Summer2 2014 Benin Ethics Course Reading Notes

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Thursday June 5, 2014

LC Packet: Reader, The Atlantic Slave Trade (pp. 377-403)

Ariely, Why We Lie

  • Research on honesty with the "matrix task"
  • Shredder condition
  • Payment condition
  • Probability of getting caught condition
  • Distance of payment condition
  • Presence of a cheater condition - contagiousness
  • balancing - what the hell
  • Priming with 10 commandments or signature on top of form vs chances of being caught
  • Implications
  • small-scale vs high-profile cheating

Tips on How to report study findings

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


Monday June 9, 2014

Haidt, The Righteous Mind, Intro and Chapter 1

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


Tuesday June 10, 2014

Haidt, Chapter 1,"The Divided Self"

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


Wednesday June 11, 2014

LC Packet: Gardinier and Beierschenk -- Francophone Africa and Benin Politics

First Group Responses: Benin Learning Community readings and Ethics Readings

Thursday June 12, 2014

Monday June 16, 2014

LC Packet: Mama, Kpai, Hass: View the Kpai and Hass video over the course of the week

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

  • Philosophy's "rationalist delusion"
  • 30: Plato, Hume, and Jefferson - three models of the mind
  • A brief history of moral philosophy:
  • Stage 1: 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). Wilson's prophecy.
  • Stage 2: Nativism (natural selection gives us minds "preloaded" with moral emotions) in the 90s: Wilson, de Waal, Damasio (note studies of patients with dysfunction vmPFC)
  • Stage 3: Evolutionary Psychology in moral psychology.
  • studying controlled vs. automatic process by testing under "cognitive load" -- some moral decision making not impaired by load
  • Studies of "moral dumbfounding:
  • Roach-juice
  • Soul selling
  • Harmless Taboo violations: Incest story; Cadaver nibbling; compare to Kohlberg's Heinz stories (reasoning vs. confounding) -- evidence that the elephant is talking.
  • Ev. psych. research outside moral psychology
  • Wasson card selection test: Margolis' "seeing that" vs. "seeing why" -- note that morality involves the latter as well.
  • Rider and Elephant
  • Important to see Elephant as making judgements (processing info), not just "feeling"
  • 45: Elephant and Rider defined
  • Social Intuitionist Model

Haidt, Chapter Three, "Elephants Rule"

  • Personal Anecdote: your inner lawyer
  • Priming studies:
  • "take" "often" -- works with neutral stories also
  • Research supporting "intuitions come first"
  • 1. Brains evaluate instantly and constantly
  • Zajonc on "affective primacy"-- applies to made up language
  • 2. Social and Political judgements intuitive
  • flashing word pairs with dissonance: "flower - happiness" vs. "hate - sunshine" (affective priming)
  • Implicit Association Test
  • flashing word pairs with political terms causes dissonance.
  • Todorov's work extending "attractiveness" advantage to snap ju-- note: Dissonance is pain.'
  • judgements of competence. note speed of judgement (59)
  • 3. Bodies guide judgements
  • Fart Spray exaggerates moral judgements (!)
  • Zhong: hand washing before and after moral judgements. "Macbeth effect" (connection between body and morality)
  • Helzer and Pizarro: standing near a sanitizer strengthens conservatism.
  • 4. Psychopaths: reason but don't feel
  • Robert Hare, researcher on psychpaths: testimony.
  • 5. Babies: feel but don't reason
  • Theory behind startle response studies in infants
  • Bloom's moral puppet shows: helper and hinderer puppet shows
  • Social interaction appraisal at six months: reaching for helper puppets
  • 6. Affective reactions in the brain
  • When does the elephant listen to reason?
  • Friends... The Importance of Friends -- back to social intuitionism
  • Are we determined to follow the elephant (our own or our friends')? The importance of delay

Method: Giving Philosophical Arguments in Ethics

  • Distinguish:
  • Research results
  • Significance of results
  • Justification of theories
  • What are the reasons for thinking that the nature of morality is disclosed by psychological studcies?
  • Descriptive (scientific or observational) vs. Justificatory (ought we, can we act otherwise than the way nature disposes us to act?) claims

Tuesday June 17, 2014

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

  • Ring of Gyges
  • Tetlock: accountability research
  • Exploratory vs. Confirmatory thought
  • Conditions promoting exploratory thought
  • 1) knowing ahead of time that you'll be called to account;
  • 2) not knowing what the audience thinks;
  • 3) believing that the audience is well informed and interested in truth or accuracy.
  • Leary's research on self-esteem importance- "sociometer" -- non-conscious level mostly.
  • Confirmation bias
  • Wasson again -- number series
  • Deann Kuhn -- 80: We are horrible at theorizing (requiring exploratory thought)....
  • David Perkins research on reason giving
  • Can I believe it? vs. Must I believe it?
  • Section 3 - Conditions affecting honesty
  • Political scandals involving unpublished expense accounts
  • Correct change
  • Aiely again
  • Section 4 - Motivated Reasoning
  • Research tracking reason seeking and evidence seeking behaviors under conditions of motivation (self esteem on the line) (examples?)
  • Even affects visual perception (perception or reward conferring characters on computer screen) (also, sports examples)
  • Section 5 - Application to political beliefs: group affiliation enhances distorted thinking....
  • Does selfish interest or group affiliation predict policy preferences?
  • Drew Westen's fMRI research on strongly partisan individuals. dlPFC not activated, whereas other areas were.
  • Good thinking as an emergent property.
  • Statement, 90, on H's view of political life in light of this way of theorizing. read and discuss.

Wendnesday June 18, 2014

LC Packet: Millenium Development Goals for Benin and Easterly reading

  • Browse links on Learning Community site and look up other health and development data, and save notes for in country discussion.


Haidt, Chapter 5, "Beyond WEIRD Morality"

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


Thursday June 19, 2014

Monday July 7, 2014

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Monday July 14, 2014

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014