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14: MAR 6


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

Reflections on the Naturalists' Picture of Morality and Politics

  • If we really experience and process different worlds based on enduring and biologically instantiated traits, then:
  • 1. We have different differences than I thought. Earlier picture: in principle there is no rational disagreement.
  • 2. Moral and politic truths not like other epistemic contexts (ordinary factual contexts, scientific, etc.)
  • greater uncertainty. know retrospectively. no experimental conditions (can't do over).
  • Sapolsky adds research reports on behaviors and psychology that seem to adapted to our social/cultural lives (as Haidt and Hibbing)
  • Comforting: Makes sense of my experience. Why reciprocity, trust, and good reputations matter.
  • Discomforting: Same processes that enable us to do cool and great things (pick your example - Oppy, cure aids, etc) also enable groupishness that supports wars and conspiracies.

Sapolsky, Behave, C 13, 479-517

  • (these are the notes from the first half of the chapter, which we have already discussed. See below for today's notes.)
  • Context, Culture, and Moral Universals
  • given all of the ways our moral judgements can be altered by context and culture, are there universals? Some forms of murder, theft, and sexual misbehavior. The Golden Rule is nearly universal.
  • Schweder. autonomy,community, divinity
  • Public goods game research
  • Simple version, pay to punish deadbeats version.
  • Robust results: 1) Everyone is prosocial. In no culture do people just not contribute. 2) In all cutlures, people punish low contributors. (Prosocial or altruistic Punishment)
  • Interesting recent result: Anti-social punishment is also universal, though it's strength varies. Interestingly, the lower the social capital in a country, the higher the rates of antisocial punishment.
  • research by Joseph Henrich, U BC, subjects from wide range of cultures play three simluation games: The Dictator and two versions of the Ultimatum Game. Variables that predict prosocial patterns of play: market integration, community size, religion.
  • World Religions and Moralizing Gods
  • What is the connection between participation in world religion and prosocial play? 499: When groups get large enough to interact with strangers, they invent moralizing gods. The large global religions all have moralizing gods who engage in third party punishment.
  • Bottom of 499: Two hypotheses: 1) Our sense of fairness is an extension of a deep past in which sociality was based on kin and near kin. (don't forget monkey fairness) or, 2) Fairness is a cultural artifact (product of culture) that comes from reasoning about the implications of larger groups size.
  • Note theoretical puzzle on p. 500
  • (today's notes start here)
  • the chapter's survey and quest for cultural moral universals continues.....
  • Honor and Revenge - (mention Mediterranean hyposthesis - Italian honor culture & research on southerners....)
  • Collectivists -- diffs from Individualists
  • more likely to sacrifice welfare of one for group. use as means to end. focus of moral imperatives on social roles and duties vs. rights.
  • uses shames vs. guilt. read 502. shame cultures viewed as primitive, but contemporary advocates of shaming. thoughts?....examples p. 503.
  • gossip as tool of shaming -- as much as 2/3 of conversation and mostly negative.
  • Fools Rush In -- Reason and Intuition
  • How do we use insights from research to improve behavior?
  • Which moral theory is best? (trick question).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Dog meat. -- used as example of how you could induce us vs. them response. Samuel Bowles example of switching people's mind set in the case of the school responding to late parents.
  • Veracity and Mendacity interesting book [1]
  • note range of questions 512. Truth telling not a simple policy matter.
  • primate duplicity -- capuchin monkeys will distract a higher ranking member to take food, but not a lower one.
  • male gelada baboons know when to hold off on the "copulation call"
  • differences with humans: we feel bad or morally soiled about lying and we can believe our own lies.
  • human resources for lying -- poker face, finesse, dlPFC comes in with both struggle to resist lying and execution of strategic lie.
  • 517: Swiss research (Baumgartner et al) -- playing a trust game allowing for deception, a pattern of brain activation predicted promise breaking.
  • also cheating on a coin toss study -- again, lots of cheating
  • Subjects who don't cheat. will vs. grace. grace wins. "I don't know; I just don't cheat."