Spring 2021 Ethics Class Notes and Reading Schedule

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1: JAN 19. Course Introduction

First Day of Class Information

  • Welcome - personal introduction and welcome. (Some student introductions.)
  • About the Course (Overview of course focus. Detail to follow.)
  • Course Websites: SharePoint, Wiki & Courses.alfino.org (Some student introductions.)
  • Overview of Teaching Approach.
  • 1. Student choice in work and grading scheme - Your "grading scheme" (the assignments you will be graded on) has both required and optional elements. You can customize up to 30% of your grading scheme to suite your learning style or motivations in the course.
  • 2. Transparency grade information and student work - You will see most of the writing and scoring for required writing assignments. This will require the use of pseudonyms.
  • 3. Opacity of grade information, peer comments, and student identity - Like blind review in academic life.
  • 4. Writing Enhanced - Students participate in reviewing and evaluating student writing. This also requires the use of pseudonyms. (Some student introductions.)
  • Succeeding in the Course:
  • Prep Cycle - view reading notes as you are reading, read, note, quiz, evaluate preparation. Hierarchy of skills and goals.
  • Reading - Keep track of the time you spend reading for the course. Mark a physical text. Contact me if your reading quiz scores are not what you expect.
  • Writing - Try to learn the rubric, read other students' writing and compare scores, discuss your writing with me, especially during office hours.
  • Keep in mind course research questions Major_Ethics_Course_Questions (Some student introductions.)
  • Required Assignments and Default Grade Weights for your Grading Scheme
  • Points 35-65% default = 55%
  • Position Paper 1 15-25% default = 20%
  • Position Paper 2 20-30% default = 25%
  • More About the Course (Orientation, Content, major research questions)
  • Naturalism in Ethics -- What if Ethics has its origins in our natural history? Why this is/was a radical claim.
  • Fields of study represented in the course: Biology, Psychology, Moral Psychology, Evolutionary Psychology, Behavioral Economics, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, History
  • First six weeks:
  • 1. Lots of theory from the fields mentioned above directed toward our research questions Major_Ethics_Course_Questions
  • 2. Exercises in "moral phenomenology" (discussion and writing about morality drawing on your experience). Also in Ethics news.
  • Next nine weeks: Major Applied Topics:
  • The nature of political and moral difference, and implications
  • Justified Partiality
  • Empathy
  • Moral Responsibility Skepticism and Alternatives
  • Zoom
  • Video on/off
  • Synchronous attendance. Send excuses for absence prior to class, if possible.
  • If you miss class, please try to view the recorded class within 24 hours.
  • Try think of ways to personalize the virtual experience: examples from last semester - put up a pic for video off. Share something about where you are. Dogs, cats, music, etc.
  • First Day TO DO list
  • Make sure you can find the three course websites and that you understand what information and tools each provides.
  • Browse some links on the course wiki page
  • Find reading for next class on wiki and pdfs from courses.alfino.org
  • Buy Jonathan Haidt, "The Righteous Mind"
  • Keep an eye out for Ethics News!
  • Sign up for in person attendance. Feel free to sign up for three or four classes at a time. If that crowds others out we might need limit signups to each next class.

2: JAN 21. Unit One: Primers and Background


  • Ariely, Why We Lie (6)
  • Haidt, The Righteous Mind, Intro and Chapter 1 (24)
  • Zimbardo Experiment -- view one of the youtube videos about the experiment. read the wiki page.


  • 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?

Tips on Philosophical Methods and Method in Ethics

  • In this interactive segment, we'll use the Kyle Rittenhouse case to demonstrate some key features of a philosophical response. We can also see some things about method in ethics from this case.
  • Take 3-5 minutes to identify important specific and contextual facts about the situation that may be relevant to evaluating values at work. Send in your items through voice or chat window. We will also generate items in class.
  • What norms already govern situations like Kyle's?
  • Closing comments and discussion. Basic ways that method helps us have more sophisticated and reflective views. Yeah!

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.)

3: JAN 26


  • Hibbing, John R., Kevin Smith, and John R. Alford, Predisposed: Liberals, conservatives, and the biology of political difference, Chapter 1, "Living with the Enemy". (32)
  • PBS Aristotle and Virtue Theory: Crash Course Philosophy #38
  • Everyday Ethics Discussion and Short Writing Prompt #1. Due at midnight tonight!

In-class content

  • Discussion segment: Sharing ideas about first writing prompt on trust.
  • Lecture Segment: Philosophical Theories: Virtue Ethics
  • Lecture Segment: Some Preliminaries about Ethical theory and objectivity

Everyday Ethics Discussion and Short Writing Prompt #1

Some Preliminaries about Ethical theory and objectivity

  • A Framework for thinking about moral theories.
  • Where should we look for "moral goodness"?
  • Intentions (Kantian), Act (Aristotle), Consequences (Mill, Singer - utilitarian)
  • The following is pretty standard, but was drawn from Peter Singer's classic, Practical Ethics:
  • Singer's arguments against cultural relativism:
  • Cultural Relativism: Ethics varies by culture. Singer: This is true and false, same act under different conditions may have different value, but this is superficial relativism. For example, existence of birth control led to a general change in sexual ethics. The moral principle in question (don't have kids you're not ready to care for) 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: Polling data on advisability of living together prior to marriage. So cultural change itself doesn't tell you whether moral principles are changing.
  • Subjectivist Relativism 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
  • 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.
  • Are there minimum conditions for ethical theories?
  • The sorts of reasons that count as ethical: universalizable ones. Can't just appeal to one person or group's interest. Note: most standard ethical theories satisfy this requirement, yet yield different analysis and advice. We will look at the specific form of universalization in each theory we discuss.

Philosophical Moral Theories: Virtue Ethics

  • concepts from video...
  • Virtue — general idea of being an excellent person. Also, specific lists of virtues (vary by time and culture)
  • A bit of Aristotle’s theory of virtue and human nature: fixed nature, species eternal, proper function (telos), distinctive aspect of function: being rational and political.
  • Virtue is natural to us. Like an acorn becoming a tree. Being virtuous is being the best of the kind of thing you are. A deep intuition supports this devleopmental approach, even if you don't believe in the eternality of the species!
  • Theory of the Golden Mean: Virtue as mean between extremes of emotion: Ex. Courage (story), Honesty, Generosity. Virtue as training of emotional response in relation to knowledge of circumstances and the good.
  • How do you acquire virtue? Experience. Practical Wisdom cultivated through habituation. Follow a moral exemplar. Good parenting and shaping by healthy family. It's a training program in becoming the best human you can be based on your "telos".
  • What if we don’t want to become virtuous? What is the motivation to virtue? The pursuit of a happy life that “goes well”. Eudaimonia. Human flourishing. Challenge and development of talents. Should be attractive. Connection between virtue and happiness not guaranteed for Aristotle, but could be tighter in other versions.
  • Additional points:
  • centrality of virtues and practical wisdom. Is practical wisdom real? Discussion opp.
  • historic variability and list of virtues. Curiosity was a vice in Medieval Europe. Check out virtue lists on Virtue Wiki.
  • From Aristotle to Evolutionary theory. Eternality of the species. What if you drop this false belief? Human excellence may have to do with meeting or exceeding the challenges posed by our environment.

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

4: JAN 28


  • Sapolsky, Chapter 10: The Evolution of Human Behavior 328-387 (59). For this class read only pages 328-354. Use notes below also for part two of this chapter.

In-class content

  • Philosophical Method: Ethics as a kind of language game, or conversational constraints on moral discourse. Today, before turning to Sapolsky, we'll do a short workshop on how ethical conversations work.
  • Preliminary discussion of trust writing. Stage two. Your writing on trust is posted to the Sharepoint site in a spreadsheet. By Friday, please read at least 10 peers' work. Try to jump around in the spreadsheet so that you aren't all reading the first 10. Select 3 of those 10 that you think give particularly good answers. Do not choose your own entry, even if it is great. Jot down a couple of notes about the ones you select. Then go to this form to submit your entries.

Ethics as a "language game"

  • Well, not really a game. The term comes from a famous philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was interested in how language is similar to a games. For example, there are lots of rules to using language, not just grammar, etc., but social rules. Like the rules for conversations. You can know a language and still not be very sophisticated in having a conversation!
  • So what are some of the unwritten, but widely acknowledged rules for having an ethical conversation? What are the legitimate "moves" you can make in an ethical conversation? What moves would earn you a yellow or red card.
  • illicit moves:
  • appealing to only one person's interests,
  • denying the standing (need for consideration) of a person or group arbitrarily.
  • licit moves:
  • appealing to broadly held values about human life and human dignity that may be globally held.
  • appealing to cultural and local norms that may be considered well justified (note, even if they are not!).
  • constraints we might recommend to improve moral or political discourse
  • observe norms of civil discourse:
  • avoid calling liars liars,
  • present others' views in ways that show empathetic understanding,
  • recognize common ground

In a short break out room discussion try to add items to these three categories.

Sapolsky, Chapter 10: The Evolution of Human Behavior

Evolution 101 — 3 steps

  • not so much about survival as reproduction. Antagonistic pleiotropy — sperm early, cancer later.
  • other misconceptions — living better adapted than the extinct, not just a “theory”
  • sexual selection and natural selection. Example of peacocks — trade offs between two forms of selection.
  • sociobiology — evolutionary psychology introduced. Premise: Evolution optimizes social behavior (for fitness) and psychological traits just as it optimizes bodies.
  • Marlin Perkins and Mutal of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Bad ideas about evolution of altruistic species behavior. Group selection doesn’t work that way.

Individual Selection — 334: competitive infanticide: why langur monkeys kill babies. How females develop a false estrus to fight back. (Working against mountain gorillas these days.)

Kin Selection — 336: Basic idea: your nearest kin has most of your genes. Haldane, “I’d gladly lay down my life for two brothers or eight cousins.” Allomothering. Grooming behaviors reflect closeness. 337: vervet monkey study. Playback studies. These studies show in various ways how warning behaviors track kinship relationships in social primates.

  • problem for kin selection — avoiding inbreeding. Many species mate with 1-3rd cousins. Sperm aggregation. Malagasy giant jumping rat. 340 - smell studies — women prefer smell of near relatives over unrelated.

How do animal recognize kin? Major histocompatibility complex (MHC) gives many animals olfactory recognition of kin. Other mechanisms: songs, vaginal fluid smell, milk.

How do we do kin selection? Pseudo-kin selection or “green beard” effects. We are not limited to actual kin, any conspicuous feature (like a green beard). Humans show green beard effects. Related to parochialism and xenophobia.

Reciprocal Altruism.

  • don't just think about evolution as promoting competition toward extinction. equilibriums are important.
  • reciprocal altruism is a third way that evolution shapes human behavior. Unrelated individuals cooperate across nature (fish in schools, birds in formation, herds). Also unrelated primates. Important 1971 paper by Trivers (344) on reciprocal altruism. how organisms incur a fitness cost to benefit another individual with expectation of reciprocation.
  • cheating and freeriding can create a "Red Queen" situation.

Two big questions: when is cooperation optimal, how can altruism start?

What strategy for cooperating is optimal?

  • background to Game Theory - John von Neumann. Prisoner's Dilemma connected biologists to game theorists. Prisoner's dilemma video
  • basics of a Prisoner's Dilemma payoff: A&B cooperate: 1 year: A cooperates, B defects: B walks and A gets three years. Cooperation is best, but each individual calculation leads to defection. Quite a little dilemma.
  • defection is optimal for single round PD, but what about 3 rounds. Still best to defect. What about "iterated" (uncertain number of rounds)?
  • Axelrod's challenge: Optimal strategy for iterated PD. Winner: Anatol Rapoport: Cooperation on 1st round and then match opponent's previous behavior. "Tit for Tat" Always works toward a draw, or slight negative outcome. Not that Tit for Tat tilts toward cooperation, but avoids being a sucker and punishes defectors. famous paper in 1981 by Axelrod and Hamilton.
  • "signal errors" can reduce Tit for Tat payoffs. Remedies: "Contrite tit for tat (retaliate after two defections) and Forgiving (forgive 1/3 of defections). Both address the signal error problem, but have other vulnerabilities.
  • Mixed (genetic) strategies: You could start out with one strategy and then change to another. How do you go from punitive Tit for Tat to one incorporating forgiveness? Trust. 350-351: describes a changing environment a events signal to individuals to change strategies. Kind of a model of real life.
  • Black Hamlet fish
  • Stickleback fish
  • But sceptical that tit for tat has been found outside humans.

How can cooperation ever start? 353

  • one Tit for Tatter in a population is doomed, two might find each other, Green beard effects might help grow a circle of cooperators. If the cooperating trait included search behaviors for cooperators it would help. Cooperation could also radiate from isolated groups that wind up inbreeding. If reintroduced to a large population, they might influence cooperative payoffs.
  • Note: Reading assignment part 1 ends here.

Standing on Three legs -- Some examples of different ways that these three forces (ind. selection, kind selection, and reciprocal altruism) can work together in animals.

  • vampire bat
  • pair bonding (A) vs. tournament species (B) -- what follows: B-males are more violent, A-males need less muscle, in B species a few males do all the reproducing, B-males more likely to have sex with anything, A-males more likely to share responsibilities. B-species puts more emphasis on sexual selection. 360.
  • Parent-Offspring Conflict -- conflict based on lack of complete gene sharing bt parent and offspring. weaning conflict. other biological conflicts between fetus and mother. slightly diff evo agendas.
  • Intersexual Genetic Conflict -- In species with low paternal investment, a father's interest might be with the child and against the mother. "imprinted genes" part of the mechanism for intersexual conflict. If they come from Dad, it favours more nutrition for the kid. Tournament species have more imprinted genes than pairbonding (as you would expect).

Multilevel Selection Theory

  • genotype vs. phenotype: phenotype is the expressed individual with its specific traits based on the genotype, which is specific genetic makeup of the individual
  • Why it matters -- explanations can be sought at either level. unibrow example. Note humorous hypothesizing at 361.
  • Reviews debate in biology: Dawkins, extreme gene centered - individual genes vs. genome, less radical view, genome centered. Seems to disparge single gene selection somewhat. Gould and Mayr: phenotype trumps genotype. Selection acts on expressed individuals. Dawkins analogy of cake recipe vs. taste of cake. Could be the baker or the recipe if the cakes don't taste right.
  • Levels: single gene, genome, single pheotypic trait, collection of traits. These are among the levels in Multi-level Selection.
  • Resurrection of Group Selection: Culture (the result of advertising, ideology about cakes, etc.) can also act as a selection force.
  • neo-group selection: some heritable traits can be maladaptive for the individual but adaptive for a group. As in the Prisoners' Dilemma, to get the optimal total outcome, you have be willing to forego the best individual outcome. Still controversial. Some biologist might agree that it is possible, but that it is rare. However, among humans it seems to occur alot. Cites "parochial altruism" and role of intergroup conflict in promoting intra-group cooperation.
  • example of increasing egg production. Can't just choose individuals if egg production has a social dimension.
  • credits David Sloan Wilson and E.O Wilson. Quite an "encomeum" there! more reading. famous paper "Rethinking the Theoretical Foundation of Sociobiology"

AND US? How do humans fit into these four modes of selection?

  • Individual Selection operates on us, but we do not have the same profile as our ancestors. We are neither clearly pair-bonding nor tournament species (pick your favorite comparative anatomy detail).
  • Maybe we are reproductive maximizers? Famous examples of super reproducers in History: Pharaoh Rames II to Genghis Khan. But then we have the Shakers.
  • Some evidence of competitive infanticide in abuse and killing by a step parent. (These findings have been challenged, though.)
  • Kin Selection: Strong evidence of practices tracking and favoring kin. (Note for later question of "justified partiality".) 368: feuds, bendettas, bequests, dynastic rule, protection against adverse testimony. Humans with damage to vmPFC choose strangers over family. (creepy) Story of the Russian who chose country over family and Stalin's reaction.
  • So, lots of evidence, but we also fight wars against people we are highly related to. families fight over succession, patricide, fratricide, we also give to strangers.
370: explanation for why we deviate so much from straight kin selection: we don't do it with MHC or imprinted genes, but we are cognitive (which includes feeling) about it. Evidence from kibutz about turning off sexual interest we see as "family". 46% would save their dog over a stranger. We can also be manipulated into feeling positive or negative toward others.
  • we used to think hunter gatherer bands were highly related, but only about 40%. already reciprocal altruism on the scene there. Conclusion: human do deviate from strict mechanisms of evolution found in other species. (Alfino: We've evolved complex and mixed strategies and can use language and reflection to rethink our behaviors and attitudes.)
  • Some challenges: hard to identify heritability for traits related to group selection. Just seems like the most parsimonious explanation.
Second challenge, Is evolution gradual? [This is optional reading.]

Is everything adaptive? [THis is optional reading.]

5: FEB 2


  • Haidt, Chapter 2, "The Intuitive Dog and It's Rational Tail" (25)
  • Everyday Ethics Discussion and Short Writing Prompt #2

Rubric Training

Everyday Ethics Discussion and Short Writing Prompt #2

  • Everyone agrees that honesty is an important virtue, but no one thinks honesty requires you to tell everyone the truth all the time. How do you decide when to tell the truth or say what you're thinking? What makes it morally acceptable to avoid disclosing something or to decide that someone doesn't have a right to an answer. Your answer should present one or more principles that you are implicitly following for deciding what honesty really requires of you. Try to articulate these principles in your answer and briefly justify them. (To prepare for this assignment you might want to listen to this "This American Life" podcast: Need to Know Basis. But you probably don't need to refer to it and you cannot assume that others have heard it.

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
  • 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]

6: FEB 4


  • Sapolsky, Chapter 10: The Evolution of Human Behavior 328-387 (59). For this class read only pages 354-387. Use notes above also for part two of this chapter.
  • Writing: Sapolsky Question

SW1 Stage 1: Instuitions Come First (600 words)

  • Stage 1: Please write an 600 word maximum answer to the following question by September 22, 2020 11:59pm.
  • Topic: Prompt goes here.
  • 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. In Word, check "File" and "Options" to make sure your name does not appear as author. You may want to change this to "anon" for this document.
  3. Format your answer in double spaced text in a 12 point font, using normal margins.
  4. Save the file in the ".docx" file format using the file name "IntuitionsFirst".
  5. Log in to courses.alfino.org. Upload your file to the Points dropbox.
  • Stage 2: Please evaluate four student answers and provide brief comments and a score. Review the Assignment Rubric for this exercise. We will be using the Flow and Content areas of the rubric for this assignment. Complete your evaluations and scoring by TBD, 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.
  • 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: [3]. Fill out the form for each reviewer, but not Alfino. Up to 10 points, in Points.
  • Back evaluations are due TBD, 11:59pm.

Sapolsky, Chapter 10: The Evolution of Human Behavior 354-387

7: FEB 9. Unit Two: More research from moral psychology, politics, and biology and more philosophical moral theories!


  • Robert Sapolsky, from Behave, Chapter 13, "Morality and doing the Right Thing, Once You've Figured Out What that Is." pp. 478-483.
  • Haidt, Chapter 3, "Elephants Rule" (52-72)
  • The Trolley Problem

In-class content

  • Consequentialism

Philosophical Moral Theories: Consequentialisms -- Utilitarianism

  • Brief historical intro to utilitarians: Early industrial society, "social static" (early efforts to measure social conditions). Utilitarians were seen as reformers.
  • 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:
  • Equal Happiness Principle: Everyone's happiness matters to them as much as mine does to me. Everyone's interests have equal weight.
  • Note: this is a way to universalize. Recall earlier discussion about conditions for ethical discourse.
  • 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 ...
  • Classical utilitarian: greatest balance of range of qualitatively diverse pleasures and aspects of well-being.
  • Preference utilitarian version: Act to maximally fulfill the our interest in acting on our preferences.
  • 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? 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. Consider cases.
  • Conditions for the pursuit of happiness: Order, stability, opportunity, education, health, rights, liberty.
  • Issue of protection of rights in utilitarian thought.
  • Preferences:
  • An indirect way to solve the problem of lack of agreement about goods. Let's maximize opportunities for people to express their preferences. Positive: pushing the question of the good life to the individual. Negative: High levels of individualism may reduce social trust. Lack of action on opportunities to reduce suffering.
  • 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. What a "reasonable person" would do. Maybe less disagreement about that than "the good". (Example: Intervening in the lives of homeless mentally ill and suffering.)

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.

Sapolsky, Robert. Behave. C 13, "Morality and Doing the Right Thing" (479-483)

  • 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!

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...

8: FEB 11


In-class content

  • Philosophical Moral Theories: Duty

Hibbing, Chapter 4: Drunk Flies and Salad Greens (89-96)

  • Only pages indicated!
  • Point about fruit flies: taste for glycerol has biological basis, manipulable, yet we'd say the fly "likes" beer. POINT: Variation in human preferences yet also biologically instantiated. They are still your preferences even if (especially if?) biologically instantiated. Focus on this chapter: taste/pref diffs of conservatives/liberals, their basis, connection to politics. Later, cars, stocks,
  • Obama's arugula faux pas. Hunch.com studies (note problems): supports stereotype. Neuropolitics.org: similar findings
  • Hibbing et al research 93-4: expanded preference research to: new experiences, humour, fiction, art, prefs in poetry, living spaces,
  • Market research in politics: mentions RNC

Hibbing, Chapter 5: Do You See What I See?

  • Attention Studies research on Political difference:
  • Rorschach tests. seem to trigger different attentional and other biases.
  • Claim in this chapter: Differences in political temperament are tied to differences in a variety of perception and procession patterns prompted by stimuli. Liberals and conservatives see the world differently.
The Eyes Have it
  • Eye movement research - gaze cuing: gaze cuing test reveal sensitivity to social cues, but tend to be cited as averages. lots of variation.
  • research question: Are liberals more susceptible to gaze cuing than conservatives? Yes. liberals slow down under miscuing, but not conservatives. liberal are more sensitive to social context, conservatives to rules. 121: not necessarily one better than the other. But, interestingly (122) conservatives and liberals prefer their own attentional biases (at least weakly)! (Speculate here.)
Fitting Round Pigs into Square Holes 122
  • Categorization as Cognitive Temperament: tests allow us to see variations in cognitive temperament. hard categorizers vs. soft. Conservatives / liberals. 124: conservatives more likely to lock onto a task and complete it in a fashion that is both definitive and consistent with instructions.
  • Cognitive Processing of + and - content. Italian researcher Luciana Carraro, why do some people tend to pay attention to negative words over positive words? Used a Stroop Task measuring delay in reporting font color of negative words. Strong correlation with political orientation. "conservatives have a strong vigilence toward negative stimuli." Wasn't so much the valuation placed on negative words, but that negative stimuli triggered more attentional resources.
  • Same researchers did a Dot Probe Test (measuring speed in identifying a gray dot on a postive or negative image. Assumption that speed equates with attentional disposition toward the stimuli). Liberals a bit quicker with positive images, conservatives with negative.
  • Hibbing et. al. wanted to replicate the Italian research. Used a Flanker Task. (measuring speed in reporting a feature of an image when flanked by two images congruent or incongruent to the main image. Assumption is that the less you are slowed down by incongruence, the more attentional resources you had for the image.) Replicated typical results: we are all faster with angry faces, for example. Conservative less impacted by the angry faces. Both groups reacted the same to happy faces.
What Are You Looking At? 129
  • Eye tracking attentional studies - dwell time. Their research measured "dwell time" - time spent looking at an image. in a study, subjects are shown a group of images. General bias toward negative images. Theorized as having survival value. Conservatives spend a lot more time on negative images and quick to fix on negative images. Some weak evidence that liberals focus more on positive images, but sig. results concerned differentials.
Perception is Reality -- But is it real?
  • Since liberals and conservatives value positive and negative images in the same way, you might conclude that they see the same world but pay attention to parts of it with different degrees of interest or attention. But Hibbing et. al. are not so sure. In a study, they asked libs and cons to evaluate pos/neg their view of the status quo on six policy dimensions (134). They seem to assess the reality differently, they see different policies at work in the same society, not just attending more to some stimuli. Political difference might not be difference in preference, but in perception.
  • They also did some research on ranking degree of negativity of images and, unlike the Italian research, conservatives did rank negative images more negatively. In another study (135-6), researchers found that conservatives ranked faces as more dominant and threatening than liberals.
You're full of Beans
  • Cognitive style in exploration - BeanFest -- a research game in which test subjects try to earn points by deciding whether to accept or reject a bean with an unknown point value. Based on personality, some subjects are more exploratory (accept more beans and get more information), while others are conservative. But political orientation also predicts strategy. Shook and Fazio see the result as indicative of differences in data acquisition strategies and learning styles. Interesting follow-up analysis based on giving test subjects a "final exam" on the bean values. Similar scores, but different patterns of classification.
  • 139: good summary paragraph: "New bean? What the hell, say the liberals, let's give it a whirl" Roughly equal scores on the game and exam.
  • exploratory behavior and related differences in valuing everyday ethical situations, like forgetting to return a CD. Can you think of a time you attached a judgement to a friend's behavior and then realized it was part of a larger pattern connected to their identity? Being late, tidy, calling back......
  • Differing attitudes toward science and religion. No surprise that science denial comes from the right. Partial effect of our cognitive styles. note p. 140.

Philosophical Moral Theories: Duty Ethics

  • Basic intuition behind non-consequential duty ethics: At a very basic level, moral behavior comes to us as a kind of "command". This can be felt as an external command (Divine Law) or an internal command (internalization of Divine law, or autonomous act. Duty in the modern sense is felt as a command to be true to some ideal or conception of ourselves. (mention Joe Henrich, The Weirdest People on Earth
  • Typical formulation of "modern" duty ethics comes from Kant.
  • Video: Beginner’s Guide to Kant’s Moral Philosophy
  • What does it mean to be good? To have a good will. The will to do the right thing. Not for rewards.
  • Bartender example. Self-interested motivations don’t count (fear of getting caught, losing customers, harming customers).
  • What is it that Kant wants you to love and swear absolute duty to? A little background on Kant. Enlightenment figure. (Mill comes later, but also expresses Enlightenment ideas.) Morality originates in my free will. The ability to make rules for ourselves. Being rational. Being bad is a failure of duty to revere reason in each other!
  • Categorical Imperative: “I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become universal law.” ...if it makes sense for you to will that everyone act from your maxim. This is a kind of test.
  • Lying. Fails the test. Contradiction between maxim of truth telling and maxim of lying. You want people to believe you after all.
  • Formulation #2: Act in such a way that you treat humanity... always as an end and never simply as a means. Requires respect of others as source of rational planning.
  • Are we using people only as an end when we get services from others? Not necessarily.
  • Formulation #3: Act as though through your actions you could become a legislator of universal morals. We are examples, contributing to a rational order or not.

9: FEB 16


  • Robert Sapolsky, C 13, "Morality" pp. 483-493
  • Haidt, Chapter 4, "Vote for Me (Here's Why)" (23)

Point on Method

  • A way of framing the research we are reviewing (and some we are not): Three Frames:
  • 1. Differences and Structures in our individual psychology for expression moral behaviors.(Evolved psychology.)
  • 2. Differences that emerge from the interactions of individuals in a society or culture. (Evolved social behaviors.)
  • 3. Differences between cultures, including, for example the remarkable emergence of WEIRD culture. (Joe Henrich, The Weirdest People on Earth) -- mention relevance for happiness. (Culturally evolved cognition and behaviors.)
  • Now that we are piling on the more research results, we should make sure our research strategy in the course makes sense: So far:
  • 1. The evolution of social behavior takes us deep into the nature of morality, but it is incomplete for various reasons. (big reasony brains make free moves (like "rights"!) much of the evo machinery needs to be "deployed" to work, no answers from evolution to today's problems.
  • 2. Reason and intuition (rider and elephant) characterize our individual moral experience. We are still filling in our picture of reasoning in morals.
  • 3. There are important asymmetries in our moral experience: Paradox of Moral Experience, and, today, the Fundamental Attribution Error. (These, and other research results in this unit, hold profound "practical lessons" for improving moral deliberation and avoiding moral polarization (in which groups not only disagree, but see each other as morally inferior).)
  • Please start tracking "Practical Lessons" in your notes.

Sapolsky. Behave. C 13, 483-493

Rough topics:

  • Origins of Social/Moral Intuitions in Babies and Monkeys and Chimps
  • infants track commission better than ommission, as in adults.
  • infants show signs of moral reasoning -- baby helper studies, baby sweets study - rewards helper, baby secondary friends study (484)
  • capuchin monkey study (deWaal) - monkey fairness. (demonstrated also with macaques monkeys, crows, ravens, and dogs), details on 485. google "crows solving puzzles" or "elephants solving puzzles" animals are much more intelligent than we have historically understood.
  • Chimp version of Ultimatum Game - in the deWaal version, chimps tend toward equity unless they can give the token directly to the grape dispensers. 486
  • also studies for fairness without loss of self-interest and "other regarding preferences", but not in chimps! Keep this in mind the next time you are in a position to get justice from a chimp.
  • 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.
  • (Add in the Joseph Stalin reference from Ch. 10. He said he couldn't trust a guy who would rat out his relatives.)
  • 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 hypothesis: in level condition the killing of the one is a side-effect. In bridge condition, its because of the killing. Different kinds 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.
  • Hypothesis: Intuitions are local; heavily discounted for time and space. (Think of other examples of this.) Stories in which your reaction to something changes when you learn where it happens.
  • related point about proximity - leave money around vs. cokes. Cokes disappear. One step from money and the rationalization is easier. Singer's pool scenario vs. sending money for absolute poverty relief.
  • priming study on cheating involving bankers. 492 - shows "intuition discounting" when primed to think about work identity.
  • Neuroscience of the Fundamental Attribution Error
  • p. 492: "but this circumstance is different" - neuro-evidence for the Fundamental Attribution Error [6]
  • 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?).
  • Study showing that putting people under stress causes more egoistic judgements, at least about personal moral issues.
  • Ariely: cheating not limited by risk but rationalization.

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 self interest or group affiliation predict policy preferences? Not so much self-interest. 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?

10: FEB 18


In-class content

  • Libertarianism as a moral and political theory

Hibbing, Ch 6, Different Slates

  • Introductory stuff
  • Story of Phineas Gage -- 1848 -- early example of biology and personality change.
  • Oliver Sachs work.
  • 149: lobotomies. Some Parkinson's drugs can trigger behavioral changes like addictions and gambling.
  • I Feel it in my Gut -- psyhophysiology -- emotions as "action dispositions" 151: phsyiology of anger, stress (digress on cortisol), polygraph.
  • 151: how emotional states are instantiated in neural and physiological activity.
  • CNS - central nervous system (head and spine) ANS - Anotonomic Nervous system. Within ANS - SNS (sympathetic) and PNS (parasympathetic) --
  • 153: from Hibbing's lab: patterns of activation are pretty stable. Some people are agitated by dark rooms and loud noises. Same years later.
  • Politics on and in the Brain
  • Kanai and Rees MRI study -- looking at ACC (anterior singulate cortext) and amygdala. ACC activated by tasks involving error detection and conflict resolution -- results on 156: found correlation between liberalism and size of ACC. Bigger. However, amygdala (which is involved in face recog and emotion regulation) Conservatives have bigger amygdalas (156: more active in face recognition and threat detection (also C5) .
  • Note connection to BeanFest.
  • 157: caution in reading these results. Still, you could predict pol orientation from brain differences.)
  • Amodio 2007: looked to see if ACC activity is correlated to political ideology in "go/no go" task, specific brain wave identified that varied by pol. orientiation.
  • Politics Makes Me Sweat
  • EDA studies -- electrodermal activity -- skin conductivity, especially as it varies with sweat. Simple way of measuring SNS activity. Study from Hibbing in 2008: EDA activity correlated to policy positions. "People more physiologically responsive to threat stimuli were more likely to support policies aimed as reducing or addressing threats to the social status quo" 161. SNS also active when we are thinking hard about something. Largely unconscious (study).
  • Also "disgust" reactions: greater for conservatives, but only around sex-issues, not taxes. Note sig: not a general skin response to policies you favor, only a cluster. (We will be covering this in Haidt soon.)
  • EDA disgust studies line up with fartspray studies. Morality and smell are connected.
  • Hibbing EDA study 163: disaggregate data and its the sex-issues driving the SNS response.
  • EDA studies have shown increase activity around inter-racial interactions. Note: resisting preferential race policy needn't be racist.
Practical issue: studies showing unconscious response to group affiliation.
In Your Face Politics
  • Studies assessing our ability to determine political orientation from faces (not including hair or dress!). Proxies for this judgement could include "emotional expressivity" (168), which Liberals score higher on.
Study involving the facial muscle corrugator supercilii" (the eybrow furrowing muscle). Conservative males were distinctive for lack of emotional expressivity.

Libertarianism as a moral and political theory

  • Notes drawn from Sandel, Libertarianism:
  • (US conservative) Libertarianism: fundamental concern with human freedom understood as avoidance of coercion; 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.
  • Basic intuition: taxation is a form of forced labor. Only legitimate for a narrow range of goals that we mutually benefit from, such as defense.
  • Facts about concentration of wealth: 1% have 1/3 of wealth, more than bottom 90%. :*objections to redistribution: utilitarian and rights-based. Could there be forms of forced labor that come from inequality?
  • Libertarianism in Six Minutes (notes)
  • Historical look: 17th century resistance to oppressive conditions. “Rent seekers”. Payne. Similar to socialism and capitalism, a view about what is fair.
  • US libertarianism closer to free market capitalism vs. European, which is more socialist. Assumption of natural harmony among productive people with liberty of contract. Laws limited to protection and protection of natural rights. (Non-aggressive principle). No regulation of market. Social spending. Taxes are presumed to be coercive and confiscatory. "Night watchman" state. (Not so close to anarchy, except consistent with strong sense of public order.)
  • Problems:
  • No libertarian candidates on the national stage in two party state.
  • No successful libertarian states. No one's tried.
  • Monopolies, poverty. Bleeding out in the street.
  • Non-aggression principle unlikely in free market. Market can be quite aggressive. Putting people out of their homes. Eviction.
  • Favoring economic freedom assumes it correlates with happiness. (Mention Easterlin and Happiness studies)
  • Environmental regulation seems necessary.
  • Ethics not realized in the market perfectly. Lack of information transparency.
  • Some further reflections.
  • Note that libertarianism can admit variations. Depending upon how concrete your conception of liberty and freedom is, you might decide that promoting liberty requires helping people acquire skills and competencies for life and taking care of the disabled. This isn't pure "US" libertarianism anymore (it mixes thinking from the capabilities approach), but someone could claim to love liberty concretely, but making sure people have the conditions for "actual" freedom. Maybe now you can see why liberal libertarians can be socialists. You can see government as an ally in promoting personal freedom, beyond protecting you from rights violations.
  • Libertarians can argue that social needs should be met through voluntary donations of time and money. What if that doesn't happen? Bleeding out in front of the hospital. Can you still defend the theory?

11: FEB 23 (Heavy reading day)


  • Haidt, Chapter 5, "Beyond WEIRD Morality" (17)
  • Henrich, Joe. Chapter 1, "WEIRD Psychology" (37)

Henrich, "WEIRD Psychology," from The Weirdest People on Earth"

  • p. 25: "Who Am I?" task. Show charts
  • p. 28: sociocentric vs. individualistic
  • p. 34: guilt vs. shame
  • p. 44: impersonal honesty research (recall Ariely).

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

  • Schweder'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/Cultural 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 cultural moral values 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.

Small Group Discussion

  • Discussion questions:
  • Does it make sense to talk about "stepping out of a matrix"? Is this a temporary thing? What value might it have in your experience?
  • Do you have a parallel story to Haidt's? (Mention travel experiences.)

12: FEB 25


  • Hibbing, Chapter 4: Drunken Flies and Salad Greens (96-117) (21)
  • Sandel, C6 "The Case for Equality" Justice (141-165) (24)
  • Assigned today: SW2: Fair Contract Discussion and Writing Exercise (Points)
  • Recommended: Sandel, Chapter 6, The Case for Equality

In-class content

  • Philosophical Moral Theories: Justice

Philosophical Moral Theories: Justice

Sandel, M C6 "The Case for Equality"

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

Rawls' Theory of Justice

  • Original Social Contract tradition. Another Enlightenment philosophical product! See Social Contract wiki.
  • Rawls' basic method: Principles of justice should be chosen by following a kind of thought experiment in which you imagine yourself not knowing specific things about your identity and social circumstances. Adopting this special stance is what Rawls calls the "original position" (parallel in Social Contract tradition)
  • Original Position in Rawls' thought: Choosing principles of justice under a "veil of ignorance" (simple intuition about fairness: How do you divide the last piece of cake?
  • Note how this realizes a basic condition of moral thought: neutrality, universalization, fairness.
  • In the original position:
  • You still know: human psychology, human history, economic knowledge, the general types of possible situations in which humans can find themselves
  • You don't know: your sex, race, physical handicaps, generation, social class of our parents, etc
  • Note Rawls' argument for choosing things you don't know. He considers them "morally arbitrary." You don't deserve to be treated better or worse for your ethnicity, talents, health status, orientation, etc. Recall historically arbitrary differences like noble birth that we used to treat as morally significant.
  • A conservative theorist might object. If a health person can earn more money and the freedom to earn money is a matter of moral consequence, then maybe health isn't morally arbitrary? On the other hand, you might be hard pressed to claim that you “deserve” more money because you had healthier genes. For Rawls, it might still be just for you to earn more, but we need to develop his theory to see why.
  • So, what principles would it be rational to choose?
  • Maybe equality? But what if that (paradoxically) made you worse off? Knowing what you know about people, motivations, talents, etc. . . .
  • Rawls claims we would choose the following two principles
  • 1) Principle of Equal Liberty: Each person has an equal right to the most extensive liberties compatible with similar liberties for all. (Egalitarian.)
  • 2) Difference Principle: Social and economic inequalities should be arranged so that they are both (a) to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged persons, and (b) attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of equality of opportunity.
  • Note other possible principles.
  • Questions for understanding Difference Principle "a": Are the least advantaged better off in a society with economic inequality? Do improvements in the society's wealth improve the situation of the least advantaged? Do decreases in wealth unfairly worsen the condition of the least advantaged?
  • Rawl's theory is mostly a way of justifying two principles of justice, but you can also think of these principles as guiding policy. Example of policy implications of the Difference Principle. Changes at the margins should satisfy the Diff Principle. (Mention California covid reopening mandate to mitigate effects on least advantaged. Related evidence of disproportionate effects of Covid by SES (Social and Economic Standing).
  • Consider your intuitions about disaster relief in a Rawlsian context.

Fairness in Contracts

  • from: Sandel, Chapter 6: Rawls (not a reading for this term)
  • What is a contract? What moral rules govern contracts? We tend to focus on consent. "Liberty of contract". In employment, many jobs in the US are "at will"; either party may end the contract without giving reasons. Example of simple liberty of contract. (Note how this plays out in professional contexts.)
  • We also focus on the "quid pro quo" (benefits exchanged). Lobster case challenges this.
  • Lobster case: You contract for 100 lobsters at $10 a piece.
  • Condition 1: You take delivery, enjoy the lobsters.
  • Condition 2: You refuse delivery.
  • Condition 3: You eat the lobsters and get sick and die.
  • Contracts often carry implied expectations and implied commitments. Often wording in formal legal contracts is designed to anticipate these contingencies.
  • Nature of a contract
  • Fairness of contract may dep. on circumstances of execution. "consent" alone doesn't make a contract fair.
  • Case of the $50,000 toilet repair fraud.
  • Expectations change with timeline and events "benefits alone" don't determine an obligation
  • Still, autonomy and reciprocity are key concepts. (Toilet case violates autonomy.)
  • Consent and Benefits -- examples of fair/unfair contracts
  • Baseball card trade among diff aged siblings
  • Hume's home repairs (story) -- no consent but still obligation.
  • Variation on Hume case: emergency measures to stop damage in your apartment. You bash in a wall to access a shutoff valve. Landlord sends you a bill.
  • Car repair guy story -- what if he fixed the car? would benefit alone confer obligation.
  • Squeegee men -- potential for benefit to be imposed coercively
  • Point of connection with Rawls: Rawls veil of ignorance establishes theoretical equality of participants to contract. Both the Social Contract and the specific contracts we execute every day, should be fundamentally fair and guarantee autonomy and reciprocity

Hibbing, Chapter 4: Drunken Flies and Salad Greens

  • History of research on finding personality traits that predict politcs: First, are authoritarian orientations identifiable as personality traits?
  • Nazi research - Erich Jaensch J and S type personalities; background of trying to understand WW2 atrocities; hypothesis of authoritarian personality Theordor Adorno, note quote at p. 100. F-scale for Fascism. No validity, but interesting for using non-political questions. Han Eysenck's work on "tenderminded/toughminded"; 1960's Glenn Wilson. conservatism as resistance to change and adherence to tradition. "C-scale"
  • 70's and 80s research on RWA - right wing authoritarianism. measure of submission to authority.
  • Hibbing et al assessment: 102: criticisms persist in effort to find an "authoritarian personality". But claim, "there is a deep psychology underlying politics"
  • 103: Personality Theory research: Big Five model:
  • openness to experience, **
  • conscientiousness, **
  • extroversion,
  • agreeableness,
  • neuroticism. Two of these (**) are relevant to political orientation. conscientiousness connected to research on "cognitive closure"
  • "What Foundation is Your Morality Built?" 105ff: review of Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory (We will get to this next week from Haidt)
  • 108ff: Values theory of Shalom Schwartz. diagram at 109. 10 core values on axis of individual vs. collective welfare and group loyalty versus ind. pleasure. Diagram also looks like an ideological spectrum.
  • Why are political orientations connected to so many other preferences? Hibbing et. al. sceptical of theories that politics drive other prefs. Second possibility, broad orientations drive politics and prefs. Third (their pref), difference come from diffs on bedrock social dilemma and mesh with other choices.
  • PTC polymorphism (sensitivity to bitterness) linked to conservatism. Preliminary research from them suggesting that sensitivity to "androstenone" is correlated with acceptance of social hierarchies.

SW2 Stage 1: Resolving a Contract Dispute. (500 words)

  • Stage 1: Please write an 500 word maximum answer to the following prompt by October 13, 2020 11:59pm.
  • 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 or any pseudonyms in the file or filename. You may put your student id number in the file.
  2. Put a word count in the file.
  3. In Word, check "File" and "Options" to make sure your name does not appear as author. You may want to change this to "anon" for this document.
  4. Format your answer in double spaced text in a 12 point font, using normal margins.
  5. Save the file in the ".docx" file format using the file name "FairContract". Do not add anything to the filename.
  6. Log in to courses.alfino.org. Upload your file to the Points dropbox.
  • Stage 2: Please evaluate four student answers and provide brief comments and a score. Review the Assignment Rubric for this exercise. We will be using all four areas of the rubric for this assignment. Complete your evaluations and scoring by TBD, 11:59pm.
  • To determine the papers you need to peer review, I will send you a key. Find your Saint and then review the next four (4) animals' work, looping to the top of the list if necessary.
  • Some papers may arrive late. If you are in line to review a missing paper, allow until October 18, 11:59pm, at the latest 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 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 28 points.
  • 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: [7]. Fill out the form for each reviewer, but not Alfino. Up to 10 points.
  • Back evaluations are due TBD, 11:59pm.

13: MAR 2


  • Sapolsky, Chapter 13, "Culture, context, public goods games, religion" (493-520) (27)

Lecture Note on Philosophical Method: "Hitting Rock Bottom"

  • Direction of philosophical inquiry: toward "first principles". Where we are in our investigation (Like opening paragraph of Sapolsky today.)
  • Rock bottom means: Hitting a limit to the inquiry, getting to a basic level of explanation that seems satisfactory (give example of diffs of opinion about this), in ethics finding something universal behind all of the variation.
  • Comparing historical "rock bottom" answers: 1.Christian medieval (natural law); 2. Enlightenment (reason and Newtonian science); 3. Contemporary naturalism (contemp. sciences/social sciences, contemporary evolutionary theory - with MLS)
  • What comes after "rock bottom"? The way up! Using the point of view we have developed to look at our experience in new ways.

Review of concepts and principles for fair contract writing

  • conditions for entering contracts: non-coercion, equal standing (understanding and knowledge)
  • values in contract interpretation: fairness, respect for autonomy, consent, reciprocity, transparency.
  • challenges of settling contract disputes: all of these values can be both prioritized differently and applied differently. Vary by culture: tell old furniture story. How I would handle it now.
  • Breakout rooms
  • Questions on assignment

Sapolsky, Chapter 13,"Culture, context, public goods games, religion" (493-520)

  • 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
  • Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory (coming to you Thursday)
  • Cooperation and Competition
  • Public goods game research - review experimental model p. 495. Rational choice theory predicts zero contribution to public good. But, research documents consistent prosociality, with some variation by culture.
  • Simple version, pay to punish deadbeats version.
  • Robust results: 1) Everyone is prosocial. In no culture do people just not contribute. 2) In all cultures, 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 the rates of antisocial punishment.
  • research by Joseph Henrich, U BC, subjects from wide range of cultures play three simulation games: The Dictator and two versions of the Ultimatum Game. Variables that predict prosocial patterns of play: market integration, community size, religion.
  • Henrich's research on fairness: Testing 1. fairness without consequence, 2. fairness as measured by strength of 2nd party punishment (Ultimatum game), and 3. fairness as measured by 3rd party punishment.
  • Social Capital (early draft of Henrich book I think): 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 (research from Chapter 9). The large global religions all have moralizing gods who engage in third party punishment. So we do. Still. Think about that.
  • 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: Read. Problem for thesis 1 that hunter gathers don't show strong senses of fairness. Are modern research methods tapping into an "artificial form of fairness"? Sapolsky thinks maybe so.
  • the chapter's survey and quest for cultural moral universals continues.....
  • Honor and Revenge - (mention Mediterranean hypothesis - Italian honor culture & research on southerners....)
  • Collectivists -- diffs from Individualists. note 501.
  • more likely to sacrifice welfare of one for group. use as means to end. focus of moral imperatives on social roles and duties vs. rights.
  • uses shames vs. guilt. read 502. shame cultures viewed as primitive, but contemporary advocates of shaming. thoughts?....examples p. 503.
  • gossip as tool of shaming -- as much as 2/3 of conversation and mostly negative.
  • Fools Rush In -- Reason and Intuition p. 504
  • How do we use insights from research to improve behavior?
  • Which moral theory is best? (trick question). In this section, he's
  • Virtue theory looks outdated, but maybe more relevant than we think.
  • reviews the point from trolley research about the utilitarian answer from the dlPFC and the nonutilitariain from the vmPFC. Why would we be automatically non-utilitarian? One answer: nature isn't trying to make us happy, it's try to get our genes into the next generation.
  • Moral heterogeneity - new data: 30% deontologist and 30% utilitarian in both conditions. 40% swing vote, context sensitive. theorize about that.
  • Major criticism of utilitarian - most rational, but not practical unless you don't have a vmPFC. "I kinda like my liver". Triggers concerns that you might be sacrificed for the greater happiness.
  • Sapolsky claims that optimal decisions involve integration of reason and intuition. 508:"Our moral intuitions are neither primordial nor reflexively primitive....[but] cognitive conclusions from experience. morality is a dual process, partitioned between structures for reasoning and intuition. (Note that both processes are cognitive. Intuition sometimes called "automatic inference" in both how they emerge and are applied. Saying "thank you".)
  • Slow vs. Fast
  • More Josh Greene research. Old problem: tragedy of the commons -- how do you jumpstart cooperation. It's a "me vs us" problem. But there's an "us versus them" version when there are two groups (cultures) with competing models for thriving.
  • Tragedy of Commonsense Morality (a group version of what I call The Paradox of Moral Experience). It's really hard not to conclude that your way of doing something isn't just culturally contingent, but really true.
  • Example of Tragedy of commonsense morality using Dog meat. -- used as example of how you could induce us vs. them response.
  • Example of framing: Samuel Bowles example of switching people's mind set in the case of the school responding to late parents.
  • Veracity and Mendacity
  • interesting book [8]
  • note range of questions 512. Truth telling not a simple policy matter.
  • primate duplicity -- capuchin monkeys will distract a higher ranking member to take food, but not a lower one.
  • male gelada baboons know when to hold off on the "copulation call"
  • differences with humans: we feel bad or morally soiled about lying and we can believe our own lies.
  • human resources for lying -- poker face, finesse, dlPFC comes in with both struggle to resist lying and execution of strategic lie.
  • 516: neurplasticity in white and gray matter in habitual liars.
  • 517: Swiss research (Baumgartner et al) -- playing a trust game allowing for deception, a pattern of brain activation predicted promise breaking. Think of a time when you broke a promise..... Did it feel like what S is describing? A noisy brain cut off by a decision.
  • Subjects who don't cheat. will vs. grace. grace wins. "I don't know; I just don't cheat."

14: MAR 4. Unit Three: Two Theories of Moral and Political Difference


  • Haidt, Chapter 6, "Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind" (27)

Comments on giving and receiving evaluation

  • from professional life
  • keep expectations modest - normal disagreement, variation in skill and sensitivity in giving comments
  • try to be helpful and understanding, even cheerful.
  • It's part of the course.

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"
  • unpacking the metaphor:
  • places where our sensitivities to underlying value perception have depth from evolution, but have flexibility or plasticity from the "big brain", which allows for shaping within culture and retriggering.
  • morality is rich, not reducible to one taste. A way of perceiving the world. against moral monism
  • like cuisines, there is variation, but within a range.
  • mentions Enlightenment approaches, again: argument against the reductive project of philosophical ethics 113-114. ethics more like taste than science.
  • 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.). Hume's empiricism. also for him, morality is like taste
  • Autism 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. Note Bentham image and eccentric ideas. Baron-Cohen article on Bentham as having Asperger's Syndrome (part of the autism range). Kant also a solitary. Just saying. clarify point of analysis. not ad hominem. part of Enlightenment philosophy's rationalism -- a retreat from observation.
  • the x/y axis on page 117 shows a kind of "personality space" that could be used to locate Enlightenment rationalists. (Note that Haidt is looking at the psychology of the philosopher for clues about the type of theory they might have!)
  • discusses how he speculates from mechanisms to common virtues discussed in global literature.
  • Avoiding bad evolutionary theory or evolutionary psychology: "just so stories" -- range of virtues suggested "receptors", but for what? the virtue? some underlying response to a problem-type?
  • moral taste receptors found in history of long standing challenges and advantages of social life. The "moral foundations" in Haidt's theory just are the evolved psychological centers of evaluation that make up moral consciousness for humans.
  • Modularity in evolutionary psychology, centers of focus, like perceptual vs. language systems. Sperber and Hirshfield: "snake detector" - note on deception/detection in biology/nature. responses to red, Hyperactive agency detection.
  • See chart, p. 125: C F L A S: Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, Sanctity/Degradation
  • work through chart. Note how the "adaptive challenges" are some of the things we have been reading research on.
  • original vs. current triggers, 123 Reason/Intuition
  • Small group discussion with reporting: Try to find examples from everyday life of events do or would trigger each of these foundations. Consider either real cases of people you know and the things they say or examples from general knowledge, or even hypothetical examples. For example:
  • You and your friends all worry about COVID cases, but some more than others. Might be observing the Care/Harm trigger.
  • You and your friends all occasionally enjoy risque humor, but you are uncomfortable listening to people talk about intimate things like sex casually. Maybe you have a different sanctity trigger.
  • Focus on both ways that we are all triggered and ways that we are differentially triggered.
  • Send your items as you develop them, through the chat window to Everyone. Try to get 1-2 per foundation.
  • Giving a "CFLAS" analysis:
  • We'll be looking at political applications of MFT next class, but here is a political example: Random bumper sticker on a truck in downtown Spokane: Annoy a Liberal. Work. Succeed. Be happy. Note how you can read into this bumper sticker to find the "triggers". This person likely thinks that liberals are not committed to a work ethic (or don't appreciate how hard real work is), may be envious of success, and is always focused on what's wrong with society instead of being happy...

15: MAR 9


  • Haidt, Chapter 7, "The Moral Foundations of Politics" (34)

Note on "Sympathetic Interpretation"

  • What is it? Focus on understanding how someone might have come to a view, especially one that you disagree with. How it might be reasonable to them.
  • Why would you want to practice it? Various research we have been looking at suggests that we have psychological tendencies that might lead us to discount the reasonableness of someone's view, especially if.... So, you might see sympathetic interpretation as a practice to avoid following automatic inferences (intuitions) that would otherwise color your view (and activate your inner lawyer to supply arguments).
  • Shift in question focus in response to a view you disagree with:
  • Less on: Is this other compatible with my view? Should I defend my view now? Isn't this about who's right?
  • More on: Given what I know about evolutionary psychology, the evolution of social behavior, the nature of moral foundations and political orientation, can I understand the view in question as arising from or being conditioned (note the avoidance of determinist lingo) by a foundation or orientation difference?
  • Examples of engaging from sympathetic understanding.
  • Not to deny that truth (the best course of action) is still a goal.

Haidt, Chapter 7, "The Moral Foundations of Politics"

  • Homo economicus vs. Homo sapiens -- column a b -- shows costs of sapiens psych. commitments "taste buds"
  • Note on Innateness and Determinism: "first draft" metaphor; experience revises - pre-wired not hard-wired. innate without being universal. (Note this is the same anti-determinism disclaimer we got from Hibbing & Co.)
  • Notes on each foundation:
  • Care/Harm -- evolutionary story of asymmetry between m/f interests/strategies in reproduction, attachment theory (read def). current triggers. Baby Max and stuffed animals -- triggers.
  • Implicit theory about "re-triggering" note red flag. unexplained. Consider plausibility.
  • Fairness/Cheating -- We know we incur obligation when accepting favors. So,... Trivers and reciprocal altruism. "tit for tat" ; equality vs. proportionality. Original and current problem is to build coalitions (social networks) without being suckered (exploited). Focus on your experience of cooperation, trust, and defection (which could just be declining cooperation). Public goods game research also fits here.
  • Loyalty/Betrayal -- Tribalism in story of Eagles/Rattlers. liberals experience low emphasis here. (also Zimbardo); note claim that this is gendered 139. sports groupishness is a current trigger. connected to capacity for violence. Liberals can come across as disloyal when they think they are just being critical. Note current culture conflicts over confederate symbols and statues fits here.
  • Authority/Subversion -- Cab driver story. 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 hierarchy. Alan Fiske's work on "Authority Ranking" -- suggest legit recognition of difference and, importantly, not just submission. Authority relationships are a two way street (maybe esp for conservs?). Tendency to see UN and international agreements as vote dilution, loss of sov. (Digressive topic: Should we mark authority relationships more?)
  • Sanctity/Degradation -- Miewes-Brandes horror. Mill's libertarianism might be evoked. 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.
  • Two part group activity:
  • 1. Finding Moral Foundations in your experience: In a small group discussion, take each of the moral foundations and try to examples of either personal or political morality that might be understood more sympathetically using Haidt's Moral Foundations.
  • For example, you might recall a reaction your had to something that showed your "trigger" for one of the foundations. Maybe you are liberal and found yourself judging a conservative as uncaring, when MFT might point out that they emphasize fairness also. Or maybe as a conservative you found yourself agreeing with a talk show host that liberals want to control you through big government. MFT might create a more sympathetic interpretation by suggesting that it is a typical concern of liberals to address harms more in the short term.
  • Please identify one person in your group to report 1-2 examples from your discussion.
  • 2. Bumper Sticker / Slogan reading
  • Extending Haidt's examples of using bumper sticks and slogans to illustrate the moral foundations, please use either this link [9] or your own searches of moral and political slogans and bumper stickers.) "Morality slogans" "morals quotes" "political bumper stickers".
  • Can you offer an account of the slogan or expression in terms of one or more moral foundations? Look also for expressions that do not fit the foundations.
  • Please post the urls from your search in the Shared Content document "Bumper Sticker Links" document.

16: MAR 11 (Reading Day)


  • Hibbing, John R., Kevin Smith, and John R. Alford, Predisposed, Chapter 2, "Getting Into Bedrock with Politics". (26)

Hibbing, et. al. Predisposed Chapter 2

  • Begins with allegations that universities are left-biased. Points out counterexample in Russell. students can be more radical than even lefty faculty. City college story. 34ff: ironically its most lasting intellectual movement was neoconservatism.
  • Point of story: 1) colleges political orientations have little predictable effect on their students. 2) Politics and political beliefs are fungible, change dep on time and place. No discussions these days of Stalin-Trotskyism
  • Note: Hibbing et al disagree with the second point. their thesis is that human nature is variable but politics is, at its core, dealing with a constant problem, invariable. found in "bedrock dilemmas" . The "Commonalities" at p. 37 are our "rock bottom" level.
  • Back to Aristotle
  • [M]an is by nature political. -- politics deep in our nature. But A also speculated that town life, while natural, was not original. An achievement of sorts, not wholly natural.
  • Evidence: GWAS (Gene wide association studies) studies suggest more influence from gene difference on political orientation than economic prefs.
  • Pols and Mating: Political orientation is one of the top correlate predicting mate selection. (39). We do look for diff personality traits in a partner, but not when it comes to pol orientation (or drinking behavior and religion!). considers two objections: mates become similar over time or the correlation is an effect of the selection pool "social homogamy" But no sign of convergence of orientation over time of relationship (but views on gender roles tend to diverge! Nota bene!). Studies controlling for demographic factors undermine second objection.
  • politics is connected to willingness to punish political difference. (Another thing to note well.) 40-41.
  • Differences Galore?
  • Need to separate issues, labels, and bedrock principles.
  • Issues are what we agree/disagree on,
  • Labels distinguish groups contesting issues. Both are contingent are variable over time. (Later, "waves on the surface".)
  • Label "liberal" - today means mildly libertarian, but liberal economic policy isn't libertarian at all (involves income transfer). mentions historical origin of Left/Right.
  • Conclusion they are resisting: (43): political beliefs are so multidimensional and variable that left and right don't have any stable meaning.
  • Commonality Reigns! Political Universals
  • Bedrock social dilemmas (BSD): "core preferences about the organization, structure, and conduct of mass social life" 44
  • Questions associated with BSDs: How should we make decisions? What rules to follow? What do we do with rule violators? Should we try something new or stick with tradition?
  • Predispositions defined: political orientations that are biologically instantiated. these differences are more stable than labels and issues.
  • Example of conceptual framework at work: attitudes toward military intervention. tells the story of changing conservative views of intervention, Lindbergh and the AFC. Late 20th century conservatives were interventionists (commie domino theory), but early century conservatives were isolationists. These changes make sense in relation to the bedrock challenge of dealing with external threats. Shifting analysis of threats can change policy 180 degrees. 48: Pearl Harbor!
  • Example 2: Conservatives softening on immigration after electoral defeats in 2012. Early politics leading to DACA? conservatives still consistently more suspicious of out groups. (heightened threat detection)
  • Key point in the theory is that these "bedrock dilemmas" occur once cities become too large for people to know each other. Interesting point: We had to use principles to express ourselves about these BSDs because we couldn't influence each other directly.
  • "Society works best when..."
  • bold thesis: looking for universality as: consistent differences across time and culture. example: Optimates and populares in Ancient Greece.
  • left and right have deep associations. left handed suspect.
  • history of research on connection between core preferences on leadership, defense, punishment of norm violators, devotion to traditional behavioral standards, distribution of resources. Laponce. Haidt's MFT.
  • some of their research from 2007: "Society works best Index" "predicted issue attitudes, ideological self-placement, and party identification with astonishing accuracy" .6 correlation. Note this is "synchronous" research. A snapshot of both BSD and Issue orientation. Practice drawing conclusion on this:

17: MAR 16


  • Haidt, Chapter 8: The Conservative Advantage (34)

Haidt, Chapter 8: The Conservative Advantage

  • Hadit's critique of Dems: Dems offer sugar (Care) and salt (Fairness), conservatives appeal to all five receptors. Imagine the value of "rewriting" our own or opposing ideologies as Haidt imagined doing. Dems should appeal to loyalty and authority more. Neglect may be ommission and underrepresent Dems (recall discussion of labels and issues. We could add "values".)
  • Republicans seemed to Haidt to understand moral psych better, not bec. they were fear mongering, but triggering all of the moral moral foundations. Equalizer metaphor.
  • The MFQ: consistency across cultures; large n; tracks preferences in dogs, church (content analysis of different denominations sermons), brainwaves (dissonance, "fingerprint", first .5 seconds) see chart 8.1 self-identified liberals split emphasis 8.2 convergence of equal weight as you move toward conservative.
  • 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.)
  • 162: Correlations of pol orientation with dog breeds, training, sermon styles. You can catch liberal and conservative "surprise" in the EEG and fMRI.
  • 164: Haidt's argument for replacing "old story" of political difference: read p. 164. Note reactions to his essay: some libs/conserv found it hard to establish a positive view of their "opponents". Haidt has implicit critique of Libs by saying that organic society can't just be about 2 foundations. Experience with his essay. follow.
  • 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. Evolutionary/Arch. story about emergence of pre-ag dominance strategies -- 500,000ya weapons for human conflict take off. Parallel in Chimps: revolutions "reverse dominance hierarchies" are possible. Claims that some societies make transition to some form of political egalitarianism (equality of citizenship or civic equality). Mentions possibility of gene/culture co-evolution (as in dairying). We've had time to select for people who can tolerate political equality and surrender violence to the state. Timothy McVeigh, but now right wing militias (though I'm not sure if their argument is about political equality). "Self-domestication".
  • 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 (again). Setup. 1.6 multiplier. Still, best strategy is not to contribute. altruistic punishment can be stimulated (84% do) even without immediate reward. cooperation increases.
  • Summary: Liberals have emphasize C, F, Lib while conservatives balance all six. Libs construe Fairness in more egalitarian ways and have diff emphasis for Liberty/Oppression. Many liberals and conservatives have a hard time forming a positive image of each other, but when you think about this, it sounds like something to work on. In light of this research and theorizing, one could see that as a character flaw or unsupported bias.

Note on "Social Epistemology"

  • Method point: The follow line of thought is also example of philosophical speculation. We are venturing a bit beyond the research itself to extract significance and insight.
  • "Social Epistemology" means a variety of things in philosophy. Here, the idea that some traits relevant to group problem solving are distributed in a population (call this a "demographic epistemic trait" AND that this variation might play a role in optimizing group decision-making.
  • Think about evidence from Haidt and Hibbing about divergences in cognitive style and problem solving (BeanFest!) and perception from pol. orientatio. They might be "epistemic demographic traits". EDTs
  • Speculative questions about such traits (I am not aware of a theory about this yet): Are there are EDTs? Maybe just DTs. Would human populations with some optimal variation in EDTs do better than ones with more or less than an optimal range? Think workgroups for examples, also.

18: MAR 18


  • Haidt, Chapter 12, "Can't We all Disagree More Constructively?" (189-221) (32)
  • Start group writing on Political Difference

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

  • evidence of polarization in American politics; changes in political culture. compromise less valued.
  • looking for a theory of ideologies, which might be thought to drive political identity formation. [Two senses: 1. fixing orientation (all of the "big" theories we've studied have posted disclaimers about determinism while focusing on evidence of persistent traits, especially in adults. 2. Fixing the specific fusion of issue-position and label acceptance.]
  • "right" and "left", simplifications, but basis of study and comparative to Europe in some ways, historical origins in French Assembly of 1789, basis in heritable traits - twins studies. L/R don't map wealth exclusively.
  • Old answers: people choose ideologies based on interests. blank-state theories.
  • One more time through the modern genetic/epigenetic/phenotype explanation pattern (note what's at stake: if you misunderstand the determinism here, you'll misunderstand the whole theory):
  • 1: Genes make brains - Australian study: diff responses to new experiences: threat and fear for conservative, dopamine for liberal. (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). (Lots of parents would corroborate this.) Does the story of the twins seem plausible?
  • 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. We "map" our moral foundations onto our faith commitment to some extent.
  • 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 conservatives may be better at understanding (predicting) liberal responses because they use all of the foundations. (File this with Hibbing Chs. 5 and 6)
  • 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. - humans imperfect, need accountability, reasoning has flaws so we might do well to give weight to past experience, institutions are social facts that need to be respected, even sacralized. (Consider countries in which judges are abducted or blown up.)
  • Moral and Social Capital -- moral capital: resources that sustain a moral community (including those that promote accountability and authority.). moral capital not always straightforward good (293), also, less trusting places, like cities, can be more interesting. Social capital more about the ties we have through our social networks which maintain trust and cooperation relationships.
  • Liberals
  • blindspot: not valuing moral capital, social capital, tends to over reach, change too many things too quickly. Bertrand Russell: tension between ossification and dissolution..
  • 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. note this was a bipartisan push back against a Reagan reversal of Carter's policy).
  • Libertarians. Today's political libertarian started out as a "classic liberal" prioritizing limited gov/church influence.
  • 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)
  • Putnam's research on diversity and social capital : bridging and bonding capital both decline with diversity. sometimes well intentioned efforts to promote ethnic identity and respect can exacerbate this.

"What is Ideology?" and "Is a Post-Ideological politics possible?"

  • Some philosophizing from our research study. This might be an late semester essay topic.
  • What is ideology (in terms of the theories we have discussed) and is it possible to imagine a post-ideological politics?
  • Maybe ideology includes:
  • 1) the specific fusion of issues and labels you accept;
  • 2) the deeper story or narrative you tell (about...) or accept about these views (see example in Haidt. This varies on a scale of several election cycles in US.; and
  • 3) your deep moral/political orientation (how you inhabit the MFs or BSDs)
  • Note that only 3 is relatively fixed in adult life.
  • Some good and bad things about 1 and 2. Packaging issues under labels has a kind of efficiency, given that our views are connected. Makes voting easier (though parties are not original to the US and might come from a time when literacy rates were lower). Parties "prove" their validity by the fact that people follow them. (Not so sure about this.) People do find it quite natural to have an abstract theory about each other (such as you find in the deep narratives of party labels).
  • But: (slogan of the day) "We didn't use to have abstract theories about each other." To be sure, we had (have) lots of concrete chauvanist, xenophobic, racist theories about each other. But not abstract theories. How cultural evolutionist explains this. .
  • Is a Post-Ideological politics possible?
  • Cannot mean: 3 is no longer true.
  • Might mean that we re-assess our narratives. Examples of this. Mention Lincoln Project - Pizza ad. Current situation for Republicans provides a natural experiment. Lot's of evidence that the party narrative is going to pivot. Look for narratives that continue to do justice to our orientations, but avoid various "moves", such as disparaging diagnoses of one's political "other".
  • Let's use this recent radio story on political polarization as a listening lesson. Can you identify distinctive features of the way polarized people recount their experiences? [10]
  • Examples of current discussion: [11]
  • Great optional research topic!

19: MAR 23

Reviewing Research

  • 1. Groups and research on promotion of civil discourse.
  • Lots of groups focused on specific issues, like bias, civics curriculum, campaign finance reform, bipartisan think tanks and issue based efforts.
  • A couple that focus specifically polarization and civil discourse
  • Civil Politics - a group that Jonathan Haidt and Ravi Iyer at NYU. Drill down on "two recommendations".
  • Fostering Civil Discourse: How Do We Talk About Issues That Matter? This journal, published by Facing History and Ourselves, was very fascinating in regards to the authors opinions on how individuals can foster civil discourse and be equipped for these types of conversations. I thought that the idea mentioned in this article that these types of conversations are not difficult and society labels them but are just unpracticed. Lastly, I enjoyed that this journal talked about the importance of first examining our own beliefs and understanding that we do not have a neutral lens and must take ownership of our beliefs and ideas. https://www.facinghistory.org/sites/default/files/publications/Fostering_Civil_Discourse_2020_0.pdf

  • 2. Politics and voting - Lots of good research articles on how and why the US is polarized.
  • What are the Solutions to Political Polarization? This article did a great job of first identifying what causes political polarization and how to solve the problems it creates. While describing what drives political polarization, the article points out that the moral values involved in policies is a key reason, while stating that the free-will vs determinism argument is one of the values that is debated. https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_are_the_solutions_to_political_polarization
  • A Case for Proportional Voting This article is written from the perspective of a conservative that believes the Republican Party doesn't adequately represent conservative values anymore. He's calling for proportional or preferential voting, in which voters can either rank candidates in order of preference or create nonpartisan primaries in which the top two finishers are nominated for the general election, irregardless of their party. It's his belief that this would create a more representative government. https://www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-case-for-proportional-voting
  • Why Are There Political Parties? This article breakdown where political parties came from and why we have them. I enjoy that this article addresses ways that the democratic and republican party are similar. The article also talks about how people also will vote based on their views of particular issues rather than their political party affiliation. https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/why-are-there-political-parties

  • 3. Communications theory and approaches to conflict


  • How to Deal With 'Values Conflict' by Russ Harris This resource provides ways to with value conflicts. First part of this article is discussing the difference between values, life domains and goals which often get confused with values. I especially like how part two and three give steps to dictating what the value conflicts are and ways to deal with the dilemma at hand. https://www.actmindfully.com.au/upimages/How_to_deal_with_values_conflicts_-_Russ_Harris.pdf

  • How Should Leaders Address Workplace Values Conflicts? This article talks about different conflicts that could occur in the workplace and how leaders should resolve these issues. One major issue that is common among the workplace is the use of new technology vs traditional ways. The article finishes off by saying "doing nothing is not an option" then talks about how leaders need to deal with conflicts with values. https://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2017/05/09/leaders-address-workplace-values-conflicts/
  • Conflict Management: Difficult Conversations with Difficult People This research shows conflict management strategies that have been proven to reduce conflict in the workplace, classes, etc. Training in conflict management increases teamwork, productivity and efficiency. A list of steps are given... for example, step 1 is to determine whether the conflict is even worth addressing. Most often, it is not. Step 2, analyze your own position. Gather all the information you can about your position and understand arguments against it before you engage in an argument. Steps go on and on, but I think workplaces should consider training their employees in this area. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3835442/
  • Miscellaneous / Unclassified

20: MAR 25 Unit Four: Justice and Justified Partiality


Hidden Brain, "Playing Favorites: When kindness toward some means callousness toward others"

Introduction to Justified Partiality Unit

  • A typical question for thinking about social justice is, "What do I owe strangers?". You can think of our approach in this unit as a sneaky way of addressing that question by asking, "What, if any, are the limits of partiality to non-strangers (family, intimates, friends...)?"
  • Today's class is focused on "personal partiality," the kind that shows up in our interpersonal social relationships. The next class is focused on "public partiality", the kind that shows up in our commitments, if any, to benefit strangers (roughly, people with whom we do not seek reciprocal relationship).
  • Let's define a couple of views to get started:
  • Tribalism - the view that there are no limits to partiality to our social network. Just as no one has a right to my friendship, no one has a moral complaint against me if I spend all of my resources on my partiality network.
  • Utilitarian Globalism - Following the equal happiness principle, the view that we ought to constrain our natural tendency to favor our own. In principle, saving a life 12,000 miles from here is the same as saving a life in your community. So, if you can save two lives....etc.
  • Extreme Altruism - Maximize giving. Don't leave any organs un-recycled. A bit of liver can go a long way!
  • Major questions for our work:
  • How does partiality fit with a desire for justice as equal treatment? (Rawl's "equal opportunity" principle)
  • How big is your US? What is the range of humans you care about and in what degrees? Is it ok to base your concern (interest in showing partiality) by kinship, geography, membership in a society, ethnic or racial affiliation, viewpoint similarity?
  • How does partiality and preference work to increase trust and cooperation in social networks? If partiality does these things, it can't be all bad, right?

Hidden Brain, "Playing Favorites"

  • Intro
  • Expectations for unique attention from one's beloved. We'd rather an inferior unique message than a message shared with others. We want partiality. (Invite examples.)
  • How does Partiality fit with a desire for justice as equal treatment?
  • Discrimination research: IAT - Implicit association test - Mahzarin Banaji one of the researchers on IAT.
  • Mahzarin Banaji and Carla Kaplan. Friends in the 80s being among the few women at Yale. Story of injury to Carla. She gets preferential treatment because she is a professor, rather than because she was a quilter.
  • Is it discrimination if you are given a preference? [Imagine a system of preferences given to those we know. Could such a system support systemic injustice?] Someone decides to show you "special kindness"? Language of discrimination based on "commission". But what about omission? Hard to know if you didn't get preferential treatment. Yikes! Carla got to see both what it was like to be treated same and different.
  • Story by Mahzarin about interview. Suddenly, the in-group information about being a Yaley was enough to trigger a preference. Preference networks in Ivy leagues schools. But also Gonzaga!!!
  • "Helping those with whom you have a group identity"
  • Favoritism doesn't get as much attention as discrimination.
  • Can you avoid favoritism?
  • Could be based on "green beard effect" same school, etc.
  • Story of Dillon Matthews. Girlfriend didn't like Peter Singer! So he studied him. Singer's argument about helping others in need. Saving a child from a pond. ruins your suit. Utilitarian altruism. Not helping others is similar to killing them. Give Well. Effective altruism movement. The most good you can do. Evidence based altruism. Hannah. Focused on family, friends, your neighborhood, city. Parental lesson. Dinner together. Debating moral philosophy on a first date! Wow! It doesn't get any better than that.
  • Utilitarian logic. Equal happiness principle. Dillon not focused on preference to people near him, but on effectiveness of altruism.
  • Dillon donates a kidney to a stranger. Hmm. Not giving his kidney felt like hoarding something. Hannah felt her beloved was taking an unnecessary risk. Stranger made a diff. to her.
  • The Trolley Problem again, this time from Joshua Greene himself!! Watch "The Good Place".
  • What if the person you had to sacrifice was someone you loved. Dillon might do it. Dillion would do it. "They are all the heroes of their own stories..." Dillon would sacrifice Hannah. Hannah might sacrifice Dillion just know that's what he would want, but no. She wouldn't.
  • Greene: She recognizes that what he would do is rational. He's willing to override it, but might not be able to live with himself for doing that.
  • Naturalness of preference. Evolutionary background
  • Preference promotes cooperation. Suite of capacities. A package. Don't lie, cheat, steal...
  • Kin cooperation....Cooperation among friends... reciprocity...semi-strangers (same religion. friend of friend)...
  • Moral concentric circles. How big is my "Us"? What is the range of humans I care about?
  • Greene's analogy of automatic and manual camera modes. (Two systems. Automatic and Deliberate.) Difficult decisions might require manual mode. dlPFC for utilitarians (high cog load). Automatic -- amygdala. Snakes in the grass. Thank your amygdala. (List: Easy calls: sharing concert tickets with a friend. Buying dinner for an intimate partner. Giving a more valuable gift to one person than another. Harder: Figuring out whether to donate money to help people far away. How much?)
  • Crying baby scenario. Inevitable outcomes seem to matter here. Brain wrestles, as in experience. vmPFC.
  • Lack of Tribal identify might tilt us toward rule based ethics. Equal treatment.
  • Loyalty cases: men placing loyalty to men above other virtues. assumptions about family relationship. Maybe not....
  • Back to Dillon: Acknowledges limits. Liver story. Bits of liver. It grows back. Partners not so much.
  • How do you decide the limits of your partiality. How big is my "US"?
  • Donations matter even if you don't give your kidney. This can save lives.
  • If you saved a life in person, you'd never forget it, but most professionals in the US have this ability, if not in person.

Small Group Discussion: Ethical problems in showing personal partiality

  • Introduction
  • Tell anecdote about having "best friends".
  • Take a minute to remember back to middle school, when showing preferences and defining social groups started in earnest. Typical examples include: inviting some friends, but not others out; gift giving; defining partiality in intimate vs. social relationships. Try to recall how you become sophisticated about the social rules for showing preferences (inviting friends to party, or out). Can you recall conflicts or awkward situations as you and social group figured out how to show partiality without upset feelings?
  • Within your small groups, try to address these two topics.
  • In the first part of your discussion, try to identify the common social rules that you follow when showing personal preferences, like preferring the company of some people to others, or offering help or cooperation to someone you like. Give examples of when it is ok or not ok to make your partiality known, for example, in invitations or gift giving.
  • In the second part of your discussion, consider how our social rules and systems for showing preferential treatment may or may not have ethically problematic consequences. Many theorists will confirm our common sense intuition that "partiality networks" serving good ends. They define groups for trust and cooperation, giving us people to spend positive emotional time with and get help from when needed. At the heart of many "partiality networks" are family and intimate partners, from whom we often hope for great partiality! Moreover, many of the networks Gonzaga community members travel in are quite privileged and highly resourced. While having a good partiality network makes many problems easier to solve, could they also be sources of systemic bias and unfairness? Consider partiality networks you hope to benefit from, like GU alumni who might hire you, as well as friends that might tip you off to a job prospect.
  • You may want to argue for one or more of the following positions:
  • Partiality networks are fundamentally unfair, just like friendship itself, and there is nothing to be done about.
  • Partiality networks are unfair, but they serve some natural and good ends. We can avoid some of the problems with them if we adopt the right personal rules.
  • Partiality is a natural expression of our freedom and nothing to apologize for. We ought to help intimates, family, and friends. If we enjoy good fortunate and can express greater generosity to friends, so much the better.
  • Feel free to add your own positions here.

21: MAR 30


  • We will continue discussing results of our work and exercise on justified partiality.
  • Writing: Position Paper on Justified Partiality

Justified Partiality: Theorizing the Public Problem

  • Forms of Public Partiality (Beneficence)
  • Favoring taxation to address social problems - depends upon current political climate and culture. Charitable giving is lower in Europe, partly because government does the job. Charitable giving per capita by country
  • Voluntary donations of time and money to causes - here's some info on charitable giving
  • Bequests and inheritances (some info on trends in estate taxes)
  • Resources for answering the question, "What do I owe to strangers?"
  • Motivational resources: self-interest and altruism.
  • Theoretical resources:
  • Rawls' difference principle (review)
  • Duty to an ideal. This could be a Kantian ideal of supporting reason and autonomy in others, or it could be a more traditional ideal about human dignity and the importance of supporting human life. You may certainly draw on values from your faith commitments and life experience, but try to explicate them in ways that might be attractive to others generally.
  • Virtue Ethics --
  • Utilitarianism -- The principle of utility has several theoretical virtues. For meeting acute human needs, it gives us a way of prioritizing need and calculating benefits.
  • Libertarianism -- A good starting point if you feel very minimal "collective" obligations (such as through taxation), but don't forget that Liberatarians answer questions of personal charity and beneficence just like everyone else.
  • You may want to blend features of several theoretical and motivational resources in crafting your position.
  • Additional considerations:
  • Theorize from more than one direction: You can think about obligations to people outside your preference network by thinking about what strangers might need from you given human needs and your values. You can also start your theorizing by thinking about what it would mean to satisfy your obligations to people in your preference network.
  • Breakdown your obligations to your preference networks. Family, friends, church. Big one is generational wealth. Is there a limit to how much money you would feel obligated to pass on to descendents? Depends upon priorities. If absolute priority, then "no".
  • Prioritize: Consider priorities for both personal preference and public preferences. Human health and life, economic development, etc. Priorities by distance (your community, country, region, world).
  • Small Group exercise on the limits of "justified partiality"
  • Imagine that you are already in your future your life. Your earnings are over $100,000 and you expect to sustain that income or a higher income until you retire. You have accumulated over 1 million dollars in retirement savings and expect a very good retirement income. You have taken care of your kids' college education, and you are on track to own your home and a vacation property. But you live in a country with high rates of homelessness, high inequality, and a small social safety net, relative to other wealthy countries. Under this scenario of income and wealth, would you be able to identify some limits to "justified partiality"? What principles would you use to decide that you had resources that you were not obligated to spend on your loved ones (and those in your preference network). Try imagining very concrete kinds of goods that you might be sacrificing if you define limits to your partiality. What values, if any, would make such trade-offs morally attractive to you?
  • Possibility 1: Even from a position of relative affluence, I would reserve almost all of my resources for my PN.
  • Possibility 2, 3, and 4: I might still pass along generational wealth, but would give to charities according to averages for my income, above average, below average.
  • Possibility 5:?

PP1 Stage 1: Justified Partiality Position Paper: 700 words

  • Stage 1: Please write an 700 word maximum answer to the following question by November 10, 2020 11:59pm.
  • Topic: What do you owe strangers and what would you do for a stranger? Develop your answer to this question first by thinking about the extent and limits, if any, of justified partiality. Present your view about the extent of justified partiality. Then try to identify intuitions you already have about obligations to strangers and use some of the theoretical resources we have discussed (and others that you wish to draw upon) to help you express your view of your obligations and willingness to act altruistically toward strangers as a reasoned position drawing on ethical concepts and principles. Consider near alternatives to your view and try to say why you prefer your view to these alternatives.
  • 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. In Word, check "File" and "Options" to make sure your name does not appear as author. You may want to change this to "anon" for this document.
  3. Format your answer in double spaced text in a 12 point font, using normal margins.
  4. Save the file in the ".docx" file format using the file name "JustifiedPartiality".
  5. Log in to courses.alfino.org. Upload your file to the "'Justified Partiality' Position Papers" dropbox.
  • Stage 2: Please evaluate four student answers and provide brief comments and a score. Review the Assignment Rubric for this exercise. We will be using the Flow, Content, and Insight areas of the rubric for this assignment. Complete your evaluations and scoring by November 17th, 2020, 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 the next animal in the list until you have four reviews. This assures that you will get enough "back evaluations" of your work to get a good average for your peer review credit.
  • 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 28 points.
  • 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: [12]. Fill out the form for each reviewer, but not Alfino. Up to 10 points, in Q&W.
  • Back evaluations are due December 3, 2020, 11:59pm.

22: APR 6. Unit Five: Empathy


  • Robert Sapolsky, from Behave, Chapter 14, "Feeling Someone's Pain, Understanding Someone's Pain, Alleviating Someone's Pain." 521-535.
  • Hidden Brain, "You 2.0: Empathy gym" listen to at least 1/2 of the podcast for today and the other half for Thursday.

Hidden Brain, Empathy

  • Segment 1: Artist's performance art installation. Internet connected paint ball gun. Iraqi artist, lost his brother in air strike. Thinking about drone warfare, thinking about consequences of actions... ends at 5:22.
  • Jamil Zaki, The War for Kindness. Early 70s program for faculty, mom from Peru to WSU, married/divorced while Jamil was young, felt difference in parents' rules/values. Credits that to empathy. Parent's divorce was an "empathy gym".
  • Benefits of empathy -- benefits both parties. empathic doctor-patient relationships, empathic partners. Giving empathy less depression, less stress, adolescents with emotional skill better adjusted in middle school.
  • clip from Sesame street -- phone call from friend. Three components:
  • 1. emotional empathy
  • 2. cognitive empathy
  • 3. empathy concern and compassion. 13:00
  • autism spectrum disorders. often still have 1 but not 2
  • psychopathy often have 2 but not 1
  • Segment 2: Cultural instantiation of empathy. Sarah Conrath - survey research using validated instrument. Trend toward less empathy. Alot since 2000.
  • Other variables: living alone. hard to know about link there. pretty speculative. We are more urban, solitary, and transactional. These interactions don't favor empathy. Internet? Might be a source of empathy, early idealism of internet. But we might be using the Internet in negative empathy ways -- no faces (!), avatars, text. Research on dehumanizing opinions from text vs. voice. (Tapping into a long line of theory about urban life and dehumanization.) segment ends at 21:30
  • We'll stop here for today's class. The rest on Thursday.
  • Segment 3: Costs and benefits of Empathy
  • Trauma and empathy. Could go in different directions. Hurt people hurt people. But also "altruism born of suffering". Addicts become addiction counselors...etc. Research showing that showing American harsh video from 911 attacks increases willingness to torture. Other research: more wary of outsiders.
  • But 911 was also unifying, eliciting empathy.
  • Paul Bloom, Against Empathy - tribal empathy is bad, but Zaki -- oxcitociin studies do turn up parochialism. Zaki draws different conclusion. Believes that empathy is trainable.
  • Sometimes we need to be less empathetic. Research on police officers showing strong empathy even to officers in trouble. In group empathy (parochial empathy) might interfere with perception. High in-group empaths, even if empathic to outsiders, are not likely to allow threat to tribe. 29:23: Advice. What if we are over empathic to our group?
  • Professionals who need to use empathy (caring professions) might suffer from its expression. Defensive dehumanization -- blocking empathy for self-preservation. Study table in busy student union, happy child/ suffering child. unmanned/wheelchair. But it backfired! Maybe we (especially high empaths) avoid triggering our own empathetic response. Study on whites reading about native Americans. Led to negative judgement to dismiss guilt (cog. dissonance). In obedience to authority studies, death row officers, more likely to lead avoidance or dehumanizing judgements. ends at 36:00
  • Back to art installation. Lamp destroyed by aggressive person. Person arrives with new lamp! Takes action (similar issue in Sapolsky). Zaki interprets both events. Others show up! Muffins, socks, online helpers. Virtual human shields. 36 people keep the button down to prevent panning the gun.
  • Project using virtual reality to have inside experience of homelessness. Scenes of typical events in homeless experience. Simulation increased empathy even 30 days later and more supportive of housing policies.
  • Acting and empathy. Might pump empathy. Reading fiction. (Moth stories, story core, human interest stories on news.)
  • Manchester U fans study: Levine: study involving rabid fans, Write about why they love Man U. Taken to another building, jogger confederate sometimes Man U, Liverpool, blank jersey. More likely to pass over Liverpool jogger. Second version: Why you love soccer. Equal help. Blank jersey left behind!
  • back to Zaki's childhood experience. lesson to learn that very different people could have deep and authentic experience. also, we can have different values because of our experiences, equally determinative in opposite directions. "naive realism" false.

Sapolsky, Behave, C 14, 521-535

  • starts with "exposure to an aversive state" -- we call it empathy, but what is that?
q1: When does empathy lead us to actually do something helpful?
q2: When we do act, whose benefit is it for?
  • sympathy -- feeling sorry for someone's pain. But could also convey distance or power diff. pity.
  • empathy -- includes a cognitive step of understanding the cause of someone's pain and "taking perspective"
  • compassion -- S. suggests this involves empathy plus taking action.
  • Emotionally contagious, compassionate animals.
  • we are 'overimitative' - chimp / kids study524
  • mouse studies -524- alterations of sensitivity to pain on seeing pain; fear association seeing another mouse exp fear conditioning. Mouse depression ensues! research suggesting mouse respond proportionally and to social group (cagemates).
  • Consolation: lots of species engage in consolation, chimps show third party consolation behavior, no consolation behavior in monkeys -- prairie voles!
  • 526: rats, amazing rats -- US/them behaviors, some flexibility. review the details.
  • Emotionally contagious, compassionate children
  • 527: describes mechanism of empathy: early emo contagion in kids may not be linked to cognitive judgement as later, when Theory of Mind emerges. Neural activity follows this progression.
  • Some neurobiology: the ACC - anterior cingulate cortex - processes interoceptive info, conflict monitoring, (presumably cog. dissonance). susceptible to placebo effect. Importantly, ACC activates on social exclusion (Cyberball game), anxiety, disgust, embarrassment, but also pleasure, mutual pleasure.
  • ACC also involved in action circuits. Oxytocin, hormone related to bonding. Block it in voles and they don't console. Awwww!
  • How does self-interested "alarm" system of the ACC get involved in empathy? Sapolsky's hypothesis 530: Feeling someone's pain can be more effective for learning than just knowing that they're in pain. Empathy may also be a self-interested learning system, separately from helping action.
  • Cognitive side of things: How do we bring judgements about desert and character to bear on empathic responses?
  • Cognition comes in with emotional pain, judgement abstractly represented pain (a sign), unfamiliar pain. (Takes more cog resources to process others' emo pain.) Also with Thems. 533.
  • socioeconomics of empathy 534: wealth predicts lower empathy. the wealthy take more candy!
  • especially hard, cognitively, to empathize with people we don't like, because their pain actually stimulates a dopamine response!

23: APR 6


  • Robert Sapolsky, from Behave, Chapter 14, "Feeling Someone's Pain, Understanding Someone's Pain, Alleviating Someone's Pain." 535-552.
  • Writing assignment. We will have a short points based assignment on your view of empathy. Google form to follow.

Sapolsky, Behave, C 14, 535-552

  • A Mythic Leap forward - covering mirror neurons and what they do and don't show about moral life.
  • 1990s U of Parma, rhesus monkeys under study, PMC - premotor cortex, PFC communicates with PMC during decision making, "about 10% of neurons for movement X also activated when observing someon else doing movement X. so called mirror neurons --mirroring can be abstract, involve gestalts, fill in missing pieces, seems to incorporate (encode) intentional states.
  • 537: S is sceptical of theory that mirror neurons are there to enhance learning, but allows (538) that it might aid movement learning or refining movements. Still, there are mirror neuron critics who endorse a version of the social learning theory.
  • 538: Do mirror neurons help you understand what someone is thinking, aid to Theory of Mind? are these neurons focused on social interactions? (stronger effect at close distances) -- but Hickok (2014 The Myth of Mirror Neurons) criticizes this as correlation, no evidence that it helps learning. and not clear that intentionality requires this kind of aid. We can understand lots of intentions we can't perform.
  • 540: Very skeptical of idea that mirror neurons explain empathy. Specifically of Gallese and Ramachandran -- cites evidence of overhype. Pretty public admonishment! Cites list of scholars he's agreeing with.
  • The Core Issue (in Empathy): Actually doing something.
  • S resumes the topic of the 1st half of the chapter. Empathy can be a substitute for action. "If feel your pain, but that's enough." In adolescents (chapter 6) empathy can lead to self-absorption. It hurts to feel others pain when "you" is new.
  • research predicting prosocial action from exposure to someone's pain: depends upon heart rate rise, which indicates need for self-protection. 543: "The prosocial ones are those whose heart rates decrease; they can hear the sound of someone else's need instead of the distressed pounding in their own chests." (Echoes research showing less prosocial behavior to strangers under cognitive load, hunger condition, social exclusion, stress. Block glucocorticoids and empathy goes up.) [so you could look at empathetic behavior as a sign of absence of stress or perceived threat]
  • research on Buddhist monks, famously Mathieu Ricard. without Buddhist approach, same brain activation as others. with it, quieter amygdala, mesolimbic dopamine activitation - compassion as positive state. (Mention hospice.)
  • empathy disorders and misfires: "Pathological altruism"; empathic pain can inhibit effective action.
  • Is there altruism?
  • 2008 Science study: we predict spending on ourselves will increase happiness, but only altruistic uses of the money did so in the study.
  • S suggests that given the design of the ACC, and the abundant ways the social creatures get rewards from prosocial reputations (reputation, debts to call in, extra benefits in societies with moralizing gods), maybe we shouldn't be looking for "pure" altruism. (recalls that belief in moralizing gods increases prosocial behavior toward strangers.) some evidence charitable people are raised that way and transmit the trait through family life. 548
  • returning to that Science study, important to note that the positive effect from altruism only occurred when observer was present!
  • Final study of the chapter. 2007 Science, test subjects in scanners, given money, sometimes taxed, sometimes opp to donate. Follow results 549:
  • a. the more dopamine (pleasure response) you get in receiving unexpected money, the less you express in partying with it.
  • b. more dopamine when taxed, more likely to give voluntarily. could also be "inequity aversion" - we sometimes just feel better when a difference is eliminated.
  • c. more dopamine when giving voluntarily than taxed.
  • In the end, Sapolsky thinks empathy is still a puzzling product of evolution. Altruism and reciprocity are linked however, so maybe we should stop scratching our heads about "pure altruism". [Made healthy altruism is, indeed, when they are linked!]
  • Seems to endorse the idea that altruism (compassionate empathy) is trainable -- like potty training, riding a bike, telling the truth!

Small Group Exercise

  • Briefly assess the research we have been reviewing on empathy this week. Then discuss some of the following questions:
  • Are you persuaded that empathy is trainable? (Zak)
  • Are you persuaded that we have biological capacities for empathy without necessarily a universal motivation toward compassion?
  • After this reading are you more or less concerned about ways that empathy can be problematic (pathological or blocking action)?
  • After this reading are you more or less likely to want to cultivate empathy?

24: APR 8. Unit Six: Criminal Justice and Moral Responsibility Skepticism


Introduction to philosophical problems with Moral Responsibility and the Law

  • Basic Questions:
  • 1. Do we praise people for things that don't deserve credit for and blame people for things that are not their fault?
  • 2. Is our concept of moral responsibility (and all of the behaviors and institutions based on it) wrong somehow? Is it out of sync with ideas about free will and the brain?
  • 3. What exactly do we mean when we say, "You are responsible for that"? Start a list. Causal, moral, both, neither.
  • 4. If we clarify our understanding of moral responsibility, will we still approach punishment with retributive intent?
  • Some concepts:
  • moral desert - normally, you deserve something because you did something to merit it, positively or negatively. As opposed to what you deserve just because of your status, as in rights. Normally, we would say you do not deserve praise or blame for things you did little or nothing to achieve (like an inheritance).
  • moral responsibility and blame - normally, you deserve blame for commissions or omissions of moral duty if you are of sound mind and body.
  • More questions:
  • Suppose you were raised in a good home and have acquired good habits. We would normally praise you for that. Now, would you reassess your deservedness of praise in light of the following conditions?
  • Compare yourself now to someone raise in a bad home, or no home, and who acquired good habits, having overcome many personal obstacles. Are you less deserving of your praise than this person, equally, more?
  • Your parents and their parents and the whole damn family come easily to good habits. None of you ever do anything wrong. You notice that your friend's families have higher frequencies of bad behavior. Are you less deserving of your praise than this people from these families, equally, more?
  • Background -- guest editing assignment. brother.
  • A couple of interesting philosophical arguments:
  • From Peter Strawson, summarized here in Waller, Against Responsibility:
  • If one is to be truly responsible for how one acts, one must be truly responsible for how one is, morally speaking. To be truly responsible for how one is, one must have chosen to be the way one is. But one cannot really be said to choose (in a conscious, reasoned fashion) the way one is unless one already has some principles of choice (preferences, values, ideals etc.) in the light of which one chooses how to be. But then, to be truly responsible for one’s having those principles of choice, one must have chosen them, in a reasoned conscious fashion. But that requires that one have principles of choice. And thus the regress. (pg. 29, Waller)
  • Mele’s Intentional Self-Modification Argument
  • Mele seems to accept the idea that in order to be responsible for how one acts, one must be responsible for how one is at the time of action. But he takes exception to Strawson’s claim that in order to be responsible for how one is, one must have chosen to be that way. He thinks there are cases of intentional self-modification that allow an agent to be responsible for what they do, without involving an infinite regress of choices. He makes his case by first developing the following thought experiment:
  • The Case of Betty: Betty is a six-year-old girl who is afraid of the basement in her house. She knows that no harm has come to anyone, including herself, who has entered the basement. But she is still afraid. Nevertheless, she recognizes that her fear is “babyish” and takes steps to overcome come it. She starts to make periodic visits to the basement, staying slightly longer each time until she no longer feels afraid. After following this method for a few months, she loses her irrational fear.
  • How far can "self-modification" go to make up for doubts about praise and blame?

Sapolsky, Chapter 16: Biology, the Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will

  • Discusses professional interaction between biologists and legal scholars that may have started “neurolaw”.
  • Radical claim: Current criminal justice system needs to be replaced. (Not talking about policing, right?)
  • Things outside his focus: science in courtroom, min IQ for death sentence, cognitive bias in jurors, cognitive privacy.
  • 583: historic example of scientific evidence disrupting criteria for guilt in witches trials, mid-16th century. Older women might not be able to cry.
  • Three Perspectives
  • no one now disputes that we sometimes are not free (epilepsy example). Yet medieval europe tried animals for guilt. (Sounds weirder than it is. Just imagine it's about the act, not criminal intent.)
  • Drawing Lines in the Sand 586
  • endorses a broad compatibilism and the idea of “moral failure”. He develops the competing concept, “Mitigated free will,” but ultimately, Sapolsky will try to show that this view doesn’t hold up, in part because it depends up arbitrary use of a “homonculus” to explain things. But he's still a compatibilist on free will.
  • 1842: M’Naghten. Rule at 587. Mentally ill murderer. Many objected to his not being found guilty. John Hinckley.
  • "mitigated free will" homonculus view: we all more or less think this way and then the problem of responsibility comes down to figuring out what to expect from the humunculus. What is it capable of or should have been capable of.
  • Age, Maturity of Groups, Maturity of Indidividuals
  • 2005 case Roper v. Simmons. Age limit of 18 on executions and life terms. Follows debates on this. 590.
  • 2010 and 2012 cases on rehab for juvies. age related bounds on free will (in the justice system).
  • ”grossly impaired rationality”.
  • Gazzaniga’s view: responsibility compatible with lack of free will. Responsibility is a social level concern. Time course of decision making.
  • disputes about the maturity of adolescents: APA has spoken both ways in court: not mature enough for criminal resp., but mature enough to make an abortion decision.
  • Causation and Compulsion -- not everything that causes us to act is a compulsion, but for some, it is.
  • works through example of schizophrenic hearing voices. Not all cases would be compulsion. "If your friend suggests that you mug someone, the law expects you to resist, even if it's an imaginary friend in your head." “thus in this view even a sensible homunculus can lose it and agree to virtually anything, just to get the hellhounds and trombones to stop.” 593
  • Starting a behavior vs. halting it. ("free won't")
  • Libet experiment, 1980s, EEG disclosure of “readiness potential” — activity measured before conscious awareness of will. .5 second delay might just be artifact of experiment design. Time it takes to interpret the clock. Libet says maybe the lag time is the time you have to veto the action your body is preparing you for (“free won’t”)
  • Sapolsky’s view is that these debates reflect a consensus about the interaction of biology and free will, whatever that is.
  • ”You must be smart” vs. “You must have worked so hard”
  • research of Carol Dweck, 90s, saying that a kid worked hard to get a result increases motivation.
  • 596: we tend to assign aptitude to biology and effort and resisting impulse to free will. Sapolsky seems very skeptical that we can justify assigning character (impulse control anyway) to non-biological factors (fairy dust). Read at 598.
  • some evidence that pedophilia is not freely chosen or easily resisted.
  • chart showing how we divide things between biology and “homoncular grit”. — Long list of ways out biology influence the items on the right.
  • Conclusions: “worked hard/must be smart” are equally grounded in our physical nature.
  • We'll break here for today
  • But does anything useful actually come of this?
  • Grounds for skepticism about using neuroscience in the courtroom: Stephen Morse. Neurolaw sceptic, ok with M’naugton, but thinks cases are rare. Reviews valid criticisms he makes: 1. Juries might overvalue neuroscience images, 2. Descriptive vs. Normative.
  • Morse supports a strong distinction between causation and compulsion. Causation is not itself an excuse. But Sapolsky argues that this still involves walling off a “homonculus” and that’s not plausible.
  • Acknowledges an apparent problem. Neuroscience typically can’t predict individual behavior very much. Fictional exchange with prosecutor. 600
  • Explaining lots and Predicting Little
  • But is the lack of predictive power a problem in the argument? S. works through some cases in which probability of prediction decreases, but no less likely that it could be a case of compulsion. 601
  • 602: Important methodological point: There's no less biology in the leg fracture vs. the other disorders, but level of biological explanation is different. Leg fractures are less connected to culture. Behavior is multifactorial and heavily cultural. (Oh god, another Henrich digression. Free will has a history.) Example: how much does biology predict depression? Factors are diverse biological mechanisms, including cultural factors. (But, point is, someone can be disable by depression, just like the leg fracture.)
  • Marvin Minsky, “Free will: internal forces I do not understand”. Sapolsky adds “yet”.
  • Neat charts showing historic trend to connect social behavior and biology in research journals. 604-605.
  • If you still believe in mitigated free will:
  • case of Dramer and Springer and the spiritual explanation for epilepsy. Biblical version with Jesus.
  • Sapolsky imagines an Inquisitor (witch burner). Must be puzzled occasionally by fact pattern. Mom has epilepsy.
  • growth of knowledge argument 607-608. read list. Most likely option is that our kids will look at us as idiots about moral responsibility and culpability.
  • 608: practical outcomes. Not about letting violent criminals free. On the biological view, punishment can’t be an end in itself (restoring balance). Retributive punishment is an end in itself.
  • Brain imaging suggests culpability judgements activate the cool and cognitive dlPFC, but punishment judements activate more emotional vmPFC. “A frothy limbic state”. Makes sense that punishment is costly. But we need to overcome our attachment to punishment. It is involved in a lot of unjustified suffering.
  • Recaps the transition we've made with epilepsy 610.
  • Car free will. A kind of reductio argument.

25: APR 13


  • Sapolsky, Chapter 16: Biology, the Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will (580-613) (Part Two 600-613)

Some additional considerations from the free will discussion

  • As positions in the free will discussion, these terms have special meanings, only somewhat related to their normal usage.
  • Determinism - The view that determinism renders free will meaningless.
  • Basic intuition: If everything is determined, we can't make choices.
  • Biggest liability: Sets the bar for free will very high.
  • Compatibilism - The view that determinism is compatible with free will.
  • Basic intuition: Free will is a way of describing our sense of agency. People do this in different ways in different cultures. (The feeling that we are directing our abilities and keeping our choice commitments, steering our boats.)
  • Biggest liability: Is this a "free will worth having"? It seems thin to some to call free will a cultural artefact.
  • Libertarianism - The view that under some circumstances we are the original cause of our actions.
  • Basic intuition: If you think free will is part of the structure of the world, then the liberatarian has a plausible approach.
  • Biggest liability: Hard to find evidence for this view.
  • Free will as a cultural concept. (Henrich digression)
  • Try some "ordinary language analysis". Evaluate some sentences:
  • I cannot choose to become a concert violinists at this point in my life.
  • I may choose to take up painting as a hobby.
  • I can choose whether or not I get read for class.
  • I can't choose not to love you, but I can't see you any more.
  • I've decided I don't love you any more. (aw...)
  • Ordinary language analysis -- We know what we mean by free will, whether it exists in libertarian form or not! Maybe it's a cultural artefact.
  • Relating this to Sapolsky's terminology. "Mitigated free will" is ultimately committed to a homonculus to which we can refer some part of our will that we somehow don't think is biological. Hence, the derisive term "homoncular grit".

Sapolsky, Chapter 16: Biology, the Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will (Part Two)

  • See notes for part two above.

26: APR 15


End of Term Work

  • Time to get your grading schemes finalized and equal to 100% (1.0). Please! Plenty of time for optional assignments, especially if you get going on them over the break. Journals are now limited to 5% (3 journals), but welcome. Please check with me on your topic choices for optional papers.
  • Time to take lessons from structured writing exercises. Justified Partiality papers will receive letter grades. How. Final Essay receives letter grade.
  • Final Work
  • Points assignment involving brief research and post on "New Approaches to Value Conflict" (Working on this for 12/1.
  • Final Essay. I will ask you to write a 1,000 word essay on the last unit. We will have a specific prompt on 12/1, but you should already be thinking about the major questions. Instead of our usual method, we will have a rough draft deadline and you will be asked to review four papers (for 12 points) and you will receive backevaluations for up to 10 more points.

Radio Lab Episode on Blame and Moral Responsibility

  • Segment 1: Story of Kevin and his wife, Janet. Kevin is arrested for child pornography.
  • 15 years earlier. Epilepsy seizures returned after surgery two years earlier. Can't drive so he meets Janet from work, who drives him to work. Romance... Still more seizures. Another surgery. Music ability in tact. But then his food and sexual appetite grew, played songs on the piano for hours. Disturbing behavior. Really disturbing behavior.
  • Reporter tries to get at who it was who did it. Kevin claims compulsion. downloads and deletes files.
  • Orin Devinsky: neurologist testified in court that it wasn't Kevin's fault.
  • Neurological dive: deep parts of our brain can generate weird thoughts, but we have a "censor". Maybe Kevin lost that part of his brain. Observed in post-surgery monkeys.
  • Lee Vartan -- Can't be impulse control. porn at home, but not at work. He must have known that it was wrong. Teret's can be circumstantially triggered even though it is clearly neurological. Poignant exchange with Janet about staying in the relationship. Kluwer-Bucy. Months before sentencing. Medication makes him normal, but eliminates his libido. 5 yrs. - home arrest. Judge ackn. prosecutor's point. You could have asked for help. (Reflect on this a bit.) 26 months federal prison 25 months of house arrest. 2008-2010.
  • 4 minute discussion questions: Do you agree with prosecutor's Vartan's point? Why or why not? What would your sentence have been?
  • Segment 2: Blame - person or brain.
  • Nita Frahany - neurolaw professor (law and philosophy!). Might be lots of cases. (argument: isn't this just like blame everything else for what you do wrong? Isn't it too easy?). Thought experiment: deaf person, child in burning building. "emotional inability" would also be damage to a physical structure (as in the ear).
  • David Eagleman, neuroscientist - makes critical point: neuroscience isn't so precise. New technologies will show us how experience is written in our brain. (Back to Descartes. wrong.) Slippery slope, the brain is always involved. Blameworthiness might be the wrong question. Person vs. biology doesn't really make sense anymore. The "choosey" part of the brain (the homonculus!). 36:00 minutes. Funny exchange. Self-modification comes up.
  • Claim: Legal system should drop moral blame. Adopt utilitarian approach. Predict recidivism. Point system exists. Better than people (50% accurate). System 70%. Currently there is appearance bias for example.
  • A point system might be very predictive, but you might not want to convict someone of a future crime. Would it be?
  • Frahany - Blame might serve social function of articulating norms.
  • 4 minute discussion questions: Frahany thinks there are lots of cases of the criminal justice system punishing unfairly. Are you persuaded? If so, does a utilitarian approach (with or without the point system) make sense?
  • Segment 3: Dear Hector
  • Bianca Giaver (producer) - Hector Black. Hector's backstory - joins civil rights movement, adopts Patricia, a neglected child. Patricia's story (becomes a beautiful and productive person) -- Patricia is murdered. Hector considers whether he wishes the death penalty for him. Hector's statement -- 48min. Writes a letter of forgiveness to the murderer. Ivan's story - son of schizophrenic mom, beat him, horror. Do we still blame Ivan the same way. Hector tells his story. Many letters exchanged. A strange bond. Hector has self-doubts - sending care packages to Ivan???. (Maybe he's just a weird guy.)
  • Ivan tells the original story of Patricia's murder. Ivan hears a voice that sometime comes to him. Commits the murder. Can't make sense of it.
  • 4 minute discussion questions: Does Ivan's story change your view of the kind of threat he poses -- one from choosing evil/failing a responsiblity vs. compulsion?

Henrich, Joseph, "Hell, Free Will, and Moral Universalism"

  • This excerpt from The WEIRDEST People in the World comes in the context of a section on "universal moralizing gods" which characterize the major world religions (though Buddhism requires some discussion). H's theory is that this cultural innovation in religions allows societies to grow, solving the problems associated with living with so many strangers, something our evolved psychology did not really prepare us for.
  • The three innovations of moralizing religions are:
  • contingent afterlife:
  • free will: encouraged follower to believe they could comply with moral code by acts of choice and will.
  • moral universalism:
  • The rest of the excerpt goes into evidence of the effects of each feature on social life. The research related to free will is at top of p. 148.
  • What consequences, if any, does this research have for our thinking about the modern problems of free will and moral responsibility?
  • Maybe -- Cultural variants on ways of thinking about agency make real differences in social morality...
  • Maybe -- Free will has its origins in psychological adaptations that allow us to live in large societies.
  • Maybe -- The philosopher's concern with the metaphysical problem of free will is hard to reconcile with the cultural utility of a belief in free will.
  • Maybe -- We have more reason now to separate what we tell our kids (You can do it if you try. Don't let other people control your decisions. What do you want to do with your life?) from what we know (?) about the ways that agency can be compromised or broken. The first way of talking seems justified even if the reality is that our failures are often the result of forces we have marginal control over.
  • Does this research tell us that punishment (and one modelled on hell?) is atavistic or useful in shaping our thinking and policy?
  • Do these lines of thought strengthen or weaken (or leave unchanged) our commitment to moral responsibility as retribution?

27: APR 20

Review of Moral Responsiblity issue and discussion of topic prompt

  • One more time on free will
  • Dennett, on Free will in Freedom Evolves:
  • Dennett's stance on free will is compatibilism with an evolutionary twist – the view that, although in the strict physical sense our actions might be pre-determined, we can still be free in all the ways that matter, because of the abilities we evolved. Free will, seen this way, is about freedom to make decisions without duress (and so is a version of Kantian positive practical free will, i.e., Kantian autonomy), as opposed to an impossible and unnecessary freedom from causality itself. To clarify this distinction, he uses the term 'evitability' (the opposite of 'inevitability'), defining it as the ability of an agent to anticipate likely consequences and act to avoid undesirable ones. Evitability is entirely compatible with, and actually requires, human action being deterministic. (from wiki page)
  • You could also think of free will as the specific cultural form that we use to think about agency
  • Is the free will issue a distraction? Hard to say. If we talked about free will in terms of capacities would we be denying free will? Maybe liability and negligence standards would work better. The history of free will talk is much shorter than the history of capacities and agency talk.
  • One more time on praise and blame "talk" vs. realities needed to back it up. The social utility of talk and the everyday cruelties it can cause. (Digression on the happiness question lurking here.)

28: APR 22

Add reading on retribution in US CJ system

PP2 Stage 1: Final Essay: Moral Responsibility, blame, and punishment Position Paper (with Rough Draft Peer Review)

  • Stage 1: Please write an 1000 word maximum answer to the following question by TBD, midnight.
  • Topic: Many contemporary thinkers and researchers (from philosophers to biologists and lawyers) have raised this question: Are our praising and blaming behaviors really as well justified as we imagine? In the first 3/4 of your essay, develop an organized discussion and reasoned answer to this question, drawing primarily upon information and resources in this unit (C1). Then, in the last 1/4 of your essay, try to present and assess the argument, which some legal theorists are making, that we should move away from retributive punishment and toward a utilitarian approach (C2). Be sure to demonstrate the connection between your analysis of the problem and your assessment of the future of retributive punishment.
  • Advice about collaboration: For this assignment, we need to modify our collaboration advice. You will have access to all of the rough drafts (with all new animal pseudonyms) and you will have read and commented on three of them before finishing your own. You are welcome to cite any ideas from any of the papers. If you borrow ideas from another author, give credit to the author by citing the animal name in your text. This again is what we do in an academic research community.
  • 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. In Word, check "File" and "Options" to make sure your name does not appear as author. You may want to change this to "anon" for this document.
  3. Format your answer in double spaced text in a 12 point font, using normal margins.
  4. Save the file in the ".docx" file format using the file name "MoralResponsibility".
  5. Log in to courses.alfino.org. Upload your file to the "'Final Essay' dropbox.
  • Stage 2: Rough Draft Review. Please review three student answers and provide brief comments and a score. We will use our regular assignment rubric, but rather than producing a score for the paper I will ask you to evaluate three specific items in the prompt as you find them in the rough drafts you review. Complete your evaluations by TBD, 11:59pm.
  • Use this Google Form to review three peer papers.
  • 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 the next animal in the list until you have four reviews. This assures that you will get enough "back evaluations" of your work to get a good average for your peer review credit.
  • Your final paper is due on TBD, by midnight. Please upload it to the "Final Essay" dropbox, the same as for the rough draft.
  • Stage 3: Back-evaluation: After you receive your peer comments, take a few minutes to fill out this quick "back evaluation" rating form: [13]. Fill out the form for each rough draft reviewer. Up to 10 points, in Points.
  • Back evaluations are due TBD, 11:59pm.

29: APR 27

30: APR 29

Course Conclusion

  • A couple of miscellaneous comments on praise and blame:
  • Try to be clear in your papers about the difference between whether "praise and blame" talk is useful vs. what it means.
  • "Praise and Blame" in pedagogy. (Some of the ways teachers complain about students - Challenging students, praising work and dopamine squirts - pseudonyms and focus on the work - non-retributive grading methods and curves. Larger discernment and selection processes.)
  • Core Ethics Course goals -- Let's make sure we fulfilled the learning goals for this Core class! (My glosses and additions in parentheses.)
  • After completing this course, students will be able to: 1. argue persuasively why [also, whether, the extent to which] each of us is responsible for having ethical concerns about and commitments to the good of others, 2. resolve moral problems consistently, drawing on resources (e.g., conceptions of human nature and of human community) of one of the ethical theories or traditions studied [just one?], and 3. respectfully advocate for their critically assessed moral commitments and perspectives within a diverse community.
  • Where we've been
  • Course Research Questions and Course Summary
  • Going Forward
  • Personal Reflective Challenges
  • Appreciate what lies beneath the surface.
  • See culture in terms of tools and constraints.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of political difference in my interactions with others.
  • Practice Empathy as a critical emotional competence.
  • Two lessons about moral difference and ideology
  • Try to notice if you are having a hard time forming a positive image of someone who holds different (but mainstream) political beliefs and values than you. [Investigate. If "social epistemology" is true, it should be possible to affirm something from most major perspectives on an issue.]
  • Pose empirical challenges to your ideologies.
  • A last look at "cultural value packages" and existential challenges
  • Do we have the cultural values (including values orientations and social values) we need to address the problems that we face? (Note that is not the usual way of asking the question.)
  • Never forget about Rapa Nui (Easter Island)[14]
  • The natural experiment of COVID responses.
  • The natural experiment in ethical leadership from the virus.