Spring 2019 Ethics Course Lecture Notes

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1: JAN 16

  • Introduction to the Course
  • Welcome
  • About the Course
  • Course Websites (handout)
  • Approaching Ethics through contemporary research. Fields involved: Psychology, Moral Psychology, Evolutionary Psychology, Behavioral Economics, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, History, Global Studies
  • Major Applied Topics: Obligations to Assist, Globalization Ethics (climate, human rights, trade), Immigration
  • Succeeding in the Course
  • Prep Cycle - view old notes, read, note, quiz, evaluate preparation.
  • Keep in Mind Course Research Questions
  • Course Management
  • Transparency in Pedagogy
  • Some Course Dates:
Writing Workshop 2/20
SW1 due 3/4
SW2 due 3/27
Finish optional journals by 4/15
SW3 due 4/29
Critical Analysis Paper due 4/22
Final Essay due at Final Exam time.
  • Required Assignments and Weight Ranges
  • Critical Analysis Paper 20-30% .3
  • Final Essays 20-30% .3
  • Q&W 25-40 .4

2: JAN 23


  • Ariely, Why We Lie (6)
  • Singer, Chapter 1, "About Ethics," from Practical Ethics
  • Zimbardo Experiment -- view one of the youtube videos about the experiment. read the wiki page.

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 cultural studies. 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 immediate result?
  • what was the significance or inference to be made from the results?

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.
  • Philosophical Implications: What, if anything, does this tell us about the nature of ethics?

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

  • Some initial points:
  • Ethics not just about sexual morality
  • Ethics not an "ideal" that can't be put into practice
  • Ethics is not based on religion. Mentions Plato's dialogue Euthyphro- review core argument. Can you think of other positions on religion and ethics that might be compatible or incompatible with Singer's?
  • Singer's arguments against Ethics and relativism -- different versions of relativism:
  • Version 1: 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), but the prohibition on casual sex might change. note: how you state the principle matters alot!
  • Version 2: Marxist relativism (and similar critiques) 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 argument for caring about oppression and making revolution.
  • Problems for real relativists ("wrong" means "I disapprove" or "my society disapproves"): but we do choose between societal values, how? Is the non-conformist just making a mistake?, polls could determine ethics?
  • Problems for 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. Focus for Singer and many philosophers is that Ethics is the attempt and practice to justify our behaviors and expectations of others The focus falls on reason-giving and argumentation.
  • The sorts of reasons that count as ethical: universalizable ones. Note: most standard ethical theories satisfy this requirement, yet yield different analysis and advice.
  • Consequences of "equality of interests" in utilitarian thought: Principle of Utility: Greatest good (happiness) for the greatest number. 13: first utilitarians understood happiness in terms of pleasures and pains. Modern utilitarians are often "preference utilitarians".

3: JAN 28


  • Haidt, The Righteous Mind, Intro and Chapter 1

Haidt, The Righteous Mind, Intro and Chapter 1

  • Intro
  • Note: starts with problem of "getting along" -- problem of ethics is settling conflict (recall contrast with more traditional goal of finding a method or theory to discover moral truth).
  • The "righteous" mind is at once moral and judgemental. It makes possible group cooperation, tribes, nations, and societies.
  • Majors claims of each section:
  • 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.
  • There's more to morality than harm and fairness
  • Morality binds and blinds -- We are 90 percent chimp, 10% bee.
  • Keep notes that help you tie content back to these claims.
  • 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. Paradox of Moral Experience: We experience our morality the first way, but when we look objectively at groups, it's more like the second way.
  • 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, possibly using moral emotions.
  • empiricists -- we learn the difference between right and wrong from experience. tabula rasa.
  • rationalists -- circa '87 Piaget's alternative to nature/nurture -- there is both a natural developmental requirement and empirical requirement for understanding the world in the way we consider "rational" (folk physics, folk psychology).
  • Piaget's rationalism: kids figure things out for themselves if they have normal brains and the right experiences. stages: example of conservation of volume of water (6) "self-constructed" - alt to nature/nurture. 7: We grow into our rationality like caterpillars into butterflies.
  • Kohlberg's "Heinz story" - pre-conventional, conventional, post-conventional. [1]
  • note problems, p. 9. seems to support a liberal secular world view. Egalitarianism, role playing, disinterestedness.... Is it obvious or suspicious that that's what rationalism leads to? Haidt suspects something's been left out.
  • Additional criticisms of Kohlberg (also at Haidt 9): seemed to diminish the importance of loyalty, authority, and tradition as less developed levels of moral response.
  • Turiel: note different method. Probing to find contingencies in kids' thinking about rules. 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.) (Note on method: we have, in Turiel's research, a discovery of an unsupported assumption.)
  • Haidt's puzzle about Turiel: other dimensions of moral experience, like "purity" and "pollution" seem operative at young ages and deep in culture (witches -- how do human minds create witches in similar ways in different places?). 11-13 examples. 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. (Schweder is "saying" 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 these groups don't make the convention/harm distinction Turiel's theory would predict. That's a distinction individualist cultures make.
  • Haidt's research: Wrote vignettes to ask test subjects, including Turiel's uniform / swing pushing incident. focus on vignettes is "harmless taboo violation" (no victim /no harm), which pits intuitions about norms and conventions against intuitions about the morality of harm. Study in three cities with two socio-economic groups. Showed that Schweder was right. The morality/convention distinction was itself culturally variable.
  • Americans make big dist. between morality and convention. upper-class Brazilians like Americans. lower class groups tended to see smaller morality/convention difference. All morality.

Turiel is right about how our culture makes the harm/convention distinction, but his theory doesn't travel well. Roughly, more sociocentric cultures put the morality(wrong even if no rule)/convention (wrong because there is a rule) marker more to the morality side. almost no trace of social conventionalism in Orissa.

  • 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. Would you eat a burrito in a public bathroom? Tell story of dinner out with a vegan friend.)

Small Group Problem: Relativisms

  • Alot of what Haidt is talking about in Chapter 1 suggests that morality is radically relative, but alot of what Singer was talking about in Chapter 1 of Practical Ethics suggested that relativism looks deeper than it is. How can they both be right? Can they?

4: JAN 30


  • Lecture on Consequentialisms
  • Robert Sapolsky, from Behave, Chapter 13, "Morality and doing the Right Thing, Once You've Figured Out What that Is." pp. 478-483.

Sapolsky, Robert. Behave. C 13, "Morality and Doing the Right Thing"

  • Is moral decision making mostly reasoning or intuition?
  • Lots of examples of reason based rules in law and social institutions. This kind of reasoning activates the dlPFC and TPJ (temporoparietal junction) - theory of mind tasks.
  • Moral reasoning is skewed in some predictable ways: doing harm worse than allowing it. commission vs. omission. tend to look for malevolent causes more than benevolent.
  • Problem with moral reasoning view: lots of evidence for intuition and emotion.
  • Reviews Haidt's Social Intuitionism: "moral thinking is for social doing".
  • moral decisions activate the vmPFC, orbitalfrontal cortex, insular cortex, and anterior cingulate. pity and indignation activate different structures. sexual transgressions activate the insula. Important: you can predict moral decision making more from activation of these structures than the cognitively oriented dlPFC. moral quandaries activate emotional centers of the brain prior to waking up the dlPFC.
  • people with damage to the vmPFC will sacrifice one relative to save five strangers, something control subjects just don't do!

Consequentialisms -- Utlitarianism

  • A Framework for thinking about moral theories.
  • Where should we look for "moral goodness"?
  • Intentions (Kantian), Act (Aristotle), Consequences (Mill, Singer - utilitarian)
  • How should we expect morality to connect with other goals?
  • Eudaimonistic or Hedonic (Well-being or Happiness oriented) vs. Non-Eudaimonistic (Duty)
  • Two views: 1) Morality is fundamentally eudaimonistic "in the longrun" even if it in particular proximate circumstances in does not always involve positive emotions. 2) Morality and moral responses realize disinterested values like reason and justice, that are not related to promoting happy outcomes (Kant).
  • Fundamental consequentialist intuition. Most of what's important about morality can be seen in outcomes of our actions, for people especially, but also for what they value (animals, the environment, etc.). Virtue will show up in the measuredness of the outcome. Good intentions are especially valuable when they lead to actions that realize them.
  • Hard to imagine a non-eudaimonistic consequentialism, but medieval christian europe or a contemporary theocracy might work.
  • Basic principles of utilitarian thought:
  • One way to universalize is to recognize "equal weight" to interests.
  • Equal Happiness Principle: Everyone's happiness matters to them as much as mine does to me.
  • Ethics is about figuring out when we need to take a moral concern about something and, if we do, then we take on constrainst (conversational): universalizability, equality of interests.
  • Principle of Utility: Act always so that you promote the greatest good for the greatest number.
  • Hedonic version: Act to promote the greatest pleasure ...
  • Preference utilitarian version: Act to maximally fulfill the interests (preferences) of others.
  • But what is utility? What is a preference?
  • Utility: pleasure, what is useful, happiness, well-being.
  • Is the utilitarian committed to maximizing happiness of individuals directly? (Preferences are one alternative.) A utilitarian focused on promoting utility, might still acknowledge that promoting human happiness is mostly about protecting conditions for an individual's autonomous pursuit of happiness.
  • Conditions for the pursuit of happiness: Order, stability, opportunity, education, health, rights, liberty.
  • Issue of protection of rights in utilitarian thought.
  • Preferences: Thought experiment: Returning a gun to an angry person. Is the angry person's preference one that has to count?
  • Cultural contradictions in our preferences: we prefer health, but we also "prefer" to eat the western diet. Which preference should the utilitarian focus on? Some preferences are based on bias or prejudice.
  • Need some standard of rational or considered preference.

Small Group: Assessing Utilitarianism

  • Consider applying utilitarianism to different kinds of moral problems (from interpersonal ethics to public policy questions). Identify three situations in which you would want to use utilitarianism and three situations in which you would not.

5: FEB 4


  • Haidt, Chapter 2, "The Intuitive Dog and It's Rational Tail"
  • Haidt, Chapter 3, "Elephants Rule"

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

  • Some complaints about philosophers
  • Philosophy's "rationalist delusion" ex. from Timaeus. but also in rationalist psych. -- Maybe humans were once perfect..........
  • 30: Plato (Timaeus myth of the body - 2nd soul), Hume (reason is slave of passions), and Jefferson (The Head and The Heart)
  • The troubled history of applying evolution to social processes
  • Wilson's Prophecy: brief history of moral philosophy after Darwin. nativism gets a bad name...
  • 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: note the claims and counter-claims. brings in feminism, resistance to science, naturalism.
  • de Waal (used to be in the course. See links.); Damasio -- 33 -- seems to be a very different picture than Plato's;
  • Some examples of evolutionary psychology
  • Evolutionary Psychology in moral psychology (quick small group: practice your "study reporting skills in reviewing briefly these findings. Be sure to include significance.)
  • Damasio's research on vmPFC disabled patients. could watch gruesome images without feeling. trouble planning. (Phineas Gage) reasoning (about some practical matters) requires feeling.
  • No problem making moral decisions under cognitive load. Suggests automatic processing. Note this also suggests that we shouldn't think of our "principles" as causal.
  • Roach-juice
  • Soul selling
  • Harmless Taboo violations: Incest story; note how interviewer pushes toward dumbfounding.
  • How to explain dumbfounding.
  • Margolis: seeing that (pattern matching - auto) vs. reasoning why (controlled thought); we have bias toward confirmation, which is seen in the mistake people make on the Wasson Card test. (From this perspective Kohlberg was focused on "reasoning why". Note from p. 44, some "reasoning why" is crucial to moral discourse (similar to universalizability in Singer reading)
  • Rider and Elephant
  • Important to see Elephant as making judgements (processing info), not just "feeling" (Hard for traditional philosophers to do.)
  • 45: Elephant and Rider defined
  • Emotions are a kind of information processing, part of the cognitive process.
  • 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.
  • Social Intuitionist Model: attempt to imagine how our elephants respond to other elephants and riders.

Small Group Discussion

  • Go back to roach juice and soul selling. How would you react to this experiment now that you know it's a pschological trigger we have? What else works like this?
  • Is Feeling epistemic? Do we process information with emotions?

  • Bring up Repligate issue. [2]

Haidt, Chapter 3, "Elephants Rule"

  • Personal Anecdote from Haidt's married life: 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 "mere exposure effect" tendency to have more positive responses to something just be repeat exposure.
  • 2. Social and Political judgements are especially intuitive
  • flashing word pairs with dissonance: "flower - happiness" vs. "hate - sunshine" (affective priming)
  • Implicit Association Test Project Implicit
  • 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
  • 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?
  • Paxton and Greene experiments with incest story using versions with good and bad arguments. Harvard students showed no difference, though some when allowed delayed response.
  • Friends... The Importance of Friends...Friends are really important...

6: FEB 6


  • Lecture on Non-Consequentialisms
  • Robert Sapolsky, C 13, "Morality" pp. 483-493
  • The Trolley Problem

Sapolsky. Behave. C 13, 483-493

Rough topics:

  • Origins of Social/Moral Intuitions in Babies and Monkeys and Chimps
  • infants show signs of moral reasoning -- baby helper studies, baby sweets study - rewards helper, baby secondary friends study
  • capuchin monkey study (deWaal) - monkey fairness. (demonstrated also with macaques monkeys, crows, ravens, and dogs), details on 485.
  • Chimp version of Ultimatum Game - in the deWaal version, chimps tend toward equity unless they can give the token directly to the grape dispensers.
  • also studies for fairness without loss of self-interest and "other regarding preferences".
  • in one inequity study the advantaged monkey (the one who gets grapes) stops working as well. solidarity?
  • Interesting comment: human morality transcends species boundary. starts before us.
  • Exemptions for testifying against relatives and vmPFC patients who will trade relatives in Trolley situations
  • vmPFC damaged patient will sacrifice a relative to save four non-relatives.
  • Interesting note about criminal law exemptions.
  • Neuroscience of the Trolley Problem and "Intuition discounting"
  • dlPFC in level condition and vmPFC in bridge condition.
  • Greene's hyposthesis: in level condition the killing of the one is a side-effect. In bridge condition, its because of the killing. Different forms of intentionality.
  • Loop condition -- you know you have to kill the person on the side track, should be like bridge condition, but test subjects match level condition.
  • Hyposthesis: Intuitions are local; heavily discounted for time and space. (Think of other examples of this.)
  • related point about proximity - leave money around vs. cokes. Singer's pool scenario vs. sending money for absolute poverty relief.
  • priming study on cheating involving bankers. a little puzzling.
  • Neuroscience of the Fundamental Attribution Error
  • p. 492: "but this circumstance is different" - neuro-evidence for the Fundamental Attribution Error [5]
  • we judge ourselves by internal motives and others by external actions. Our failings/successes elicit shame/pride others elicit anger or indignation and emulation (envy?).
  • Ariely: cheating not limited by risk but rationalization.


  • Major intuitions behind Non-Consequentialism:
  • Being good and doing well (satisfying interests) are not the same thing.
  • Moral goodness is about being true to something (maybe no matter the consequences). (your nature as a creation of God, Reason, Moral Agency (being responsible, autonomous), enjoying rights)
  • Doing your duty is one thing, becoming happy is another.
  • Types
  • Divine Command
  • Natural Law
  • Rights Theory (version exist with conseq.)
  • Kantianism
  • Virtue Ethics (can be also conseq. or mixed)
  • Rawlsian thought on political morality (mixed)

Small Group Discussion

  • Thinking about the relationship between consequentialist and non-consequentialist thought. It looks like a choice about the nature of moral goodness, but wait, is that the only option? Try to think about what would be missing in our moral experience if we made a simple choice between them.

7: FEB 11


  • Haidt, Chapter 4, "Vote for Me (Here's Why)"
  • Haidt, Chapter 5, "Beyond WEIRD Morality"

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

  • Ring of Gyges
  • Functionalism in psychology
  • Reminder of big theoretical choice about ethics. (74) Is function of ethics truth discovery or pursuit of socially strategic goals?
  • 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.
  • Section 1: Obsessed with polls
  • Leary's research on self-esteem importance- "sociometer" -- non-conscious level mostly.
  • Section 2: Confirmation bias and exploratory thought
  • Confirmation bias
  • Wasson again -- number series
  • Deann Kuhn -- 80: We are horrible at theorizing (requiring exploratory thought)....
  • David Perkins research on reason giving
  • Section 3: We're really good at finding rationalizations for things.
  • more examples of people behaving as Glaucon would have predicted. Members of parliament, Ariely, Predictably Irrational,
  • Section 4: Can I believe it vs. Must I believe it
  • more evidence of reason in the service of desire: Can I believe it? vs. Must I believe it? We keep two different standards for belief-assent.
  • "motivated reasoning" - 84ff.
  • Section 5: Application to political beliefs: Partisan Brains
  • Does selfish interest or group affiliation predict policy preferences? Not so much. We are groupish.
  • Drew Westen's fMRI research on strongly partisan individuals. We feel threat to dissonant information (like hypocrisy or lying) about our preferred leader, but no threat, or even pleasure, at the problems for the opponent. the partisan brain. Difference in brain activation did not seem to be rational/cog (dlPFC). bit of dopamine after threat passes.
  • Research suggests that ethicists are not more ethical than others. (89 Schwitzgebel)
  • Mercier and Sperber. Why Do Humans Reason?
  • 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. introduce term "social epistemology"

Small Group discussion

  • We all have examples from social life of people who are more or less interested in exploratory thought and holding themselves accountable to external information and "their side" arguments.
  • Share examples of the verbal and non-verbal behaviors of people who are not very good at exploratory thought and inviting diversity of viewpoint in social settings (other people, of course).
  • Then, try to consider or recall the behaviors of people who do the opposite. What are some verbal or other behaviors that you can use to indicate to others' that you are open to having your views examined? What have you noticed about the practices of people who are good at generating viewpoint diversity in social setting?

Haidt, Chapter 5, "Beyond WEIRD Morality"

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; Enlightenment moralities of Kant and Mill are rationalist, individualist, and universalist.
  • survey data on East/West differences in sentence completion: "I am..."
  • framed-line task 97
  • Kantian and Millian ethical thought is rationalist, rule based, and universalist. Just the ethical theory you would expect from the culture.

A 3 channel moral matrix

  • 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.)

Making Sense of Moral Difference

  • Haidt's Bhubaneswar experience: diverse (intense) continua of moral values related to purity. (opposite of disgust). Confusing at first, but notice that he started to like his hosts (elephant) and then started to think about how their values might work. Stop and think about how a mind might create this. Detail about airline passenger.
  • Theorizing with Paul Rozin on the right model for thinking about moral foundations: "Our theory, in brief" (103)
  • American politics often about sense of "sacrilege", not just about defining rights (autonomy). Not just harm, but types of moral disgust.
  • Stepping out of the Matrix: H's metaphor for seeing his own politics as more "contingent" than before, when it felt like the natural advocacy of what seem true and right. 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:
  • Identify some of the key influences on your morality, especially from religious, regional, and family culture. Have you had any experiences similar to Haidt's in which you become aware of a moral culture that at first confused you, but then showed you something about your own moral culture?
  • Does Haidt's matrix metaphor makes sense? What does it mean? What hope will we have of having "critical" ethical discussions if very contingent differences of culture are part of the fabric of our morality?

Primate family tree.gif

8: FEB 13


  • Lecture: Another approach to Kant.
  • Hibbing, John R., Kevin Smith, and John R. Alford, Predisposed: Liberals, conservatives, and the biology of political difference, Chapter 1.
  • Robert Sapolsky, C 13, "Morality..." pp. 493-500.

Lecture: Non-consequentialism

  • Another Approach to Kant
  • Some moral theories are not focused on happiness or happy consequences, but being true to an ultimate moral value or vision of the world. For Kant, an Enlightenment thinker, that is the idea of ourselves as rational beings.
  • What does it mean to be a rational being for Kant?
  • Rational Beings: free, autonomous (self-regulating), purposive, having a life. Persons, no just bodies.
  • Kant's view of reason and nature: When we look at our nature we see both reason and passion. Our reason is a source of freedom from interests and gives us the possibility of autonomy (to be self-legislating). Passsions and interests bind us to the world and can only be a source of hypothetical imperatives (or conditional duties). If you want X, do Y.
  • My duty is fundamentally to be true to the possibility of my freedom and autonomy, to my rational nature. This is a categorical imperative because our freedom is not a conditional choice for me, but a recognition that the conditions of autonomy and reason are the same.
  • How do I figure out if my motives are consistent with the idea of myself as a rational being?
  • Motives expressed as "maxims". Try to imagine the maxim of your action as if if were a universal law (what if everyone followed it?). Kant thinks that when you universalize your maxim you can discover contradictions in it from a rational perspective.
  • Two Examples of Kantian thinking: Lying and Indifference to Others These examples illustrate two types of contradictions that we might discover when we try to universalize our maxim. (The following is exerpted from the site I referenced last class.)
  • The maxim for the false promise: “When I believe myself to be in need to money I shall borrow money and promise to repay it, even though I know that this will never happen.”
  • Reasoning: A person proposes to make a promise he doesn’t intend to keep to pay back money in order to meet a need of his own. He must consider whether he could will a world in which everyone is motivated in precisely the same way. Kant claims that he cannot since it is only possible for people to promise in the first place if there is sufficient trust for others to believe that the person promising intends to keep his promise. But a world (otherwise like our own) in which everyone acted on this maxim would be a world in which such trust will not exist. Therefore it is impossible even to conceive of a world in which everyone acts on this maxim as though by a law of nature; therefore it is wrong to act on this maxim oneself. Kant says it creates a "contradiction in nature"
  • The maxim for not helping others: “let each be as happy as heaven wills or as he can make himself; I shall take nothing from him nor even envy him; only I do not care to contribute anything to his welfare or to his assistance in need!”
  • Reasoning: A person proposes not to help others because it is not in his own interest to do so. He then asks whether he could will a world in which everyone is similarly motivated. Clearly he can imagine such a world, so this kind of case is different from the first. But can he rationally will that everyone act on this maxim as though by a law of nature? It seems he cannot, because in willing that he act on the maxim, he is willing that his own interest be promoted, but in willing that everyone act on the maxim, he is willing that his own interest not be promoted. Thus his will is in conflict with itself.
  • “Since many a situation might arise in which the man needed love and sympathy from others, and in which, by such a law of nature sprung from his own will, he would rob himself of all hope of the help he wants for himself.” (Kant hisself, Groundwork,423)
  • Conclusion: a bad act is one that creates a contradiction in nature or will.
  • Back to Alfino's notes:
  • Respect & treating others as "ends in themselves"
  • Note: Kant believes his theories explains lying and generosity as formal duties, not expressions of a desire to promote happy outcomes for others.
  • You can think of rights this way as well, but not everyone does. Can you have formal rights without a right to material conditions?

Hibbing, et. al. Predisposed Chapter 1

  • Some opening examples of the persistence of partisanship
  • opening example: William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal -- meant as example of highly educated partisans who would be able to debate in a civilized way. 60's era political divisions often violent.
  • also historical examples of highly partisan politics -- Hamilton & Adams, Hamilton & Burr (duelled). Jefferson's dirty tricks.
  • Goal of the Book: to explain why people experience and interpret the political world so very differently. (6): list of difference that track political difference. READ
  • A methodological concern
  • Does it makes sense to reduce political difference to "liberal" vs. "conservative". They are in fact measuring lots of differences, but claim there is a tradition of recognizing this difference. 11: some terminological issues. Ultimately, labels for clusters of real personality and behavioral differences.
  • Think Probabalistically: not biological determinists, rather real persistent differences shape and mold our ideology. Example: relation between conscientiousness and ideology 14. A number of studies replicate a positive correlation bt conscientiousness and conservatism. Lesson on 15: difference between representing data in categories vs. scatterplot. Wilson-Patterson index of conservatism. Brief lesson on correlation, 17. Correlation for conscientiousness and conservatism small r = .2
  • What are predispositions?
  • Predispositions - some stimuli, like a pencil, are emotionally neutral. Others not. Leibniz speculated about "appetitions" Neurscientist Eagleman: brain running alot of its own programs. Ad hoc defenses (also in Haidt) called "baloney generator" by Pinker. We may have an illusion of rationality and control. examples of self-deception like this, p. 21, also top of 22 read.
  • Responses to Political stimuli emotionally salient and not always conscious: Lodge: "hot cognition" or "automaticity"
  • 23: clarifying argument: not nature / nurture. predispositions are difficult to change. research on long term stability of pol. orientation. 180 degree turn is very unusual. Technical def: "Predispositions, then, can be thought of as biologically and psychologically instantiated defaults that, absent new information or conscious overriding, govern response to given stimuli."
  • Our actual predispositions vary, but also the degree to which we have predispositions is variable across a group. (This is one reason researchers in the field sometimes focus on highly partisan test subjects.)
  • 25: some background on theorizing about political dispositions. what is new today is better research, but also research connecting political variation with bio/cog variation.
  • 27: resistance to this kind of theory in political science. Philip Converse. also, idea that politics is best understood in terms of history and culture

Sapolsky, Behave, C 13, 493-500

  • Context, Culture, and Moral Universals
  • given all of the ways our moral judgements can be altered by context and culture, are there universals? Some forms of murder, theft, and sexual misbehavior. The Golden Rule is nearly universal.
  • Schweder. autonomy,community, divinity
  • Public goods game research
  • Simple version, pay to punish deadbeats version.
  • Robust results: 1) Everyone is prosocial. In no culture do people just not contribute. 2) In all cutlures, people punish low contributors. (Prosocial or altruistic Punishment)
  • Interesting recent result: Anti-social punishment is also universal, though it's strength varies. Interestingly, the lower the social capital in a country, the higher th erates of antisocial punishment.
  • research by Joseph Henrich, U BC, subjects from wide range of cultures play three simluation games: The Dictator and two versions of the Ultimatum Game. Variables that predict prosocial patterns of play: market integration, community size, religion.
  • World Religions and Moralizing Gods
  • What is the connection between participation in world religion and prosocial play? 499: When groups get large enough to interact with strangers, they invent moralizing gods. The alrge global religions all have moralizing gods who engage in third party punishment.
  • Bottom of 499: Two hypotheses: 1) Our sense of fairness is an extension of a deep past in which sociality was based on kin and near kin. (don't forget monkey fairness) or, 2) Fairness is a cultural artifact (product of culture) that comes from reasoning about the implications of larger groups size.
  • Note theoretical puzzle on p. 500

9: FEB 18


  • Haidt, Chapter 6, "Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind"
  • Haidt, Chapter 7, "The Moral Foundations of Politics"
  • Short Writing Assignment #1

Short Writing Assignment #1: 600 words

  • Stage 1: Please write an 600 word maximum answer to the following question by Monday, February 25, 11:59pm.
  • Topic: What is Jonathan Haidt's critique of traditional philosophical approaches to ethics? How do Haidt and other social and natural scientists we have read look at morality instead?
  • Advice about collaboration: I encourage you to collaborate with other students, but only up to the point of sharing ideas, references to class notes, and your own notes. Collaboration is part of the academic process and the intellectual world that college courses are based on, so it is important to me that you have the possibility to collaborate. It's a great way to make sure that a high average level of learning and development occurs. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to NOT share text of draft answers or outlines of your answer. Keep it verbal. Generate your own examples.
  • Prepare your answer and submit it in the following way:
  1. Do not put your name in the file or filename. You may put your student id number in the file. Put a word count in the file.
  2. Format your answer in double spaced text in a 12 point font, using normal margins.
  3. Save the file in the ".docx" file format using the file name "SW1".
  4. Log in to courses.alfino.org. Upload your file to the Q&W dropbox.
  • Stage 2: Please evaluate four student answers and provide brief comments and a score. Review the Assignment Rubric for this exercise. We will only be using the Flow and Content areas of the rubric for this assignment. Complete your evaluations and scoring by Friday, March 1, 2019, 11:59pm.
  • Use this Google Form to evaluate four peer papers. The papers will be in our shared folder, but please do not edit or add comments to the papers directly. This will compromise your anonymity.
  • To determine the papers you need to peer review, I will send you a key with animal names in alphabetically order, along with saint names. You will find your animal name and review the next four (4) animals' work.
  • Some papers may arrive late. If you are in line to review a missing paper, allow a day or two for it to show up. If it does not show up, go ahead and review enough papers to get to four reviews. This assures that you will get enough "back evaluations" of your work to get a good average for your peer review credit. (You will also have an opportunity to challenge a back evaluation score of your reviewing that is out of line with the others.)
  • Stage 3: I will grade and briefly comment on your writing using the peer scores as an initial ranking. Assuming the process works normally, I will give you the higher of the two grades. Up to 14 points in Q&W.
  • Stage 4: Back-evaluation: After you receive your peer comments and my evaluation, take a few minutes to fill out this quick "back evaluation" rating form: [6]. Fill out the form for each reviewer, but not Alfino. Up to 10 points, in Q&W.
  • Back evaluations are due Thursday, March 7, 2019, 11:59pm.

10: FEB 20

  • Hibbing, John R., Kevin Smith, and John R. Alford, Predisposed, Chapter 2, "Getting Into Bedrock with Politics".
  • Writing workshop with old writing

11: FEB 25

  • Haidt, Chapter 8: The Conservative Advantage
  • Haidt, Chapter 9, "Why Are We so Groupish?"

12: FEB 27

  • Hibbing, John R., Kevin Smith, and John R. Alford, Predisposed, Chapter 4, "Drunk Flies and Salad Greens".
  • Robert Sapolsky, from Behave, Chapter 14, "Feeling Someone's Pain, Understanding Soemone's Pain, Alleviating Someone's Pain." 521-535.

13: MAR 4

  • Robert Sapolsky, C 13, "Morality..." pp. 501-517.
  • SW1

14: MAR 6

  • Robert Sapolsky, from Behave, Chapter 14, "Feeling Someone's Pain, Understanding Soemone's Pain, Alleviating Someone's Pain." 535--552.

15: MAR 18

  • Singer, "Rich and Poor"

16: MAR 20

  • Sachs, Jeffrey, "Can the Rich Afford to Help the Poor?" (2006)
  • Jeffrey Sachs, "The Case for Aid" p. 850

17: MAR 25

  • Singer, One World Now, Chapter 1, "A Changing World," (1-16)

18: MAR 27

  • Singer, One World Now, Chapter 2, "One Atmosphere," (16-69)
  • SW2

19: APR 1

  • Syla Benhabib, "The Morality of Migration" (766-767)

20: APR 3

  • Singer, One World Now, Chapter 4 "One Law," (122-149)

21: APR 8

  • Macdeo, Stephen, "The Moral Dilemma of U.S. Immigration Policy Revisited: Open Borders vs. Social Justice?" (768-780)

22: APR 10

  • Singer, One World Now, Chapter 3, "One Economy," (69-105)

23: APR 15

  • Singer, One World Now, Chapter 3, "One Economy," (105-122)

24: APR 17

  • Haidt, Chapter 10, "The Hive Switch" (221-246)

25: APR 22

  • Critical Analysis Paper due

26: APR 24

  • Haidt, Chapter 11, "Religion is a Team Sport" (189-221)

27: APR 29

  • Haidt, Chapter 12, "Can't We all Disagree More Constructively?" (189-221)
  • SW3 due

28: MAY 1

  • Course Conclusion