OCT 14

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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.
  • 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).
  • Where we are in our investigation. "Rock Bottom" theories for each "frame" we have been studying:
  • Individual Frame - Haidt's Moral Foundations Theory. C F L A S
  • Group/Political Frame - Hibbing et al. "Bedrock Social Dilemmas"
  • Cultural Frame - Henrich (in Sapolsky) on cultural evolution - Mental adaptations that culture makes and sustains.
  • 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? How do I bring fairness concepts and an understanding of a contract (rider) into line with my intuitions about this case (elephant). What does my culture tell me about fairness in contracts?

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

  • Analogy of moral sense to taste sense. "the righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors"
  • Unpacking the metaphor:
  • Places where our sensitivities to underlying value perception have depth from evolution, but have flexibility or plasticity from the "big brain", which allows for shaping within culture and retriggering.
  • Morality is rich, not reducible to one taste. A way of perceiving the world. against moral monism
  • Like cuisines, there is variation, but within a range.
  • Mentions Enlightenment approaches, again: argument against the reductive project of philosophical ethics 113-114. ethics more like taste than science.
  • Hume's three way battle: Enlightenment thinkers united in rejecting revelation as basis of morality, but divided between an transcendent view of reason as the basis (Kant) or the view that morality is part of our nature (Hume, Darwin, etc.). Hume's empiricism. also for him, morality is like taste
  • Autism argument: Bentham (utlitarianism), Kant (deontology). Think about the person who can push the fat guy.
  • Bentham told us to use arithmetic, Kant logic, to resolve moral problems. Note Bentham image and eccentric ideas. Baron-Cohen article on Bentham as having Asperger's Syndrome (part of the autism range). Kant also a solitary. Just saying. clarify point of analysis. not ad hominem. part of Enlightenment philosophy's rationalism -- a retreat from observation.
  • The x/y axis on page 117 shows a kind of "personality space" that could be used to locate Enlightenment rationalists. (Note that Haidt is looking at the psychology of the philosopher for clues about the type of theory they might have!)
  • 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, from shared folder: C F L A S: Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, Sanctity/Degradation
  • Work through chart. Note how the "adaptive challenges" are some of the things we have been reading research on.
  • Original vs. current triggers, 123 Reason/Intuition
  • Small group discussion: 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, or Sanctity/Degradation.
  • You and your friends all occasionally enjoy risqué humor, but you are uncomfortable listening to people talk about intimate things like sex casually. Maybe you have a different sanctity trigger.
  • You hear someone talk uncharitably about someone who sees them as a good friend. You are triggered for disloyalty.
  • 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)
  • fairness,
  • respect for autonomy,
  • consent (agreement).
  • reliance
  • 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.
  • Advice about collaboration: I encourage you to collaborate with other students, but only up to the point of sharing ideas, references to class notes, and your own notes. Collaboration is part of the academic process and the intellectual world that college courses are based on, so it is important to me that you have the possibility to collaborate. It's a great way to make sure that a high average level of learning and development occurs. The best way to avoid plagiarism is to NOT share text of draft answers or outlines of your answer. Keep it verbal. Generate your own examples.
  • Prepare your answer and submit it in the following way:
  1. Do not put your name or any pseudonyms in the file or filename. You may put your student id number in the file.
  2. Put a word count in the file.
  3. In Word, check "File" and "Options" to make sure your name does not appear as author. You may want to change this to "anon" for this document.
  4. Format your answer in double spaced text in a 12 point font, using normal margins.
  5. Save the file in the ".docx" file format using the file name "FairContract". Do not add anything to the filename.
  6. Log in to courses.alfino.org. Upload your file to the 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.
  • To determine the papers you need to peer review, I will send you a key. Find your Saint and then review the next four (4) animals' work, looping to the top of the list if necessary.
  • Some papers may arrive late. If you are in line to review a missing paper, allow until 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.
  • You will have an opportunity to challenge a back evaluation score of your reviewing that is out of line with the others.
  • Stage 3: I will grade and briefly comment on your writing using the peer scores as an initial ranking. Assuming the process works normally, I will give you the higher of the two grades. Up to 28 points.
  • Stage 4: Back-evaluation: After you receive your peer comments and my evaluation, take a few minutes to fill out this quick "back evaluation" rating form: [1]. Fill out the form for each reviewer, but not Alfino. Up to 10 points.
  • Back evaluations are due Thursday, October 28, 11:59pm.