Florence Summer 2014 Ethics Course Lecture Notes A

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Class Dates


Monday May 19, 2014

1st Day Notes

  • Introductions
  • Name, major, goals, motivation, relevant experiences.
  • Course overview
  • Course topics and research questions (MA)
  • Movie distribution (MA)
  • Wiki Instruction (MA)
  • Assignments in this course (TH)
  • Start Course
  • Show clip from GIC (39:00) (TH)
  • Prompt for viewing

Tuesday May 20, 2014

=== ROME 5/17: Manifestation against commercialization of water and against nuclear power

Ariely, Why We Lie

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

Tips on How to report study findings

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

Ethical Issues in "Girlfriend in a Coma"

  • Act one la mala Italia:
  • political corruption
  • extra-state and state terrorism
  • organized crime, political connivance, control of elections, money washing in legal enterprises
  • Bomb attacks on antimafia magistrates Falcone and Borsellini, 1992,
  • Ndrangheta, controllo territoriale; justice and education to fight organized crime
  • origins of B's money
  • Discrimination of women
  • Liva in Taranto, jobs and lives depend on bad government and bad capitalism
  • Act II Buona Italia
  • The South Project - confiscated property becomes community for differently abled
  • GOEL female workforce
  • If not now when: women's resistance to B
  • Familial/good capitalism
  • Marchionne + Elkmann, FIAT
  • Ferraro, nutella. Ethics of Sharing with community
  • Eataly, slow food, local, fair
  • Cultura, Torino museum of cinema occupation of theatres
  • Act III Sloth
  • Sloth the major and worst of sins; easily absolvable
  • Berlusconicmo has put everyone in the purgatory; all are equally involved and all are as solved
  • Mauizio Viroli - Machiavelli - church has made weakness "sancta religione: (holy religion) - Leaders of the Unification (1861) were morally strong and critical of the church's tendency to make deals with political power
  • Umberto Eco: the lacking sense of the state, church's influence on politics
  • Brain drain - new immigration patterns
  • search for opportunity and meritocracy; repatriation as import of intellectual resources; attention to Italy reinforces democracy

Wednesday May 21, 2014

Haidt, The Righteous Mind, Intro and Chapter 1

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

Thursday May 22, 2014

Haidt, Chapter 1,"The Divided Self"

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

Monday May 26, 2014

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

  • Philosophy's "rationalist delusion"
  • 30: Plato, Hume, and Jefferson - three models of the mind
  • A brief history of moral philosophy:
  • Stage 1: moralism (Anti-nativism): reactions against bad nativism, like Social Darwinism, 60s ideology suggesting that we can liberate ourselves from our biology and traditional morality (as contraception appeared to). Wilson's prophecy.
  • Stage 2: Nativism (natural selection gives us minds "preloaded" with moral emotions) in the 90s: Wilson, de Waal, Damasio (note studies of patients with dysfunction vmPFC)
  • Stage 3: Evolutionary Psychology in moral psychology.
  • studying controlled vs. automatic process by testing under "cognitive load" -- some moral decision making not impaired by load
  • Studies of "moral dumbfounding:
  • Roach-juice
  • Soul selling
  • Harmless Taboo violations: Incest story; Cadaver nibbling; compare to Kohlberg's Heinz stories (reasoning vs. confounding) -- evidence that the elephant is talking.
  • Ev. psych. research outside moral psychology
  • Wasson card selection test: Margolis' "seeing that" vs. "seeing why" -- note that morality involves the latter as well.
  • Rider and Elephant
  • Important to see Elephant as making judgements (processing info), not just "feeling"
  • 45: Elephant and Rider defined
  • Social Intuitionist Model

Tuesday May 27, 2014

Haidt, Chapter Three, "Elephants Rule"

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

Method: Giving Philosophical Arguments in Ethics

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

Wednesday May 28, 2014

Terri Schiavo Case

Luchetti, "Eluana Englaro"

  • In line with Eluana's expressed wish, her father achieved the right to withdraw artificial life support after 17 years (13 years of legal battle)
  • The final ruling sparked a fierce and amply press covered crusade from the Vatican and Berlusconi's right wing government
  • The general public endorsed the father's stance
  • Political manoeuvres of private matter marks shift from bioethics to biopolitics
  • As is the case of abortion, the vegetative state requires health professionals to take an ethical stance
  • While euthanasia is illegal, patients may refuse treatment
  • Is ANH a medical treatment or ethically due act?
  • Not a religious but democratic problem related to freedom of conscience
  • Dr. Luchetti calls for a procedure-based decision process to promote the diverse moral responsibilities at stake in right-to-live cases

Euthanasia and Physician-assisted Suicide

  • Not just about dramatic cases such as Eluana Englaro or Terri Schiavo
  • When is it permissible for someone to receive help ending their life?
  • What does the elephant have to say?
  • What principles should govern such decisions?
  • Human dignity
  • Medical conditions
  • Consent and statement of intent
  • Ethical convictions and religious beliefs of health professionals (Difficulties involved in finding professionals willing to give or withdraw ethically controversial treatments)

Paul Rainbow & Nicholas Rose: "Biopower Today" (2006)

  • Develops Michael Foucault's concepts and studies conducted in the 1960s and 1970s on 19th- and 20th-Century practices
  • Holocaust as extreme example of domination (elimination of vital existence), but Biopower is not necessarily nefarious
  • Today a relation between letting die and making live
  • Biopwer: more or less rationalised attempt to intervene upon the vital characteristics of human existence
  • one or more truth discourses and relative authorities competent to speak about the vital character of human beings
  • strategies of intervention upon collective existence in the name of life and death
  • Models of subjectivisation through which individuals are brought to work on themselves, under authorities, in relation to truth discourses
  • Biopolitics: all the specific strategies and contestations over problematisation of collective human vitality, morbidity, and morality; over the forms of knowledge, regimes of authority and practices of intervention that are desirable, legitimate and efficacious
  • race
  • reproduction - abortion; intervention in cases of infertility; embryo selection l
  • genomic (study of DNA within a single cell of organism) medicine - identify processes and open up to intervention with therapeutic effects (per symptomatic diagnosis and preventive therapy)
  • Rhetorics of choice

Thursday, May 29, 2014

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

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

Monday June 2, 2014


Tuesday June 3, 2014

Bellochio, Bella Adormentata

Here are the names of major characters and sub-plot events from the movie, arranged in time order:

  • Rosa, drug addict, in church
  • Senator Uliano Beffardi, wife Emma (who was terminally ill, and is deceased prior to the timeline of the film, seen in flashbacks), daughter Maria (activist anti-euthanasia in the case of Eluana Englaro). Father and daughter have different views of euthanasia based on the loss of the mother/wife.
  • The psychiatrist and member of parliament, who prescribes medications to depressed parlimentarians
  • The Brothers: Roberto, and his mentally ill brother, Pepino, who he cares for
  • Roberto and Maria have a love affair, but the ill brother frustrates it and Roberto breaks the relationship with Maria
  • In a flashback we see Uliano kill his terminally ill wife.
  • Dr. Pallido takes an interest in Rosa after she cuts her wrists in the hospital. He stays with her during her recovery.
  • Catholic family, parents are actors, son, Federico aspires to be an actor, his sister, Rose, in in a vegetative state and on breathing machine. The mother, (identified as "Divina Madre") a famous actress, is preoccupied with her daughter's condition, ignoring her son and husband.
  • At the end of the movie:
  • Roberto stays committed to his brother while Maria discloses their love to hear father
  • Senator Befardi prepares speech which discloses his act of active euthanasia, shows it to Maria.
  • Dr. Pallido and Rose (the drug addict) commit to each other in a care (and possibly romantic) relationship
  • Federico's mom remains committed to the possibility that her daughter Rose will wake up.

Wednesday June 4, 2014

Haidt, Chapter 5, "Beyond WEIRD Morality"

  • Major thesis in Part II of this book: There's more to morality than harm and fairness.
  • WEIRD morality is the morality of Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic cultures
  • just as likely to be bothered by taboo violations, but more likely to set aside feelings of disgust and allow violations
  • only group with majority allowing chicken story violation.
  • "the weirder you are the more likely you are to see the world in terms of separate objects, rather than relationships" "sociocentric" moralities vs. individualistic moralities
  • framed-line task 97
  • Shweder's anthropology: ethics of autonomy, community, divinity 99-100
  • claims schweder's theory predicts responses on taboo violation tests
  • ethic of autonomy: illustrated in anecdote on plane.
  • ethic of divinity: body as temple vs. playground
  • vertical dimension to values. explains reactions to flag desecration, piss Christ, thought exp: desecration of liberal icons.


  • Connection between ethics and aesthetics -- Haidt began to see the sociocentric view (which includes community and divinity) as a aesthetic whole.

  • Discussion questions:
  • Are WEIRD moral cultures more rational and therefore "better" (embodying a most distinctively human morality, for example, following Singer & Koorsgaard?)
  • How WEIRD are you?

Thursday June 5, 2014

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

  • Explaining moral diversity. Argument against the reductive project of philosophical ethics, which he labels "moral monism"
  • "the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors"
  • Enlightenment thought, two sources of transcendence: God & Reason
  • Hume represents a third enlightenment option: Nature
  • But the legacy of the enlightenment in ethics was rationalism
  • Represented in the "moral autism": Bentham (utlitarianism), Kant (deontology)
  • Ethics as search for "algorithm" apart from empathy and prosocial emotions (Mill is better)
  • (not from text): overview of utilitarian and Kantian ethics
  • Principle of Utility: calculus of pleasure/pain
  • Kantian Deontology: categorical imperative. non-contradiction guiding moral principles
  • Evolutionary accounts
  • Avoiding bad evolutionary theory or evolutionary psychology: "just so stories"
  • Just because you find a structure or trait in human society or physiology, it doesn't mean it has a function. Just so stories make functional claims without foundation: e.g. how the leopard got it's spots, how a camels got its humps, elephants trunks, giraffes necks...
  • Modularity in evolutionary psychology: original vs. current triggers. Seems to account for cultural variability, yet grounded in original evolutionary problems.
  • CFLAS: See chart, p. 125

Monday June 9, 2014

Haidt, Chapter 7

  • Homo economicus vs. Homo sapiens -- column a b -- shows costs of sapiens psych. commitments "taste buds"
  • Note on Innateness
  • Notes on each foundation:
  • Care/Harm -- ev.story of asymmetry m/f, attachment theory. current triggers.
  • Fairness/Cheating -- Trivers and reciprocal altruism. "tit for tat" ; equality vs. proportionality
  • Loyalty/Betrayal -- tribalism. liberals experience low emphasis here.
  • Authority/Subversion -- hierarchy in animal and human society; liberals experience this differently also.
  • Sanctity/Degradation -- Miewes-Brandes horror. Mill. ev.story: omnivores challenge is to spot foul food and disease (pathogens, parasites). (Being an omnivore is messy. One should not be surprised to find that vegetarians often appreciate the cleanliness of their diet.) neophilia and neophobia. Images of chastity in religion and public debate. understanding culture wars.
  • Group Discussion: Critical Evaluation of Moral Foundations Theory as explanation of moral and political difference. Is it a problem that we don't experience our moral and political life this way?

Tuesday June 10, 2014

Haidt, Chapter 9, "Why Are We so Groupish?"

  • Part III: wants to complete the picture: sure we're selfish (or pursure enlightened self-interest), but we're also groupish, and it isn't just an individual trait.
  • Thesis: Morality binds and blinds.
  • track meanings of terms: selfish, enlightened self-interest
  • what sort of groupishness: soley for self-interest or independent (parallel) mechanisms?
  • Darwin quote: 192. Multi-level selection.
  • Why would "groupish groups" have an advantage over a group of individualists?
  • Revisit the connection between concern about appearing good and being good: reputation functions in both ways.
  • background: Williams, 1966, Adaptation and Natural Selection. favored lower level structures to explain selection. altrusism reduces to self-interest. Also Dawkins, 76, Selfish Gene. Williams quote on morality 198.
  • Evidence for a group selection (mult-level selection) view of morality.
  • Exhibit A: Major transitions in organism structure involving wholes.
  • From biology: cell structure with non-competition among parts. single celled eukaryotes
  • next transition: multi-cellular organisms
  • example of wasp cooperation: hymenoptera divide reproduction labor from maintainance of "hive".
  • "the genes that got to ride around in colony crushed the genes that "couldn't get it together" and rode around in selfish and solitary insects" (note: a groupish trait spreads among individuals)
  • Eusociality -- the human story (as opposed to ants, bees, and wasps)
  • Exhibit B: Shared Intentionality
  • Chimps vs. Us -- shared intentionality
  • two ways to hunt
  • thesis: we crossed the rubicon when we achieved shared intentionality and linked reward/punishing emotions with it. (also Tomasello's)
  • Exhibit C: Gene-culture co-evolution
  • Learning, accumulation
  • Homo habilis' big brains, then 2.4 million years of them.
  • Achueulean tool kit.
  • Hunting with spears - Hono heidelbergensis: 600-700K "the rubicon"
  • Lactose intolerance
  • "self-domestication"
  • Exhibit D: Speed of evolution
  • controversy over speed of selection: Gould vs. recent evidence of acceleration
  • breeding foxes (mention dogs social cognition)
  • group selected hens
  • [mention Pinker's hypothesis]
  • population bottlenecks.
  • concluding point about competition vs. war.

Wednesday June 11, 2014

Haidt, Ch 10, "The Hive Switch"

  • Humans are "conditional" hive creatures
  • Muscular bonding in military training
  • Hive switch in celebration and dance: cultures which repress dance.
  • Durkheim's "social facts" (not reducible to individuals) "collective effervescence"; sacred / profane
  • Awe in nature: Emerson's transparent eyeball experience.
  • Entheogens - in history of religion; contemporary versions; Rick Doblin's psilocybin study. Raves, with or without MDMA; choral singing
  • Oxytocin - note studies: effect on bonding, but not with outgroups. Dutch oxytocin study (digress on Paul Zak).
  • Mirror Neurons - (original studies in 80s at U of Parma) in humans hooked more into emotional systems (some skepticism about them now). Additional studies (236) suggest that mirror responses have a "valence" -- we empathize with the "nice" player in the public goods game.
  • Leadership studies - focus on leadership, but interesting phenomenon also followship. Conditions include satisfaction of moral foundations of Authority, Liberty, and Loyalty. "team building" exercises.
  • Evaluating the Hive Switch

Thursday June 12, 2014

Sandel, Utilitarianism

  • life boat case: They eat Parker(more canabalism!) - similar to Trolley Problem.
  • Is this a case of costs vs. benefit? How does it come out?
  • Contrast in Approaches to Justice: consequences vs. right and duties.
  • Bentham's defense of the principle of utility.
  • Workhouse for poor
  • Panopticon
  • (also the start of social welfare statistics)
  • Objection 1: Rights are primary. (develop argument on board)
  • Case of torture under extreme conditions. New condition: torturing terrorist's daughter. (Sandel intends this as a "knock down" objection to utilitarianism, but is it? Can moral foundations theory come the rescue?)
  • Objection 2: Is there a common currency for comparison of pleasures? (develop argument on board)
  • Case: Phillip Morris in Czech Republic.
  • Case: Ford Pinto '70s.
  • Issue: Does life span enter into value. Older cost less.
  • Empirical approach: Actual cost we pay in driving fatalities. 1.5 million per life in
  • Whose problem is it?
  • Small Group Assessment: How should we value human life in cases involving compensation or investment (e.g. in safer highways) given that we have a deep intuition that lives are not objects to be bought and sold?
  • Mill and the defense of Liberty
  • Progressivism: liberty promotes happiness over the long term. (Act vs. Rule)
  • Small Group assessment: Is liberty just another cultural ideology? What should our attitude be toward socio-centric societies that regard it as a threat to their culture?
  • Can a Utilitarian admit difference in kind between pleasures?
  • Doctrine of the qualified judge (and long run theory of human progress) vs. Bentham's "pushpin is as good as poetry".
  • Other approaches to human difference.
  • Sandel's claim that appeal to ideal of human dignity independent of wants and desires is an inconsistency. In the end, how committed must a utilitarian be to a purely subjective (note homo economicus here) standard for judging utility?

Singer, Ch. 1, "A Changing World"

  • Globalization: Terrorism, climate change, (added: human migration)
  • US interests: political consensus (dems/repubs) on Bush remark. Is Singer, as a utilitarian, inconsistent to object to this? Isn't it the expression of preferences?
  • Should political leaders adopt an internationalist stance (beyond interests of their nation-state)?
  • Second example: "clean" military engagements -- Kosovo, but updated example: drones.
  • competing models of leadership and theories of utility
  • Historical parable: reaction to 1914 assasination of Crown Prince Ferdinand (and wife) by Bosnian Serb nationalists, starting WW1. Objections to Autro-Hungarian ultimatum to Serbia. Compare to international reaction to US demands of Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden. principle p. 7, new today vs. WW1.
  • Rawls "old school" scope for theory of justice
  • Is the Nation-state on the decline?
  • Should we be internationalists? Why is multilaterism no longer a political topic in the US? Different conceptions of long term utility.

Monday June 16, 2014

Sandel, Chapter 6: Rawls

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

Tuesday June 17, 2014

Singer, "Rich and Poor"

  • facts about absolute poverty (updated for 2013: [2]
  • difference between grain consumption accounted for in terms of meat consumption. problem of distribution rather than production.
  • absolute affluence = affluent by any reasonable definition of human needs.
  • figures on giving by country: OPEC countries most generous. U.S. and Japan least.
  • The Moral equivalent of murder?
  • Five purported differences:
  • 1. Allowing to die not eq. to killing. no intention to kill.
  • 2. Impossible to ask us to be obligated to keep everyone alive.
  • 3. Uncertainty of outcome in not aiding vs. pointing a gun. less direct responsibility, less like 1st deg. murder.
  • 4. No direct and identifiable causal connection between consumerist action and death of individuals in other countries.
  • 5. People would be starving with or without me. I am not a necessary condition for there to be starving people.
  • Main argumentative point: These differences are extrinsic to the moral problem. there would be cases with these features in which we would still hold the person responsible.
  • 1. Example of salesman selling tainted food. doesn't matter if no identifiable victim in advance.
  • 2. Lack of certainty about the value of donations does reduce the wrongness of not giving (concession), but doesn't mean that its ok not to give. (Note: Since 1975 there has been a big increase in the accountability of relief efforts. Consider UN Millennium Development Goals)
  • 3. Responsibility for acts but not omissions is incoherent way to think about responsibility. Consequences of our actions are our responsibility. Irrelevant that the person would have died if I had never existed.
  • Considers non-consequentialist justifications for not aiding (166) idea of independent individual in Locke and Nozick doesn't make sense.
  • 4. Absence of malice also doesn't excuse inaction. involuntary manslaughter (in the case say of a speeding motorist) is still blameworthy.
  • 5. Grants that we may not be as blameworthy for not saving many lives if saving those live requires heroic action.
  • Positive Argument: The obligation to assist:
  • Principle: if it is in our power to prevent something vey bad happening, without thereby sacrificing anything of comparable moral significance, we ought to do it.
  • Goes on to claim that it is within the power of dev. countries to aid the poor without sacrificing . . . etc.
  • considers major objections:
  • taking care of your own
  • property rights [at most weakens the argument for mandatory giving (but note that governmental means might be the most effective, esp. where problems have a political dimension)
  • population growth and the ethics of triage

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

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

Wendnesday June 18, 2014

Abortion Topic Introduction

  • typical matrix of argument for this topic in the US and Italy
  • Haidt's moral foundations and abortion
  • Thought experiments: structure, goal, general objections

Judith Jarvis Thompson, "A Defense of Abortion," Part 1

  • (Opening Caveat: Many pro-choice philosophers see this article as a straightforward defense of the right to abort a fetus, but I think we'll find that Thompson's position is more complex than that.)
  • begins assuming fetus is a person, though she denies that a clump of cells is a person. Wants to see where the arguments goes with that assumption.
  • step from showing its a person to concluding that it can't be aborted needs more attention. Most of the attention falls on showing it's a person.
  • Assume: Fetus is a person.
  • Standard argument:
  • P1. Every person has a right to life.
  • P2. Fetus is a person.
  • C. Fetus has a rights to life.
  • 48: Violinist Thought Experiment.

  • Point: You don't have an obligation to remain connected to the violinist.
  • "the extreme view" is that abortion is impermissible even to save the life of the mother.
  • additional premises needed for the extreme view:
  • 1. Direct killing of an innocent person is always and absolutely impermissible
  • 2. Direct killing .... is murder, murder is always impermissible. (recall Trolley Problem)
  • 3. Duty to refrain from direct killing is always stronger than duty to keep a person from dying.
  • But all of these additional premises are false.
  • If the mother performs abortion on herself to save her life, that can't be murder. 51-52.
  • Part of the problem in the abortion discussion is that we always decide what's permissible for a 3rd party to do, because we always assume the abortion is performed by a 3rd party.
  • Tiny House thought experiment
  • Point: A 3rd party might say to you "There's no way to choose between you and the child", but that doesn't mean that you can't choose between you and the child.
  • Still, there are limits to self-defense. If someone threatens to kill you if you don't torture someone to death, you don't therefore have a right to torture someone to death.
  • Variation on the Tiny House thought experiment - include notion of maternal ownership of the "house". Then the 3rd party could help. Two people need a coat to keep from freezing, but one person owns it.

Thursday June 19, 2014

Judith Jarvis Thompson, "A Defense of Abortion" Part 2

  • 55: meaning of "right to life"
  • any right to life that the violinist has doesn't entail a right to your kidneys. If "the touch of Henry Fonda's cool hand on my brow" were the only thing that could save my life, it wouldn't follow that I have a right to it. (but later notice she agrees that it might be "morally indecent" not to allow the violinist one hour.)
  • often understood as "right not to be killed by anybody", but the purely negative formulation would leave you unable to act against the violinist and would essentially confer a positive right on him to your kidneys.
  • 56: the right to life doesn't guarantee having a right to the use of someone's body. So right to life will not serve opponents of abortion as they think.
  • Section 4
  • Another way to bring it out. To deny someone's rights is to treat them unjustly, but it's not unjust to deny the violinist use of your kidneys. Two people are jointly given a box of chocolates. If one takes all, it is unjust (note: a religious person could argue that life is a jointly give gift.)
  • The right to life must be understood in terms of "unjust killing". So the violinst could have the right to life, but you do not kill him unjustly by unplugging him.
  • 57b [addresses the problem of voluntariness.]
  • by having intercourse, isn't the woman "inviting" the person in? partly responsible?
  • example of the burglar. You aren't partly responsible for the burglar coming in just because you open the window.
  • 58: People seed thought experiment.
  • Point: As with the burglar, the people seed that slips through the screen doesn't acquire a right to your house.
  • Section 5.
  • From the other side....
  • It would be "morally indecent" to deny the violinist use of your kidneys for one hour.
  • [interesting. an anti-abortionist could argue that the same applies to "nine months". Also, this connects our discussion to the right to receive aid (as in Singer's example of helping the boy on the fountain. Could Singer's principle by applied here? At what point would you not give up something of equal moral significance by carrying a child to term?]
  • but this doesn't warrant claims of injustice or denial of rights if you don't.
  • Section 6.
  • The Good Samaritan vs. the Minimally Decent Samaritan: note again Singer's principle, which is a kind of minimal to good Samaritan.
  • from the pro-choice critic. Thomson's argument does not allow you to guarantee the death of the fetus. If unplugging him doesn't kill him, you have no interest in seeing him dead (imagine a scenario in which viability can be assured outside the uterus from conception on.)
  • It think what Thompon is attempting to do in this article is to give a more moderate defense of abortion. Instead of attacking the notion that life begins at conception (which is irrefutable) or opting for the position pro-lifers have called "abortion on demand;" she is analyzing the moral status of the fetus and saying there are at least some instances in the developmental processes before birth where abortion can be morally justified, or perhaps, better put, not immoral.
  • It follows from Thompson's argument that the mother doesn't have a right to kill the fetus but only to terminate the pregnancy. Imagine that we could bring a fetus to term after only 1 week of pregnancy. Could we legally obligate a woman to wait on week and let the state take the fetus/child? Can't we legally require a woman in this case to be a minimally decent Samaritan? (Thompson makes this point in section 8.)

Monday June 23, 2014

Food, Inc

  • Mc Donald start to industrialization of food production
  • Chickens raised twice as fast to become twice as big and of uniform size; ideal of producing loads of food with small space at an affordable price
  • E Coli poisoning stems from cows that eat corn rather than grass; industry presents chemical solutions, cleaning meat with ammonia rather than changing feeding methods
  • Apparent diversity of food products and re-engineering of food products to trigger human weaknesses for sugar, salt, and fat.
  • The battle of Kevin's mother demonstrates the customer's disadvantaged position against an industry protected by close ties to the government
  • immigrants workers in the packing industry are treated like the animals, perfuming monotonous work in dangerous environment
  • Starting in the 1950s, to work in the meat packing industry became comparable to being auto worker, good pensions, labour unions; then conditions deteriorated
  • many employees were corn farmers in Mexico without the ability to compete with American prices
  • illegal workers are jail rather than Smithfield who hired them
  • Stonyfield business starts from premise that food production is source to pollution global warming; company acquired by Gourp Danone but Gary still runs Stonyfield
  • Montsanto is like Microsoft, patent on GMO soybeans, they own it; If Montsanto finds contamination the farmer must prove he did not plant it; close ties to Bush and Clinton administrations
  • Seed cleaner is sued
  • Centralization of industry works against workers and consumers (and animals)
  • The case of Oprah: industry fought agains labeling (calories, genetically modified and country of origins) and for laws criminalizing criticism and publication of images disclosing conditions in the establishments; Colorado law protects Colorado meat from criticism
  • World is running out of food, american corn can be so cheaply sold everywhere that African farmers cannot compete
  • Every Salmonella outbreak teaches people a bit more about their food; consumer vote at the supermarket
  • Battle against tobacco offers a model for the one against the meet industry

Discussion Questions

  • What are some ethical implications of the views expressed in Food Inc. that
  • "we want to pay as little as possible for meet, but that has its prize"
  • "customers vote at the supermarket"
  • In what ways did the film make you reflect on your own food choices - where there any of the recommendations listed at the end that you feel you follow already or that you intend to follow?

Tuesday June 24, 2014


Wednesday June 25, 2014

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

  • evidence of polarization in American politics, both popular and Congressional (cf. to Italy)
  • debt ceiling fights, government shut down politics, Tea Party politics.
  • "right" and "left", historical origins, basis in heritable traits (twins studies - 1/3 to 1/2 of politics); socio-economics no longer predicts positions
  • 1: Genes make brains - diff responses to threat and fear. "inate" (278)
  • 2: Dispositional traits lead to different experiences, which lead to "characteristic adaptations"
  • 3: Life narratives; Moral Foundations Theory found in stories people tell about religious experience. Keith Richards' narrative example.
  • Political narratives of Republicans and Democrats. (284 & 285)
  • Liberals worse at predicting conservatives responses. (study result)
  • Moral and Social Capital -- moral capital: resources that sustain a moral community.
  • Moral capital in convservative narratives: people are flawed, need history to ground us.
  • Social capital - social ties and norms of reciprocity and trust. (example of diamond market in Netherlands. Also, the Hausa!)
  • moral capital not always straightforward good (293).
  • Liberal blindspots and wisdom: 1) failure to und. importance of moral/social capital; but 1) need regulating super-organisms (corporations, for example, factory farming - pushes externalities of animal suffering and pollution off the books); 2)solving soluble problems (getting the lead out of gas).
  • Libertarian wisdom: 1) markets are powerful -- when competition genuinely exists.... the problem with insurance.
  • Social Conservative wisdom: understanding threats to social capital 1) Can't help the bees if you destroy the hive.
  • [Conclusions for a "population theory" of politics
  • Politics is experienced as a team sport in which we imagine "moving the center" or "winning the argument"
  • Political temperaments have both innate and experiential components --> nature will keep producing liberals and conservatives relative to any particular "center" or state of consensus in human society about how to live
  • Functional vs. Disfunctional politics depends upon how we "socialize difference"]

Thursday June 26, 2014