Fall 2021 Ethics Class Notes and Reading Schedule
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1: AUG 31. Course Introduction
First Day of Class Information
- Welcome - personal introduction and welcome. (Some student introductions.)
- About the Course
- Major Ethics Course Questions
- This is a writing enriched course. Why.
- Course Websites: Wiki & Courses.alfino.org (Some student introductions.)
- Overview of Teaching Approach.
- 3. Approach to writing instruction.
- Succeeding in the Course:
- 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)
- First six weeks:
- Next nine weeks: Major Applied Topics:
- The nature of political and moral difference, and implications
- Justified Partiality
- Moral Responsibility Skepticism and Alternatives
- First Day TO DO list
- Browse some links on the course wiki page, including old Ethics News!
- 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!
2: SEP 2. 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.
- Brief glance at Philosophical Methods
- 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.
- Some key elements to distinguish in reporting research:
- observational, survey, experimental
- 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?
Debrief on Zimbardo - Stanford Prison Experiment
- Let's practice our protocol for reporting research here.
- What are the principle insights from this experiment? How might they relate to recent events?
Everyday Ethics: Thinking about Gossip
- Defining gossip is difficult, but it typically involves sharing information about someone in a way that you would not want that person to discover.
- Small group discussion: In small groups, share your general view of gossip. Feel free to share old gossip stories, such when you discovered people gossiping about you, or were discovered gossiping. Can you recall benefitting from someone sharing gossip with you?
- Is gossip always bad or does it sometimes serve a legitimate purpose? Imagine a continuum of positions on gossip, each justified by a particular principle. Where are you on that continuum? What principle would you use to justify your position. Can you go beyond a principle to defend and consider a "theory of gossip"? What would that look like?
- Over the weekend, ask 2-3 people about their views and rules about gossip. Try some of our questions or just engage the conversation on its own terms. Try to figure out how people are thinking about gossip.
Haidt, The Righteous Mind, Intro and Chapter 1
- 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:
- 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
- empiricists -- we learn the difference between right and wrong from experience. tabula rasa.
- Kohlberg's "Heinz story" - pre-conventional, conventional, post-conventional. 
- 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?
- 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.
- 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: SEP 7
- 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!
- Lecture Segment: Philosophical Theories: Virtue Ethics
- Lecture Segment: Some Preliminaries about Ethical theory and objectivity
Some Preliminaries about Objectivity in Ethics and Features of Ethical Discourse
- A Framework for thinking about moral theories.
- Where should we look for "moral goodness"?
- Intentions (Kantian),
- Person (a virtuous person) (Aristotle),
- Consequences (Mill, Singer - Utilitarian)
- The following is pretty standard, but was drawn from Peter Singer's classic, Practical Ethics:
- Question to keep in mind for the next 5 minutes: When Haidt was showing that there was cultural variation in the way people make the "Harm / Convention" distinction, was he embracing "bad relativism"?
- Singer's arguments against cultural relativism:
- The Position: "Wrong" means "I disapprove" or "my society disapproves")
- The Problems:
- If this sort of relativism is true, polls could determine ethics. But they don't.
- Deep subjectivism can't making sense of disagreement. Ethics is a kind of conversation.
- There is just too much research suggesting that "I approve" isn't philosophical "rock bottom".
- 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 and ethical reasoning.
- An evolutionist's twist: A society's ethical culture can produce positive, neutral, or negative outcomes for human flourishing. In this sense, values have objective consequences in meeting selection pressures (both natural and cultural). (Vax values, for example.)
- Are there minimum conditions for ethical theories? (Or, What kind of conversation is ethics?)
- Today's quiz is for practice. Here is the link: * Quiz 
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 - "biologically and psychologically instantied defaults that, absent new information or overriding, govern response to given stimuli" (24).
- Leibniz speculated about "appetitions"
- Predispositions vary qualitatively and by intensity. (Examples among people you know.)
- 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
Philosophical Moral Theories: Virtue Ethics
- concepts from video...
- 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. (Note that modern virtue theorists aren't committed to some of A's false ideas.)
- Additional points:
- centrality of virtues and practical wisdom. Is practical wisdom real?
- 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. Then the idea that virtues change by time and culture makes more sense. The pursuit of the good life is the objective and constant part of morality, and the everything that changes is part of the challenge of knowing the human good.
EE1: Everyday Ethics Discussion and Short Writing Prompt #1 (300 words)
- Prompt: Is it morally acceptable to gossip? If not, why not. If so, under what circumstances and conditions?Present your theory about the ethics of gossip. A good theory of gossip would establish an understanding of gossip, take a position on the value or acceptability of gossip and provide a principle or rationale for that position. This ungraded assignment will count for 10 points.
- Follow this link when you are ready to write.] Due midnight tonight!
4: SEP 9
- 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.
- Reviewing Gossip writing.
- 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 writing on gossip.
EE1: Gossip Writing - 5 more points: Review items and nominate good examples
- We'll look at some pieces together. I will start to show how you should look for rubric values in the writing you will eventually review.
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!
- Ethical conversations and analyses are general about evaluating "value propositions" - claims that we ought to adopt or reject some value(s) and the associate behavior motivated by those values.
- 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.
- Illegitimate moves:
- appealing to only one person's or group's interests.
- denying the standing (need for consideration) of a person or group arbitrarily.
- most illicit appeals in informal logic (fallacies): ad hominems and appeals to pity, ignorance, etc.
- Legitimate moves:
- appealing to broadly held values about human life and human dignity.
- appealing to cultural and local norms that may be considered well justified.
- appealing to objective knowledge claims that may support or invalidate premises.
- calling into question these norms or their application, often by:
- 1. conceptual analysis -- What does it mean to value human life?
- 2. advocacy for specific understanding of human nature or human needs.
- 3. showing that some value proposition will or will not function to promote desirable outcomes.
- Constraints (or rules of thumb) we might recommend to improve moral or political discourse:
- observe norms of civil discourse,
- present others' views in ways that show empathetic understanding,
- recognize common ground,
Sapolsky, Chapter 10: The Evolution of Human Behavior
- Evolution 101 — 3 steps - Inheritance - Variation - Fitness
- Some misconceptions:
- 2. The living are not better adapted than the extinct. Fitness isn't "prospective"
- 3. Evolution is "just a “theory”
- 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 - A treats B badly, then B treat A and A's kin badly. Playback studies. These studies show in various ways how warning behaviors track kinship relationships in social primates.
- 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. It could also be that our preference for humans over non-humans is a big green bread effect.
- Reciprocal Altruism.
- Requirements for reciprocal altruism. Social species, frequent interactions, recognition of individuals (so, also memory).
- 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?
- Black Hamlet fish
- Stickleback fish
- But skeptical that tit for tat has been found outside humans.
- How can cooperation ever start? 353
- 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
- Multilevel Selection Theory
- AND US? How do humans fit into these four modes of selection?
- Second challenge, Is evolution gradual? [This is optional reading.]
- Is everything adaptive? [THis is optional reading.]
5: SEP 14
- Haidt, Chapter 2, "The Intuitive Dog and It's Rational Tail" (25)
- Everyday Ethics Discussion - Debrief and review of informal gossip writing.
Looking at good writing: Debrief on your gossip writing
- I marked a version of the spreadsheet and reposted it for your browsing. At this point, I just picked a few things to point out.
- 1. Philosophers are touchy about definitions. I put some in red that I had a quibble with. Nobody seemed to like my definition!
- 2. A red "/" or "//" indicates writing that isn't "flowing" or has paragraph organization issues. Paragraph organization is your way of communicating your "strategy" for explicating your views. More in class.
- 3. Blue text is writing that flows well. Some definitions I liked are also in blue.
- 4. "Be prompt savvy" usually means that the writing has taken a rather indirect approach to the prompt. In some cases, some really good writing might still not be "prompt savvy". Remember, your peer evaluators (including you) will have a "prompt checklist" to evaluate your writing.
- Some suggestions. Look for some of these issues in the writing you browse:
- Good writing -- In almost all good writing of the types we are doing (explication, presentation of a viewpoint, arguments and rationales for a position) a successful writer will be able to say not only what view they came to but also how they decided to present it. Usually, you find your strategy by "getting outside of your head" and thinking about what your dear reader might be going through as they both anticipate and follow your writing.
- Small group suggestions: Start out looking at the some of the highly nominated pieces (sorted to the top in "Everyday Ethics_Gossip" file. Then browse my mark up of writing in "Alfino mark up..." file. At some point you should compare notes with others in the group. Raise questions!
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 - Reason ought to be the master of emotions. (Timaeus myth of the body - 2nd soul(emotional)), Hume (Reason is slave of passions), and Jefferson (The Head and The Heart model. Nature has made a "division of labor" - Haidt thinks Jefferson got it right.)
- The "ultimate rationalist fantasy" is to believe that passions only serve reason, which controls them.
- The troubled history of applying evolution to social processes
- Wilson's Prophecy
- Moralists (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.
- The emotional nineties de Waal, primatologist who studied moral behavior in primates. monkey fairness. (used to be in the course. See links to he Tanner lectures.); Damasio and Wilson -- 33 -- seems to be a very different picture than Plato's;
- Some examples of evolutionary psychology
- Evolutionary Psychology in moral psychology
- Can we see automatic processing when reasons are missing?
- Soul selling
- Harmless Taboo violations: Incest story; note how interviewer pushes toward dumbfounding.
- How to explain dumbfounding.
- Rider and Elephant
- 45: Elephant and Rider defined
- Emotions are a kind of information processing, part of the cognitive process.
- Moral judgment is a cognitive process.
- Values of the elephant: automatic, valuative, ego-maintaining, opens us to influence from others.
- Note Carnegie's advice -- fits with Haidt's model. If you want to persuade people, talk to the elephant. (Note: If the elephant is very afraid and powerless, this can lead to bad outcomes.)
- Social Intuitionist Model: attempt to imagine how our elephants respond to other elephants and riders.
- Bring up Repligate issue. 
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 psychological trigger we have? What else works like this? (In what other contexts can you know there is an evolved psychology operating behind the scenes, but knowing about it doesn't make it an "illusion" that just falls away.)
- Is Feeling epistemic (part of how we know the world)? Do we process information with emotions?
6: SEP 16
- 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.
Some lecture notes on Sapolsky, Chapter 10: The Evolution of Human Behavior 354-374
- See previous class for reading notes on this chapter
- How can cooperation get started and become stable? 353-
- In other words, how does "tit for tat" survive among defectors? Coalitions, green beard effects.
- Effects of ind. selection, kin selection, and reciprocal altruism:
- Multilevel Selection MLS
- Genotypic and Phenotypic levels of explanation - unibrows.
- Four levels and counting.
- Encouraging patriotism might lead you to enlist, taking a fitness risk that we benefit from.
- Let's do our Small Group Discussion (see below) here.
- Some scientists agree that neo-group selection can occur, but think it's rare. Sapolsky points out that it is not rare in humans, due to Green Beard effects.
- Remember "Green Beard" effects from p. 341 -- a thought experiment in extending/recognizing kin. With neo-group, we go further, and hypothesize that we can form groups around almost anything (sport teams in an imaginary baseball league). Human mind does not limit partiality or commitment to kin or even social group.
- Where do we fit in? AND US?
Group Discussion on Group Selection
- Let's try to deepen our understanding of the relationship between cultural or group selection pressures and our "fitness". In other words, let's continue the list, but with items that pertain to your lives.
- How does kin selection still operate to affect our fitness and help us meet selection pressures?
- What is the single biggest selection pressure facing humans today?
7: SEP 21. Unit Two: More moral psychology, politics, biology and 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
- Watch this PBS Philosophy Crash course on utilitarianism. 
- Consequentialism - Utilitarianism
Philosophical Moral Theories: Consequentialism -- Utilitarianism
- Brief historical intro to utilitarians: Early industrial society, "social static" (early efforts to measure social conditions). Utilitarians were seen as reformers.
- Eudaimonistic vs. Non-Eudaimonistic (Duty)
- Two views:
- Fundamental consequentialist intuition: Most of what's important about morality can be seen in outcomes of our actions that promote happiness and human well-being. (Recall "Intentions-Acts-Consequences")
- Basic principles of utilitarian thought:
- Principle of Utility: Act always so that you promote the greatest good for the greatest number.
- Hedonic version: Act to promote the greatest pleasure ...
- Preference utilitarian version: Act to maximally fulfill our interest in acting on our preferences.
- But what is utility? What is a preference?
- Utility: pleasure, what is useful, happiness, well-being.
- Issue of protection of rights in utilitarian thought.
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?
- The case for primacy of cognition:
- The case for primacy of intuition:
- In moral quandries, activation of amygdala, vmPFC, and insula typically precede dlPfc activation.
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
- 2. Social and Political judgements are especially intuitive
- Affective Priming - flashing word pairs with dissonance: "flower - happiness" vs. "hate - sunshine"
- Implicit Association Test Project Implicit
- Judgements of competence. note speed of judgement .1 of a second.(59)
- 3. Bodies guide judgements
- Fart Spray exaggerates moral judgements (!)
- Zhong: hand washing before and after moral judgements.
- Helzer and Pizarro: standing near a sanitizer strengthens conservatism.
- 4. Psychopaths: reason but don't feel
- Transcript from Robert Hare research
- 5. Babies: feel but don't reason
- Theory behind startle response studies in infants
- reaching for helper puppets "parsing their social world"
- 6. Affective reactions in the brain Belief Change
- 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...
SW1 Intuitions Come First (600 words)
- Stage 1: Please write an 600 word maximum answer to the following question by Friday, September 24, 2021 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, verbally. 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:
- Format your answer in double spaced text in a 12 point font, using normal margins.
- Save the file in the ".docx" file format using the file name "IntuitionReason".
- 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 Thursday, September 30, 2021 11:59pm. It is important that you meet this deadline. Please do not leave it until the last minute!
- Use this Google Form to evaluate four peer papers.
- Stage 3: I will grade and briefly comment on your writing using the peer scores as an initial ranking. Assuming the process works normally, my scores probably be within 1-2 points of the peer scores. 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: . Fill out the form for each reviewer, but not Alfino. Up to 10 points, in Points.
- Back evaluations are due Friday, October 8, 2021, 11:59pm.
8: SEP 23
- Hibbing, Chapter 4: Drunk Flies and Salad Greens (89-96) (7)
- Hibbing, Chapter 5: Do You See What I See? (30)
- Beginner's Guide to Kant's Moral Philosophy
- Philosophical Moral Theories: Duty
Hibbing, Chapter 4: Drunk Flies and Salad Greens (89-96)
- From Fall2020 Philosophy of food, Food News!:
- Are there Trump and Biden fridges? 
- Neuropolitics as focus of research 
- Note this "conceptual point": 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/prefs diffs of conservatives/liberals, their basis, connection to politics. Later, cars, stocks, etc.
- Note also that they are acknowledging great variation in preferences. Not reductive.
- Obama's arugula faux pas. Hunch.com studies (note problems): supports stereotype. 92: preferences not random in a population IPhone users and Rice Krisppie eaters.
- Hibbing et al research 93-4: favorte meal v. new dish. 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
- Fitting Round Pigs into Square Holes 122
- Our Thoughts are Our Own - Or Are they?
- What Are You Looking At? 129
- Perception is Reality -- But is it real? 133
- You're full of Beans
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.
- Typical formulation of "modern" duty ethics comes from Kant.
- 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 this freedom in me and in others. (Note: Philosophers just can't shake the search for rational principles. No apologies from me, but let's note the implications. Abstraction from evolved social behaviors. But maybe that's ok depending upon how we use philosophical theories: foundational explanatory accounts vs. tools, heuristics to represent our thinking...)
- 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. Recall video.
- 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. (Are you on "team Reason"? How do we integrate that with knowledge of morality as a system of evolved social behaviors?)
- Rationalism: Kant thinks we can all agree, in principle, about what counts as a good will, what counts as a principle of action (maxim) that satisfies the categorical imperative.
SW1 Group discussion
- Looking carefully at the prompt.
- Brief look at the Assignment Rubric
- Once more on how to turn in your SW1 Writing===
- How to assure your anonymity in Word.
- How you will know who to review.
- How we handle late arriving work.
9: SEP 28
- Robert Sapolsky, C 13, "Morality" pp. 483-493
- Haidt, Chapter 4, "Vote for Me (Here's Why)" (23)
- This afternoon I will send out a link to the folder containing SW1 writing, along with a "key" to show you which animals you are to peer review. Today, we will look at the assignment rubric a bit more and talk about good peer commenting practices.
- Some thoughts on helpful peer commenting:
- You are only asked to write two or three sentences of comments, so choose wisely!
- "gentle criticism"
- "I'm having trouble understanding this sentence" vs. "This sentence makes no sense!"
- "I think more attention could have been paid to X vs. You totally ignored the prompt!
- Wrap a criticism with an affirmation or positive comment
- General and specific -- Ok to identify general problem with the writing, but giving examples of the problem or potential solutions.
Sapolsky. Behave. C 13, 483-493
- Origins of Social/Moral Intuitions in Babies and Monkeys and Chimps
- More infant morality:
- weigh commission more than ommision - infants track commission better than ommission, as in adults.
- prosociality - helper puppet studies,
- punishment - sweets go to helper puppets
- Interesting comment: human morality transcends species boundary. starts before us.
- Exemptions for testifying against relatives and vmPFC patients who will trade relatives in Trolley situations.
- vmPFC damaged patient will sacrifice a relative to save four non-relatives.
- Interesting note about criminal law exemptions.
- Neuroscience of the Trolley Problem and "Intuition discounting"
- dlPFC in level condition and vmPFC in bridge condition.
- "But this circumstance is different..."
- Under stress subjects make more egoistic, rationalizing judgments regarding emoitonal moral dilemmas.
- [this is not mentioned in the text, but it is what he is talking about: the Fundamental Attribution Error - neuro-evidence for the Fundamental Attribution Error 
Haidt, Chapter 4, "Vote for Me (Here's Why)"
- Ring of Gyges - Glaucon got it right.
- Key principle for ethical society: "make sure that everyone's reputation is on the line all the time" (even the babies in the room are keeping track!)
- Functionalism in psychology applied to morality - What does morality do for us?
- Tetlock: accountability research
- Exploratory vs. Confirmatory thought
- Conditions promoting exploratory thought (def: evenhanded consideration of alt POVs)
- 1) knowing ahead of time that you'll be called to account; [so, transparency!]
- 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 (def: tendency to seek and interp. evidence to confirm our view)
- Wasson again -- number series
- Deann Kuhn -- 80: We are horrible at theorizing (requiring exploratory thought)....
- Section 3: We're really good at finding rationalizations for things.
- more examples of people behaving as Glaucon would have predicted.
- Members of parliament cheat on their privileges when they know there is no accountability.
- Plausible deniability - correct change study. Only 20% speak up unless asked, then 60%.
- Ariely, matrix-cheating research - Predictably Irrational
- Section 4: Can I believe it? vs. Must I believe it?
- When we want to believe something we ask the first question, when we don't want to believe something, we ask the second question.
- "Motivated reasoning" - 84ff.
- Section 5: Application to political beliefs: Partisan Brains
- Research suggests that ethicists are not more ethical than others. (89 Schwitzgebel)
- Mercier and Sperber. Why Do Humans Reason?
10: SEP 30
- 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.
- 150: Some Parkinson's drugs can trigger behavioral changes like addictions and gambling.
- Could some brain diffs correlate with political orientation?
- I Feel it in my Gut -- psychophysiology - based on idea that we experience the world partly through our physiology. -- emotions as "action dispositions" -- we also trigger each other (escalation: story about ac and brother in law).
- 151: how emotional states are instantiated in neural and physiological activity.
- Politics on and in the Brain (two studies)
- Note these correlations increase by degree of partisanship.
- Note connection to BeanFest.
- Politics Makes Me Sweat
- EDA disgust studies line up with fart spray studies. Morality and smell are connected.
- Hibbing EDA study 163: disaggregate data and its the sex-issues driving the SNS response.
- In Your Face Politics
Small Group Discussion on Physio-politics
- Practical Problem: How should physio-politics affect our conversation practices in moral and political discussion and experience? What are the lessons? What values should we adopt?
- If "physio-politics" is real, then we're all having somewhat different physiological reactions to news, issues, and each other.
- If the "social epistemology" hypothesis from Haidt is true, then we are "smarter together" and we need to make use of our differences.
Practical Advice for Better Political and Moral Discussion in Light of Physio-politics
- List goes here
- 1. Model exploratory thought. (How do you do that, specifically?)
- 2. Avoid escalation of physiological responses. (How do you do that, specifically?)
- Acknowledge insight across the spectrum.
- Cultivate diverse relationships if possible.
- Avoid perjorative lables.
- Views can chage even if orientations don't.
- Accept difference that won't change, focus on pragmatics and cooperation.
- Humor, if possible. Self-effacing first.
- Acknowledge physio-politics in the discussion.
- Don't "sugar coat" differences. (Be true to yourself.)
Libertarianism as a moral and political theory
- (US conservative) Libertarianism: fundamental concern with human freedom understood as avoidance of coercion; minimal state; some morals legislation - often anti-abortion; no redistribution of income or wealth. Strong concern with equality of liberty and avoidance of oppression, understood as forced labor.
- Basic intuition: Taxation (beyond minimal state functions) 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?
- (US Liberal) Libertarianism: Also focused on freedom, especially regarding respect for identity differences and private behaviors (favors decriminalization/legalization of drugs), but retains some of the original left-wing concerns of socialism. More material interpretation of rights. Are you really free if you are living on the street? A conservative lib: Yes! A liberal lib: No!
- (Some of these notes based on Sandel).
- Libertarianism in Six Minutes (notes)
- Problems identified in Thought Monkey Youtube:
- 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.
- Environmental regulation seems necessary.
- Ethics not realized in the market perfectly. Lack of information transparency.
11: OCT 5 (Heavy reading day)
- Haidt, Chapter 5, "Beyond WEIRD Morality" (17)
- Henrich, Joe. Prelude and Chapter 1, "WEIRD Psychology" from The WEIRDEST People in the World (1-37)
- Method Point: Adding the "Cultural Frame"
- The Paradox of Moral Experience
Initial debrief on SW1
- I will be sharing scoring and comments from SW1 this afternoon. We will then start the final stage of the assignment: the back-evaluation.
- Some patterns:
- High and low scoring writing follow the rubric. Still a good guide for you.
- A surprising number of authors neglected any mention of Sapolsky.
- Lower scoring writing:
- Tended to organize content by Haidt's chapters.
- Less likely to follow protocol for research.
- More likely not to use any paragraph structure.
- Less prompt savvy.
- Higher scoring writing:
- Choose some of the most relevant research.
- Reported more research, using at least some of the protocol.
- Some grade norming issues. From my assessment, we didn't quite norm of 5's as "good job". More like 6s. I dropped more 10s than normal.
- My goal: Continue to support authors writing 13-14, but very interested in raising the 8s!
- Advice: The learning from SW1 isn't over. You have access to dozens of examples of scored and commented writing now. Make some comparisons. Pick up some tips. Come in to discuss your writing!
Haidt, Chapter 5, "Beyond WEIRD Morality"
- WEIRD morality is the morality of Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic cultures
- only group with majority allowing chicken story violation.
- survey data on East/West differences in sentence completion: "I am..." (also in Henrich C1)
- 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. (Hmm. So now we discover that some of our "tools" are culturally specific. Is this a problem?)
- A 3 channel moral matrix - or, How should we theorize (locate) our view in the larger world of human moralities?
- 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.
- 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) - most societies see a vertical dimension in social space. man who robs a bank vs. child sex traffickers
- 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 Schweder's view. Social conservatives made more sense to him after studying in India.
Small Group Discussion
- Haidt introduces the “Cultural Frame” with the move metaphor of “The Matrix”. Cultures include family and kin, cultures of origin, and national cultures.
- Questions:Does it make sense to talk about "stepping out of a matrix"? Perhaps you have had this experience within US culture as you moved from family culture or the culture of your hometown to college. Or from international travel. Do you have a parallel story to Haidt's? Share with each other some details of the “cultural frames” you inhabit.
Henrich, "WEIRD Psychology," from The Weirdest People on Earth"
- Prelude: Your Brain has been modified by culture
- Literacy in Western Europe - Protestantism requires literacy. "sola scriptura"
- Point of his book, “The WEIRDEST People in the World,”: WEIRD psychology is the result of a set of cultural adaptations promoted by the Christian church.
- Chapter 1: WEIRD Psychology
- WEIRD: individualistic, self-obsessed, control-oriented, nonconformist, and analytical. Tends to look for universal categories, analytic. patient, takes plesure in hard work, sticks to imparial rules or principles, guilt vs. shame
- Major Claim: WEIRD psychology is a product of 600-1000 years of the Catholic Church's modification of our psychology through its "Marriage and Family Plan".
- "Who Am I? task by culture 25
- Mapping the Individualism Complex.
- Note Caveats to this research on p. 31.
- Cultivating the WEIRD self
- Guilt vs. Shame
- "Discounting" as a measure of patience
- Impersonal Honesty -- UN Diplomats research, Impersonal Honesty Game (results at p. 44)
- Universalism and Non-relationalism -- Passengers Dilemma
- Trusting Strangers - GTQ instrument. impersonal trust vs. trust in relationship based networks.
Point on Method in the Course
- A way of framing the research we are reviewing: Three Frames:
- 2. The Group/Political Frame How our psychology makes us groupish. Physio-politics.
- Big question from today: How does the cultural frame complicate ethics?
12: OCT 7
- Hibbing, Chapter 4: Drunken Flies and Salad Greens (96-117) (21)
- Sandel, C6 "The Case for Equality" Justice (141-151) (10)
- The Paradox of Moral Experience
- Philosophical Moral Theories: Justice
Paradox of Moral Experience
- Some implications:
Philosophical Moral Theories: Justice as Fairness
- You might immediately think of Justice in terms of "public justice," especially courts and criminals and cases. Or you might think of big social questions about justice, like economic justice. But we also talk about justice on the personal level.
- We already have an political / ethical theory, Libertarianism, that has a view of Justice. Now we add a contrasting theory, Rawls' theory of "justice as fairness". We'll briefly review the account in Sandel, 140-141, but I will also asking you to watch a couple of videos on Rawls for next class.
- Today we will focus on fairness in private contracts (Rawls' gives us a "social contract" view in our next class.)
- Initial test of fairness in both individual and social contracts: Fairness might exist if there is an abstract willingness to accept the outcome from either party's perspective. This is usually thought of as assessing claims and interests and balancing them between or among parties involved.
Sandel, M C6 "The Case for Equality"
- Note: We are only covering up to p. 151 today.
- Nature of a contract: You think it is all in the words said or writting, but no! Contracts have to be "constructed" in light of background understandings of fairnes and relationship and foreseeable and unforeseeable circumstances.
- Fairness of contract may dep. on circumstances of execution: The Lobster Cases
- 1st case: You order, eat, but refuse to pay for the lobsters. Obligation to repay benefit.
- Two main concepts underlying contracts:
- reciprocity of benefits and obligations
- Seeing Autonomy and Reciprocity in examples of fair/unfair contracts
- Squeegee men-- potential for benefit to be imposed coercively
- Point: Contract should be fundamentally fair and guarantee autonomy and reciprocity.
- p. 151: Stop here for 10/7.
- Two main principles
- equal basic liberties for all
- differences in social and economic equality must work to advantage of the least well off.
- Justifying the Difference Principle
- Why not be libertarian about it?
- 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.
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"
- 103: Personality Theory research: Big Five model:
- openness to experience, ** p. 104
- conscientiousness, ** p. 105
- "What Foundation is Your Morality Built?" 105ff: review of Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory (We will get to this next week from Haidt). Note that strong theories have overlapping evidence from many different fields!
- 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?
- Theory 1. Politics drives other preferences. Hibbing et. al. skeptical of this.
- Theory 2. Broad orientations drive politics and preferences.
- Theory 3. Differences come from differences 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.
13: OCT 12
- Sapolsky, Chapter 13, "Culture, context, public goods games, religion" (493-509) (16)
- Sandel, "The Case for Equality" p. 151-166 (15)
- Rawls Theory of Justice
- Practice Fair Contract skills on Old Case: Fair Contract Case.
Fair Contract Skills: Small Group Discussion
- Let's practice looking for fairness and justice in an individual contract dispute. We'll use this old (and imperfect) case study for SW2 from Fall 2020.
- Then, in groups, try to assess the fairness and justice of different resolutions given the facts of the case and the concepts we have introduced. Try to give reasons for your resolution. Some of those reasons should engage our fair contract concepts.
- Autonomy - respect for persons as rational agents, reason giving.
- Reciprocity - the "quid pro quo" of a contract. Benefits and Obligations.
- Ambiguities, failures of clarification, but also implicit understandings.
- Background understandings of "reasonableness" (note conncetions to our work with Sapolsky on cultural mental adaptations.)
Rawls' Theory of Justice
- Original Social Contract tradition. Another Enlightenment philosophical product! See Social Contract wiki.
- Rawls' basic intuition: Principles of justice should be chosen by following a kind of thought experiment in which you imagine yourself not knowing specific things (see list) 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.
- List of things you know or don't know in the original position:
- Rawls claims we would choose the following two principles
- 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).
- The core intuition behind Rawls' approach is that some things are "morally arbitrary". The veil is an attempt to exclude them.
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. (Note that it is a basic fairness doctrine and that it’s “indexed” to a view of human nature. Consider again the passenger’s dilemma.)
- Schweder. autonomy,community, divinity
- Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory (coming to you Thursday). (A “matrix” is already a way of thinking about “general variables”.)
- Cooperation and Competition in Public Goods Game research
- Simple version: sucker's payoff reduces cooperation to zero
- Punishment version:
- research by Joseph Henrich, U BC, subjects from wide range of cultures play three simulation games:
- The Dictator Game (a simple measure of fairness)
- 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. Looks more plausible now to say both.
- Note theoretical puzzle on p. 500: You might expect small kin-based communities to have higher offers in PG games, punishing unfairnes, but "impersonal prosociality" and "impersonal fairness" are really part of a different "cooperative toolkit". In a way, the “market toolkit” is much simpler that a small group situation. “You give me this now, and I pay you now.”
- Honor and Revenge - (mention Mediterranean hypothesis - Italian honor culture & research on southerners....)
- Collectivists -- diffs from Individualists. note 501.
- 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  on deception in nature.
- note range of questions 512. Truth telling not a simple policy matter.
- 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.
- 516: neuroplasticity in white and gray matter in habitual liars.
- Subjects who don't cheat. will vs. grace. grace wins. "I don't know; I just don't cheat."
14: OCT 14. Unit Three: Two Theories of Moral and Political Difference
- Haidt, Chapter 6, "Taste Buds of the Righteous Mind" (27)
- Assigned today: SW2: Fair Contract Discussion and Writing Exercise
Lecture Note on Philosophical Method: "Hitting Rock Bottom"
- Today and Tuesday we hit "Rock Bottom" in the course. Here what that means in terms of philosophical method.
- Direction of philosophical inquiry: toward "first principles".
- In Classical Greece, a model for first principles comes from math and geometry. Also, Essences.
- In a Post-Scientific Revolution world, with evolution on board, the idea of essences looks different.
- Where we are in our investigation. Look at course research questions:
- Research question #1 and #3-7 have plausible answers now. For 2.
- Rock bottom means: Hitting a limit to the inquiry, ideally getting to a basic level of understanding and explanation that makes sense of the phenomena, here, our moral behaviors and rational thought about values. That mix of intuition and reason that has evolved in our big brained species. Morality works by using the "machinery" provided by evolution to teach, pass on, and monitor moral culture and behavior (maybe the conservative side, though we all contribute to preserving culture). It also, of course, involves the criticism of current practices and proposals for new practices (maybe the liberal side, though we all contribute to criticizing culture).
- What comes after "rock bottom"? The way up! Using the point of view we have developed to look at our experience in new ways.
- Example of SW2. How do you locate and negotiate fairness in the context of actual differences in perception and judgement? What do my intuitions about fair contracts tell me about my own "settings" (psychological, local culture (e.g. family, home town) and deep culture (e.g. ethnicity, society, history!) (Also, see course questions 6, 7, and 8).
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.
- Autism argument: Bentham (utlitarianism), Kant (deontology). Think about the person who can push the fat guy.
- 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!)
- Major global religious and ethical culture identifies virtues that seem to respond to similar basic problems of social life.
- 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
- original vs. current triggers, 123 Reason/Intuition
- Small group discussion: 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.
- Focus on both ways that we are all triggered and ways that we are differentially triggered.
SW2: Review and Small Group Discussion
- Review of concepts and principles for fair contract writing
- Conditions for entering contracts: non-coercion, equal standing (understanding and knowledge)
- Values in contract interpretation:
- reciprocity (quid pro quo)
- respect for autonomy,
- consent (agreement).
- Challenges of settling contract disputes: all of these values can be prioritized differently and applied differently.
- Small group discussion of the case.
- Questions on assignment
SW2: Resolving a Contract Dispute. (600 words)
- Stage 1: Please write an 600 word maximum answer to the following prompt by Monday, October 18, 2021 11:59pm.
- Prompt: Read about the Fair_Contract_Case_2
- Prepare your answer and submit it in the following way:
- Put a word count in the file.
- Format your answer in double spaced text in a 12 point font, using normal margins.
- Log in to courses.alfino.org. Upload your file to the 1 - Points dropbox for SW2.
- 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 Friday, October 22, 11:59pm.
- Use this Google Form to evaluate four peer papers.
- Some papers may arrive late. If you are in line to review a missing paper, allow until TBD, 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.
- 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: . Fill out the form for each reviewer, but not Alfino. Up to 10 points.
- Back evaluations are due Thursday, October 28, 11:59pm.
15: OCT 19
- Haidt, Chapter 7, "The Moral Foundations of Politics" (34)
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:
- Implicit theory about "re-triggering" note red flag. unexplained. Consider plausibility.
Working with the Moral Foundations in Political Contexts
- Bumper Sticker / Slogan reading
- Can you identify specific moral foundations at work in some of the bumper stickers?
- Why do so many people like to use bumper stickers? Do you? Why or why not?
Tools for working with "Matrix Differences"
- A big problem that Haidt's "Moral Foundations Theory" (MFT) leaves us with is, "How do we interact with people with different matrices and different experiences, especially concerning political value differences, when we hold our own views with conviction (as true!)? (In other words, how to deal with the Paradox of Moral Experience.).
- Why this is difficult...
- We don't all react the same way when our views are criticized. (Remember Socrates' attitude here.)
- 1. Two Basic Strategies:
- A. Explore difference.
- B. Find common goals or things to affirm.
- 2. Practice Sympathetic Interpretation
- Try to understand where a view is "coming from". Ask questions.
- Restate views, checking for fairness.
- Practice "strategic dissimulation" (controversial for some).
- 1. The view is reasonable, even if you disagree. Preface your disagreement by acknowledging this.
- Example: "Reasonable and well-informed people disagree on this...
- Example: I can see how/why someone would feel this way..., but...
- 3. The view seems unreasonable and false to you, but it is one that many people hold.
16: OCT 26
- 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.
- Back to Aristotle
- Differences Galore?
- Need to separate issues, labels, and bedrock social dilemmas.
- Issues arise naturally in the society, but can also be "promoted" by actors and parties.
- Commonality Reigns! Political Universals
- "Society works best when..."
- left and right have deep associations. left handed suspect.
- Look at the 4BSDs in relations to Haidt's MFT:
- 1. Adherence to tradition. (Neophobia/philia)
- 2. Treatment of outgroups and rule breakers (cooperation, defection, threat) (C, F, L)
- 3. Role of group/individual (freeriding, self-interest, social commitment) (F, L)
- 4. Authority and Leadership (Legitimate authority and hierarchy) (A)
18: OCT 28
- Haidt, Chapter 8: The Conservative Advantage (34)
Some notes relevant to the Role of Political Parties
- I'll share some notes from a New Yorker article, Jelani Cobb, "How Parties Die," March 15, 2021.
- Also, a slight version to our Hibbing diagram.
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 because 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 Figure 8.2 convergence of equal weight as you move toward conservative.
- 162: Correlations of pol orientation with preferences for dog breeds, training, sermon styles. You can catch liberal and conservative "surprise" in the EEG and fMRI.(similar to early Hibbing reading).
- biographical note about tracking Obama on left/right triggers. Parental resp to social justice.
- 164: Haidt's argument for replacing "old story" of political difference: there's something wrong with conservatives! 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.
- Mill vs. Durkheim - responses to the challenge of living with strangers (mod. society). Individualism vs. Organic society. (What would that mean today in US? Note that there are lib/conservatives strategies for both.)
- Evolutionary story about hierarchy, p. 170.
- original triggers: bullies and tyrants, current triggers: illegit. restraint on liberty.
- Contemporary Examples:
- 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"
- Philosophical 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. orientation. 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.
- Related literature: Extended Mind theory 
18: NOV 2
- Haidt, Chapter 12, "Can't We all Disagree More Constructively?" (189-221) (32)
Narratives and Counter-narratives in moral/political discourse
- In reference to our "layered chart", narratives are like a thread we weave among the layers.
- Easier to see in political discourse, but also in individual moral responses to our immediate environment.
- Example: Responses to homelessness fit into different narratives that people hold about the world.
- In political morality then, what are some of the typical narratives?
- Liberals tends to focus on narratives around harm, victims, and unfairness.
- Conservative narratives of solidarity often about fiscal restraint,
- Can you add to this list from things you hear from current events?
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:
- "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. (Plug in Hibbing here.)
- 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):
- 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. Note the complexity here. You can tailor your narrative to you.
- Political narratives of Republicans and Democrats.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- Political polarization and ideology --
19: NOV 4. Unit Four: Justice and Justified Partiality
Introduction to Justified Partiality Unit
- A typical question for thinking about social justice is,
- "What, if any, are the limits of partiality to family, intimates, friends?
' (Your preference network)
- Today's class is focused on "personal partiality," the kind that shows up in our interpersonal social relationships. The next class will focus on "impersonal altruism", which shows up in our commitments, if any, to benefit strangers, especially strangers in our society, but in some cases, globally.
- Three big questions:
- 2. Could our networks of preferential treatment be the effect of and also promote injustice?
Small Group Discussion: Questions 1 & 2
- 1. What are some the social functions of personal preferential treatment? Make a list.
Hidden Brain, "Playing Favorites"
- 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.
- "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.
- The Trolley Problem again, this time from Joshua Greene himself!! Watch "The Good Place".
- Naturalness of preference. Evolutionary background
- Preference promotes cooperation. Suite of capacities. A package. Don't lie, cheat, steal...
- Moral concentric circles. How big is my "Us"? What is the range of humans I care about?
- Lack of Tribal identity might tilt us toward rule based ethics. Equal treatment.
- 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.
Question #3: Finding principles and resources for developing a position on "Justified Partiality"
- Let's define a couple of viewpoints to get started. Note that these views draw on both our study of morality as an evolved system as well as our philosophical theories:
Small Group Discussion #2: How Big is Your "Us"?
- Imagine three futures for yourself. In all of them, you grow up to have a successful career, a family with two kids, and a medium size extended family. You are approaching retirement and your retirement and estate planning recalls a distant memory of an ethics class which talked about "justified partiality." You and your partner are wondering if you should leave all of your estate to your children or not. Consider these three scenarios:
- B. You have all of the conditions in A, but 2 million dollars in net worth.
- C. Same as B, but 8 million dollars.
- For all three scenarios, assume that all indication suggest continued growth of your assets.
- In each scenario, how much, if any, of your estate would you will to people or causes that do not benefit people in your preference network? After your discussion, please fill out this google form.
20: NOV 9.
- Workshop for Position Paper #1: What We Owe Strangers
- Today's class has no reading assignment.
PP1 Stage 1: "What We Owe Strangers" Position Paper: 1000 words
- Stage 1: Please write an 1000 word maximum answer to the following question by Thursday, TBD, 2021 11:59pm.
- Keep in mind:
- Prepare your answer and submit it in the following way:
- In Word, check "File" and "Inspect Documents" to make sure your name does not appear as author.
- Format your answer in double spaced text in a 12 point font, using normal margins.
- Save the file in the ".docx" file format using the file name "ObligationStrangers".
- Log in to courses.alfino.org. Upload your file to the PP1: What We Owe Strangers 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 TBD, 2020, 11:59pm.
- Stage 3: I will grade and briefly comment on your writing using the peer scores as an initial ranking. 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: . Fill out the form for each reviewer, but not Alfino. Up to 10 points, in Q&W.
- Back evaluations are due TBD, 11:59pm.
The "other side" of Justified Partiality: What We Owe Strangers
- Unpacking the prompt:
- The "goods" -- that typically occupy discussions of Justice or Beneficence.
- Draw on "theories of justice and other concepts" --
- Motivational resources: self-interest and altruism.
- Theoretical resources:
- Rawls' Theory of Justice -- which addresses both rights and economic justice.
- Virtue Ethics -- Promoting human virtues may require specific sorts of aid or support.
21: NOV 11. 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.
- We'll stop here for today's class. The rest on Thursday.
- Segment 3: Costs and benefits of Empathy
- But 911 was also unifying, eliciting empathy.
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
- 526: rats, amazing rats -- US/them behaviors, some flexibility. review the details.
- Emotionally contagious, compassionate children
- socioeconomics of empathy 534: wealth predicts lower empathy. the wealthy take more candy!
22: NOV 16
- Robert Sapolsky, from Behave, Chapter 14, "Feeling Someone's Pain, Understanding Someone's Pain, Alleviating Someone's Pain." 535-552.
Sapolsky, Behave, C 14, 535-552
- A Mythic Leap forward - covering mirror neurons and what they do and don't show about moral life.
- [We might pause on this to appreciate the basis of Sapolsky's skepticism given the overall view of human morality we've developed in the course.]
- The Core Issue (in Empathy): Actually doing something.
- Is there altruism?
- mention of Henrich on "moralizing gods" [but then, you knew that already]
- Feeling good about being charitable might be a family transmissable trait.
- 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".
- Seems to endorse the idea that altruism (compassionate empathy) is trainable -- like potty training, riding a bike, telling the truth! So don't forget you workouts at empathy gym!
Small Group Exercise
- Briefly assess the research we have been reviewing on empathy this week. Where there some surprising things?
- Then discuss some of the following questions:
- Are you persuaded that empathy is trainable? Where is the empathy gym anyway?
- 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? (Please take polls of your breakout groups.)
Paper discussion on PP1: What Do We Owe Strangers?
- Original assignment at MAR 30.
- Review "Unpacking the Prompt," also from MAR 30. Spring_2021_Ethics_Class_Notes_and_Reading_Schedule#The_.22other_side.22_of_Justified_Partiality:_What_We_Owe_Strangers
- The prompt, for convenience:
- Get right to work.
- Don't be reluctant or afraid acknowledge limits, uncertainties, or problems with your view.
23: NOV 18. Unit Six: Criminal Justice and Moral Responsibility Skepticism
Introduction to philosophical problems with Moral Responsibility and the Law
- Basic Questions:
- Some concepts for thinking about moral responsibility:
- A couple of interesting philosophical arguments to take into the thought experiment:
- From Peter Strawson, summarized here in Waller, Against Responsibility:
- Strawson's argument suggests the "impossibility" of moral responsibility.
- Mele’s Intentional Self-Modification Argument
- Thought experiments on interpersonal praise and blame
Small Group Discussion: Thought Experiment Gym on Praise and Blame
- Work through the thought experiment above, sharing your responses to Conditions 1 and 2. Do these comparisons make you less certain about the basis of moral responsibility?
- Try to think of some clear cases in which you would blame yourself (or blame someone else) for failing a specific moral responsibility. Make a list with different levels of seriousness. Include a few cases of criminal conduct, but mostly stay with interpersonal responsibility contexts. (Example: I would blame myself if I failed to prepare for class because I got distracted reading magazines. -Alfino) In each case, try to think about what you "deserve" or "ought to have to do" in light of your failure. Is it always a penalty (from nominal penalty to one proportion to failure)? Does it always involve "deserving blame"? When does it? Hopefully, this helps us think about praise and blame in actual contexts. Please bring 1-3 items from your list back to the whole class.
Radio Lab Episode on Blame and Moral Responsibility
- Segment 1: Story of Kevin and his wife, Janet. Kevin is arrested for child pornography.
- Orin Devinsky: neurologist testified in court that it wasn't Kevin's fault.
- 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.
- 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
- 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?
24: NOV 23
- Sapolsky, Chapter 16: Biology, the Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will (580-613) (Part One 580-600)
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
- Drawing Lines in the Sand 586
- Age, Maturity of Groups, Maturity of Indidividuals
- 2010 and 2012 cases on rehab for juvies. age related bounds on free will (in the justice system).
- ”grossly impaired rationality”. [Note: The law is mostly interested in "rationality" not free will.]
- Some views Sapolsky finds hard to accept:
- Deliberate actions are "free" - doesn't make sense of brain processes.
- Time course of decision making.
- Causation and Compulsion -- not everything that causes us to act is a compulsion, but for some, it is.
- Starting a behavior vs. halting it. ("free won't")
- ”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.
- 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.
- 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.
Small Group Discussion on Will Power and "Homuncular grit"
- Evaluate Sapolsky's chart on p. 597 showing how we divide "biological stuff" from "homuncular grit". How far do you go in accepting his criticism of the distinction. (read below chart). Does this lead you to reevaluate your agreement with the prosecutor in Kevin's case?
- What is the "source" (what are the sources) of "will power"? When you "find" willpower or marshal your personal resources to meet a challenge, is there a "who" who is deciding that or is there just a competition in your head based on all kinds of things, including perceive rewards and perceived risks? Do you need a homunculus to have will power?
Two Strategies for grounding Moral Responsibility (MR)
- Two ways to ground MR:
- 1. Traditional Metaphysical Philosophical Discussion about Determinism and Free Will
- To understand the Traditional Metaphysical approach, you need some terminology:
- Relating this to Sapolsky's terminology: Sapolsky is critical of the folk psychological view he calls "mitigated free will". This is the view that we have complete FW, but sometimes it is compromised (compulsion, Kuwer Bucy Syndrome, addiction). Such views often sneak in a mysterious "homonculus" to which we refer some part of our will that we somehow don't think is biological. Hence, the derisive term "homoncular grit". (We'll follow his argument below.)
- Is Free Will a culturally defined concept for understanding our agency?
- Free will as a cultural concept. Evidence from Henrich and others. Part of a cultural package that weakened kin bonds that might not have been seen as "choosable". Promotes idea of choosing a creed or code of conduct. Question then is: Does this conception of free will still serve us well, especially in light of new knowledge about human (mis)behavior?
- 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. Maybe we use mental modules related to Theory of Mind and governing "animate" objects.
- I may choose to take up painting as a hobby.
- I cannot choose to become a concert violinists at this point in my life.
- I can choose whether or not I get ready for class.
- I have no choice, I have to turn you in to the police.
- 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. (aww...)
25: NOV 30
- Sapolsky, Chapter 16: Biology, the Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will (580-613) (Part Two 600-613)
- Henrich, Joseph, "Hell, Free Will, and Moral Universalism" from The WEIRDEST People on Earth p. 146-148, (2)
Some Ways of Thinking about Just Punishment
- Some options for Theories of Punishment
- Utilitarian models of punishment: General principle: Reducing harm to public and offender.
- Grounding punishment in the consent of the punished. "Thanks! I needed that!"
- We will be looking at how these models of punishment correlate with different political economies in Cavadino reading next time.
Sapolsky, Chapter 16: Biology, the Criminal Justice System, and (Oh, Why Not?) Free Will (Part Two)
- See notes for part two above.
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:
- 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?
26: DEC 2
- Cavadino, Michael and James Dignan. "Penal policy and political economy". (17)
Small Group Discussion on punishment
- Recall our theories of punishment from last class. Here are two thought experiments to help you sort out your views on punishment:
- A. Contractors would choose a retributive punishment system, much like the current US system.
- B. Contractors would choose a "public health model".
- C. Contractors would choose a "dual system" allowing for choice between A and B.
- Try answering with just two options: A and B.
Cavadino, Michael and James Dignan. "Penal policy and political economy"
- Two claims:
- Diffs in penality likely to continue in spite of globalization
- Starts with an overview of the influence of the US on global penal policy. To the extent that US exerts influence on other countries to move in a neo-liberal direction there may be "penal convergence". Also, incarcertation systems are one of our global exports! "correctional imperialism"
- Some elements of the US "justice model" (retributive punishment and retributive deterrence) travel faster than others. "3 strikes" and "zero tolerance"
- In Europe, the European Convention on Human Rights is influential. Moved Russia away from capital punishment.
- 441: Table: Typology of political economies and their penal tendencies.
- Neo-liberal (Example: Us
- Social democratic corporatism (more egalitarian and secular)
- Oriental corporatism (detail from Nick's taxes)
- Let's review some of the connections the authors make in their discussion. (bring in crime rates)
- 447: Table: Political economy and imprisonment rates.
- Is neo-liberalism "criminogenic"?
- Interesting: Weak link bt crime rates and imprisonment rates.
- Beckett and Western (2001) and others claim that high welfare spending correlates with low incarceration (except Japan). Also, economic inequality predicts high incarceration rates.
27: DEC 7
- No readings today. I will give you some lecture material on Dennett's view of Freedom
PP2: Free Will, Moral Responsibility, and Punishment Position Paper
- Stage 1: Please write an 1000 word maximum answer to the prompt by TBD, 2021, 11:59.
- 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 four 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 (only we don't use animal names).
- Prepare your answer and submit it in the following way:
- In Word, check "File" and "Options" to make sure your name does not appear as author.
- Format your answer in double spaced text in a 12 point font, using normal margins.
- Save the file in the ".docx" file format using the file name "MoralResponsibility".
- Log in to courses.alfino.org. Upload your file to the "'Position Paper 2' dropbox.
- Stage 2: Rough Draft Review. Please review four 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, 2021, 11:59pm.
- Use this Google Form to review three peer papers.
- Your final paper is due on TBD, 2021, by 11:59pm. Please upload it to the "Position Paper 2" dropbox, the same as for the rough draft.
Dennett's Naturalist view in Freedom Evolves
- Our folk psychological idea of Free will. The homunculus or soul or real self is somehow independent of influences. In philosophy, this is "Libertarian Free Will". Not well supported.
- The Standard Argument for Incompatibilism that our Folk Psychology encourages. (Should we resist?)
- If Determinism is true, everything is inevitable. (recall physics consult)
- If everything is inevitable, the future has no real possibilities. (No "open futures")
- If you are like most people, you will not accept this argument. And you shouldn't. The question is, who has a better solution? Naturalists suggest that our folk psychology confusing us about the consequences of determinism, maybe because it wasn't designed for these kinds of questions. So their solution is to give an analysis of the implications of determinism that makes room for free will and to show how "freedom and free willing" might arise from nature. (If this seems like a stretch, philosophers have been here before. Mind from matter? Surely, you jest!)
- Rethinking Determinism. Here are three key challenges to the standard argument for incompatibilism (above) from naturalists:
- 1. Determinism doesn't make things inevitable.
- 3. Freedom evolved in us in nature.
- In other words, the naturalist thinks free will and freedom (and some version of responsibility, if not punishment) are possible in a deterministic world with no "open futures". As we will see, part of the strategy is to show just how complicated we are, to be creatures who engage in inquiry and use knowledge to avoid back outcomes and create good ones. So, we might be "Determined (by nature) to improve the future!".
- Where does all that improvement show up? In culture, but only if things go right (remember Rapa Nui!). As we know from our studies this semester, "going right" in culture means benefiting from cooperation and acquiring cultural "packages" of mental adaptations that address the basic dilemmas of social creatures like us. Ultimately, surviving and thriving.
- So that's where we're headed. Now let's look at the naturalist's analysis in a little detail.
- 1. Determinism doesn't make things inevitable.
- 3. Freedom evolved in us in nature.
- Obvious example: Without vaccines we would be less free.
- Implication: We are not all equally free. Freedom is powerful and fragile.
28: DEC 9
- Susan Blackmore, "Living Without Free Will"
Debriefing on PP1: What do we owe strangers?
- Favorable distribution overall (high percentage of A/A-, high prompt attention), though I felt I had to anchor on B-.
- Some patterns in the distribution.
- There have been some instances of incongruous (negative) results between SW1-2 and PP1 (PP1 alot lower than SW2, for example). I am particularly interested in those cases so please come forward to discuss.
- Focusing on PP2: FW, MR, and Punishment Postion Paper
- Follow the template. Select from course resources (and other sources, if you wish) to develop your position. Note italicized part of the prompt. Doing this should guarantee a B or better.
- Please read successful papers from PP1 and note writing, organization, and thesis clarity.
Blackmore - Living Without Free Will
- Thesis: Free will is an unnecessary illusion that you might be better off getting over. SB grants that many find this an impossible view.
- Cites Wegner (2002): research suggesting that the feeling of agency ("I did it!") might be "post-hoc" attribution.
- Blackmore agrees with Dennett's analysis (but thinks his book should be called "Choice Evolves"), but thinks FW is an illusion.
- She considers two possibilities: "Living 'as if'" and "Rejecting the Illusion" - favors the latter.
- Living "as if"
- Patricia Churchland: It's a "user illusion" that you make an uninfluenced, self-conscious choice.
- "Illusionism" can be defended. If you believe bad consequences follow from giving it up....
- Criminal Justice system would be fairer without the illusion of FW. No retribution.
- "Rejecting the Illusion" -
- 166: "sitting by the fire" example
- William James - getting out of bed on cold morning. Analyze that feeling of "indecision".
- Blackmore thinks of consciousness more as events than a place in your head where things "enter into conscious awareness". Likewise, maybe, with free will. [Possible criticism: Just because it would be mistaken to believe in the homunculus, it doesn't mean that there are no neural processes that imitate some of it's less exotic functions (like updating us by making this conscious to us - "Oh right, I have a paper to write.").
- 169: Some of the exercises she asks her students to do. "Am I conscious now?" Sometimes primes them to be more conscious. (related to mindfulness).
- Morality and Responsibility
- You might think that you would have more regrets giving up FW, but no.
- Wegner: knowing its an illusion gives him a sense of peace. quote 171.
- Conversation with her Dad. Maybe FW (or belief in it) makes us "want to be good" (recall Henrich)
- SB's point: All of your motivations to be good (self-interest, reputation, altruism) will still be there after you give up FW.
- Paying Attention
29: APR 29
Concluding Course Comments
- Review of Major Ethics Course Questions
- Core Ethics Course goals -- Let's make sure we fulfilled the learning goals for this Core class! (My glosses and additions in parentheses.)
- Three Ideas
- How different the problem of moral responsibility is on interpersonal vs. impersonal levels.
- The challenges of a cultural evolutionary approach.
- Passive vs. Active Approaches to Responsibility
- Two reminders
- Practice enlightened politics
- Cultivate diverse relationships.
- What is an active intellectual?