starving with or without me. I am not a necessary condition for there to be starving people.
  • Singer's point: these differences are extrinsic to the moral problem. there would be cases with these features in which we would still hold the person responsible. read 224.
  • Showing the extrinsic character of the differences: Singer's argument strategies at this point is to show that the differences are smaller and more contingent that one might think. Point by point:
  • 1. Lack of identifiable victim: Example of salesman selling tainted food. doesn't matter if no identifiable victim in advance.
  • 2. Lack of certainty about the value of donations does reduce the wrongness of not giving (concession), but doesn't mean that its ok not to give. Note: development of aid industry since this writing. Measures of effectiveness becoming common, but still an issue.
  • 3. responsibility for acts but not omissions is incoherent way to think about responsibility. consequences of our actions are our responsibility. irrelevant that the person would have died if I had never existed.

Considers non-consequentialist justifications for not aiding (166)

  • idea of independent individual in Locke and Nozick doesn't make sense. Note appeal to social conception of humans based on ancestry!
  • absence of malice also doesn't excuse inaction. involuntary manslaughter (in the case say of a speedin motorist) is still blameworthy.
  • 4. Difference in motivation. But again the speeding motorist is blameworthy even though not motivated self-consciously to harm.
  • 5. Easier to avoid killing, but saving all is heroic. S. grants that we may not be as blameworthy for not saving many lives if saving those live requires heroic action.
  • The obligation to assist: Main Principle: If it is in our power to prevent something vey bad happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance, we ought to do it.
  • goes on to claim that it is within the power of dev. countries to aid the poor without sacrificing . . . etc.

considers major objections:

  • taking care of your own
  • property rights [at most weakens the argument for mandatory giving (but note that governmental means might be the most effective, esp. where problems have a political dimension)
  • population and the ethics of triage:
  • questions whether the world is really like a life boat
  • leaving it to government. .7 GNP figure.
  • too high a standard?

Sachs, Jeffrey, "Can the Rich Afford to Help the Poor?" (2006)

  • (One of the architects of the UN Millennium Development Goals. Opposed by some noted development economists.)
  • Optimist about relief: .7 GNP level of giving adequate.
  • Absolute poverty down from 1/3 to 1/5 (interesting to compare US discussion in 1960 at the start of the domestic "war on poverty" of the Johnson administration); the rich world is alot richer than it was; we're better at poverty alleviation.
  • Would have taken 1.6% of GNP in 80's now only .7%
  • Note analysis on pages 294 of amounts that developing countries can supply to meet their own poverty needs. Middle-income countries like Brazil, Chile, and Mexico have enough.
  • Can the US afford to meet a .7 GNP target?
  • Sachs considers this obvious. To dramatize his point, on pages 304-308, he points out that the wealthiest 400 US citizens earned more than the total populations of Botswana, Nigeria, Senegal, and Uganda. More to the point, the tax cuts this group received during the Bush administration in 2001, 2002, and 2003 totaled about 50 billion a year, enough to meet the US giving goal of .7% of GNP.
  • Digression on actual giving: [4]


  • Topic Day!

APR 12

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)?
  • Should we be altruists as a nation in relationship to other peoples?
  • ethical argument: value of human life relative to cost. conventional nature of sovereignty.
  • Historical parable (illustrates change in sovereignty ideas): reaction to 1914 assasination of Austrian 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: totally nation-state model for justice.
  • Is the Nation-state on the decline? (anecdotes - early versions of "buy American"; global hr competition; global outsourcing; G8 protests; attention to international trade negotiations)
  • Should we be internationalists? Why is multilaterism no longer a political topic in the US?

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 (note more recent arguments: address human impact, try to moderate change).
  • 1997 Kyoto Protocol. update: [5]
  • thinking about equitable distributions p. 26 on:
  • giant sink: as long as it keeps working, we are leaving "enough and as good" for others. no distribution problem.
  • sink stops working = tragedy of the commons (over grazed land; over used "sink")
  • Lockean justifications of property and unequal acquisition; Smith's "invisible hand" (calls Smith out on consumption of rich: in environmental terms there's a huge difference. Data on Am carbon footprint 32.). Point is that you might, ala Rawls, recognize that the poor or those affected by industrial nations' pollution are somehow better off. Might try to apply this to climate change, but it's hard to see benefits to poor.
  • Proportionality: p. 32 US 5% of population, 30% of emissions. could think per capita or by population sizes at particular point.
  • Time slice: arguably developed nations don't have full historical liability. didn't know. leads to equal share view.
  • Fairness as aiding the worst off. Yet, you could also argue (38) that rich nations shouldn't have to bear all the costs if it diminished their ability to help the worst off.
  • How would utilitarians approach the problem 41 on:
  • 1. utilitarian would endorse "polluter pays" as a "rule" the at produces good results
  • 2. a utilitarian would favor an ideal compromise over strict egalitarianism in sharing the burden
  • 3. because of "diminishing marginal utility", utilitarians can support additional aid to the worst off.

APR 14


I don't want more quizzes Please no more quizzes. I really can't pass these quizzes no matter what I do to study. I'd like to either have more quizzes, or some other option to boost quiz grades please. I think that it is perfectly fine to do without the quizzes (or having them more infrequently) No more quizzes! I would like no more quizzes I would rather not have any more quizzes this semester. I have figured out how to read effectively and don't think they are very helpful I would prefer not to have quizzes. This is just because I do the readings but sometimes struggle with the quizzes despite he fact that I have down the reading Possibly one or two more quizzes. I would also be completely fine with no more I don't need any more quizzes. I think a quiz would be nice if it was only on a day where we had one reading No more quizzes I'm ok with not doing quizzes. If we are going to have them, which I am also fine with, I would like to know ahead of time. I don't think we need anymore quizzes. If we do have them, it would be more beneficial to have them on Thursdays when the readings are not very long. It hurts my grade more to have them Tuesdays when the material is much larger and typically more dense and it is hard to remember the details required for a quiz. I don't feel like we need to have anymore quizzes. I would be fine with or without quizzes. They help keep me motivated to read (to be honest), but sometimes they are sort of tricky because they are detailed and then they bring down my grade. But either way would be fine with me, depending on what the rest of the class needs! I'm fine with no more quizzes; I keep up with the reading and don't need a quiz as an incentive to do the homework I like the idea of having short answer "quizzes." The questions can be more broad and have a variety of answers, but still show that we actually did the reading without testing us on our understanding of hard philosophical concepts. I do not believe quizzes would be beneficial in these last few weeks. However, requiring a one page summary or points one found interesting may be helpful. I don't think we need to do quizzes for the rest of the semester, but I would like to add up my quiz score and know what my grade is in the quiz section. "I think that we should not have more quizzes. However, it would be nice to be able to change the percentage weight that we have given our quizzes since we will not have more grades for it to weigh out. Another possibility could be that we have optional 1 page journals that would be added to our quiz grade. " I feel like quizzes are a concise and adequate reflection for proof of reading. Having people perform a reflection paper would take up more class time for proof of reading when I think discussing the reading itself is much more beneficial. That being said I am happy with my quiz grade and selfishly would be happy with no more quizzes. "I would appreciate some more quizzes in general. As an idea, what if you did some group quizzes, using some quiz-like questions that go out to the groups and then they need like a paragraph response. " I would like more quizzes to help my grade. Maybe just 2 or 3!

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, groupish - mental mechanisms for each
  • Slogan for part three: morality binds and blinds.
  • Major Theoretical Claim: Multi-level selection, which Darwin originally proposed, is the right theoretical approach for explaining groupishness
  • Darwin quote: 192. Multi-level selection -- can be thought of as a measure of selection pressure for genes and gene expression that can influence selection at different levels. Example: suicide -- bad for individual fitness, but could be good for group. seen in bees where all selection is group. Groups that can suppress selfishness tip the balance toward group fitness. Your best individual strategy becomes "being good". Revisit the connection between concern about appearing good and being good: reputation functions in both ways. Memory and gossip matter.
  • Background to theory of multi-level selection:
  • Williams, 1966, Adaptation and Natural Selection. favored lower level structures to explain selection. "fast herd is just a herd of fast deer, individuals." altruism reduces to self-interest. Also Dawkins, 76, Selfish Gene. Williams quote on morality 198. Veneer theory!
  • Evidence for a group selection (multi-level selection) view of morality.
  • Exhibit A: Major transitions in organism structure involving wholes. From "eukaryotes" to "eusocials"
  • From biology: cell structure with non-competition among parts. single celled eukaryotes, add a few hundred million years -- multi-cellular organisms. The emergence of a super organism occurs when organisms connect their survival.
  • example of wasp cooperation: hymenoptera divide reproduction labor from maintainance of "hive".
  • "the genes that got to ride around in a 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 and outcompetes non-groupish individuals)
  • Eusociality -- the human story (as opposed to the eusociality of ants, bees, and wasps) - conditions for human eusociality also include "keeping a nest" or camp, sharing access to food. (Note recent books like "Catching Fire". Note how basic divisions of labor over food is in our evolved psychology.). Nests, needy off-spring, threats from neighbors.
  • Exhibit B: Shared Intentionality
  • Chimps vs. Us -- shared intentionality
  • two ways to hunt
  • thesis: we crossed the rubicon when we achieved shared intentionality and linked reward/punishing emotions with it. (also Tomasello's view). p. 206 q. "joint representation of the world"
  • Exhibit C: Gene-culture co-evolution - culture as an independent factor in creating selection pressure.
  • Learning, accumulation, (mention The Great Sea)
  • Homo habilis' big brains, then 2.4 million years of them. 5-7 millions years ago we parted company with Chimps and bonobos, but there is evidence of many dozens of hominid species 5-15 million years ago.
  • Achueulean tool kit. significance: lack of variation suggests cognitive adaptation
  • Hunting with spears - Homo Heidelbergensis: 600-700K "the rubicon" - sophisticated spears, shared hunting, campsite.
  • Lactose intolerance - textbook case of gene-culture co-evolution
  • "self-domestication" (Pinker's "end of violence" thesis might fit here.)
  • Exhibit D: Speed of evolution
  • controversy over speed of selection: Gould (great biologist, but skeptic of MLS) vs. recent evidence of acceleration
  • breeding foxes (mention dogs social cognition)
  • group selected hens. (Of course, this gives a different spin to Pinker's hypothesis!)
  • genetic change is measureable and has increased over the last 50,000 years. We're on a fast ride.
  • past "die offs" -- What predicts success after a die off?
  • concluding point about competition vs. war. competition is also over energy capture

APR 19

Haidt, Ch 10, "The Hive Switch"

  • Humans are "conditional" hive creatures; satify the conditional and you flip the switch.
  • Muscular bonding: examples? rowing, dance teams, cheer, serpentine, retreat rituals...
  • Hive switch in celebration and dance: cultures which repress dance. Durkheim's "collective effervescence"; sacred / profane; for evalution. Did we go wrong here?
  • Awe in nature: Emerson's transparent eyeball experience. (suppression of ego, even in solitude -- beautiful and the sublime)
  • Entheogens - in history of religion; contemporary versions. Maslow studies in 60s. bonding in adolescent social groups.
  • Oxytocin - note studies: effect on bonding, but not with outgroups. Mixed evidence with Dutch men. generally about bonding rather than exclusion, but can stimulate some out group behaviors. (text ambiguous.)(Paul Zac, The love molecule.)
  • Mirror Neurons - in humans hooked more into emotional systems. (good for short research paper. some skepticism about theorizing from mirror neurons.)
  • Leadership studies - transactional vs. transformational. (How do you want to live and work? Does belonging matter?) notes from working at a mission-centered non-profit. the magic of 150.
  • Political Hives: might think of hive switch as same phenomenon as fascism. But not all calls for "binding" (fascia, fascist) involve the hive. Hive switch is about disolving individuality, but also social hierarchy. (Ehrenreich claims fascism was essentially hierarchical, elevating the leader to a cult figure.) Also, hives embody social capital.
  • Evaluating the Hive Switch
  • examples in your experience.
  • anthropological value of the hive.
  • dangers of the hive -- loss of critical distance, overtrusting. communal thinking.

APR 21

Haidt, Chapter 11, "Religion is a Team Sport"

  • Sports at UVA: Durkheim would call it creation of community, as in religious ritual.
  • Main thesis about all forms of collective bonding, including religion:
  • Wants to focus on the sociological value of religion as a way of binding people together, but also to acknowledge to possibility that the effect of the groupishness is to blind us.
  • Thinks people misunderstanding religions by focusing on assessing the truth of their beliefs.
  • New Atheists: Harris, Dawkins, Dennett, and Hitchens
  • "Trying to understand religion .... " 250
  • Belief/Doing vs. Belief/Belonging/Doing
  • new atheist arguments/explanations: religion as the "peacock" of culture; psychology of our capacity for religion (hypersensitive agency detection, shared intentionality). Haidt agrees with psychological account, but criticizes new atheists for not considering evolutionary value of religion and group selection pressure it might have created. Pressures which stabilize values in communities, for example.
  • Haidt's (and others; Scot Atran, Richerson & Boyd, Sosis...) more religion friendly account: religions make cohesive groups. but this implies that religions evolve as well !
  • Notice the messages of the gods of different cultures from hunter-gathers to agriculturalists. Old/New testament.
  • Contemporary research: Sosis study of 19th US communes. Interesting point on effect of costly sacrifice in sacred vs. secular communities.
  • one problem religions address: cooperation without kinship.
  • Note: Atran's thesis doesn't require an evolved "religion module"; just the capacities for cultural transmission of religion.
  • More detail: David Sloan Wilson on Balinese water temples, Calvinism, and Judaism. metaphorical connection bt gods and maypoles. (Note contemporary research on religion and well-being)
  • Wade: group value of early religion: group level adaptations for producing cohesiveness.
  • Critical Problem: Religion and violence
  • Religion makes us parochial altruists
  • research on religious: 265ff (Mention adoption thought experiment.)
  • interestingly: beliefs and dogmas didn't correlation with generous behavior, only community experience. Moral benefits of religion determined by "how enmeshed people were in relationships with their co-religionists."
  • Definitions of Morality
  • Durkheim: 270
  • H's: all of the ways we suppress self-interest and promote cooperation. functional def vs. "About" Acknowledges that his definition is descriptive rather than normative. (Needs another layer.)

APR 26

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

  • evidence of polarization in American politics (cf. to Italy)
  • theory of ideologies, which might be thought to drive political identity formation
  • "right" and "left", historical origins in French Assembly of 1789, basis in heritable traits - twins studies
  • One more time through the modern genetic/epigenetic/phenotype explanation pattern (note what's at stake: if you misunderstand the determiinism here, you'll misunderstand the whole theory):
  • 1: Genes make brains - Australian study: diff responses to threat and fear (and related to liberal neophilia). (recall first draft metaphor)
  • 2: Dispositional traits lead to different experiences, which lead to "characteristic adaptations" (story about how we differentiate ourselves through our first person experience. mention feedback loops)
  • 3: Life narratives; McAdams study using Moral Foundations Theory to analyze narratives, found MFs in stories people tell about religious experience. Thesis: different paths to religious faith.
  • So, an ideology can be thought of as the political version of a narrative that fits with a personal narrative you tell about your experience.
  • Political narratives of Republicans and Democrats.
  • Haidt, Graham, and Nosek study: Liberals worse at predicting conservatives responses. Interesting point: the distortion of seeing things as a liberal makes liberals more likely to believe that conservatives really don't care about harm. But conseratives may be better at understanding (predicting) liberal responses because they use all of the foundations.
  • Muller on difference bt conservative and orthodox. Post-enlightenment conservatives: want to critique liberalism from Enlightenment premise of promoting human well being. follow conservative description of human nature. 290.
  • Moral and Social Capital -- moral capital: resources that sustain a moral community. moral capital not always straightforward good (293), also, less trusting places, like cities, can be more interesting.
  • Liberals
  • blindspot: not valuing moral capital, social capital,
  • strength: 1) regulating super-organisms (mention theory of "regulatory capture"); 2)solving soluble problems (getting the lead out - might have had big effect on well-being).
  • Libertarians.
  • Note research suggesting how libertarians diverge from liberals and conservatives on the MFs.
  • libertarian wisdom: 1) markets are powerful -- track details -- often self-organizing, self-policing, entrepreneurial)
  • Social Conservatives
  • wisdom: understanding threats to social capital (can't help bees if you destroy the hive)

  • Small Group Discussion: Is moral and social capital important to a community? Does it help to see conservatives as concerned about these dimensions of communal well-being? Does it help to see liberal neophilia as a driver of changes, some of which do come to be seen as improvements? How do you promote the moral and social capital of a community?

APR 28

Eco, "When the Other Appears on the Scene"

  • Context for Eco essay: "The following letter is Eco’s reply to a question the cardinal had asked him: “What is the basis of the certainty and necessity for moral action of those who, in order to establish the absolute nature of an ethic, do not intend to appeal to metaphysical principles or transcendental values, or even to universally valid categorical imperatives?”
  • Eco's "lay religiosity" 20. what is binding in such an ethic?
  • We have a "natural" orientation on the world and find some things naturally odious. universal preferences: the right to talk and think. (He's building up the features of a phenomenology of the encounter with the other.)
  • The ethical dimension begins when the other appears on the scence. details, 23: read.
  • Is this recognition of the other (which is the basis of a natural ethic) a strong enough basis for ethics?
  • Reply to his own question: Believers in "absolute foundations" (religionists) have the same challenges: to love others and face death with equanimity. read 25
  • More detailed answer, 28, why can't non-religious find inspiration in Jesus and other religious figures?, even if there is no God, a creature that could imagine all this would be admirable; 29, "even if Christ were only the subject of a great story..." it would be as good a basis for charity and prudence as we have in the encounter of one religion with another.
  • concludes that a natural ethic can find common ground with the principles of an ethic founded on faith and transcendence.