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12: OCT 7


  • Hibbing, Chapter 4: Drunken Flies and Salad Greens (96-117) (21)
  • Sandel, C6 "The Case for Equality" Justice (141-151) (10)

In-class content

  • The Paradox of Moral Experience
  • Philosophical Moral Theories: Justice

Paradox of Moral Experience

  • The Paradox of Moral Experience involves a conflict between two "standpoints" for seeing values. 1 and 2 below:
  • 1. We experience our morality as beliefs we hold true. They are compelling to us in a way that leads us to expect others to find them compelling. We can be surprised or frustrated that others do not see our reasons as compelling. From this standpoint, our moral truths feel necessary rather than contingent.
  • Examples: "What's wrong with those (lib/con)s, don't they see X/Y?" "How can anyone think it's ok to act like that?")
  • 2. But, when we study morality as a functional system that integrates people who see and interpret the world differently, it is less surprising that we often do not find each others' reasoning or choices compelling. We can also see how groups of people might develop "values cultures" that diverge on entire sets of values (or, "cooperative toolkits") while still solving some of the same underlying problems that all human societies face. From this standpoint, the functions of morality are universal, but the specific strategies that individuals and cultures take seem very contingent. But, knowing this, why don’t we experience our own values as contingent?
  • Examples: Sociocentric / Individualist cultures, Specific histories that groups experience (Us vs. Europe vs. ...)
  • Roughly, 1 is normal experience, when you are "in your head". 2 reflects an attempt, through knowledge, to get a "third person" experience, to "get out of your head".
  • Likely evolutionary basis: Belief commitment (believing that our beliefs are true) is advantageous, but we also need to be open to belief revision through social encounters.
  • Some implications:
  • We have a bias against seeing others' moral beliefs as functional. Rather, we see them as caused, and often wrongheaded. (Italians are more sociocentric because their culture makes them that way. Rather than, sociocentric culture function to solve basic problems, just like individualistic ones.)
  • Different moral "matrices" are connected to our personality and identity. Areguing for the truth of your moral orientation (as opposed to focusing on issues) can be like telling someone they shouldn't be the people they are. (!)

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.
  • 2nd case: Lobsters arrive and you decline delivery. Can you get out of the contract because you didn't benefit? Obligation based on "reliance", I made the effort to get the lobsters relying on your word. Unjust to pull out.
  • 3rd case: You order lobsters and then cancel the order 5 minutes later. Can the lobster person say "deal is a deal"? Debatable:
  • Two main concepts underlying contracts:
  • autonomy -- respecting the rationality of the parties to the contract, including reasonable expectations and reliance.
  • reciprocity of benefits and obligations
  • Seeing Autonomy and Reciprocity in examples of fair/unfair contracts
  • Baseball card trade among diff aged siblings (undermines autonomy - taking adv of know/maturity diff)
  • Leaky toilet case contractor fraud in the leaky toilet case (undermines autonomy - old people lose touch. Can't take advantage.) Can you hear Kant cheering in the background?
  • Hume's home repairs case -- no consent but still obligation. (Imagine a local example at a group house.)
  • Sam's Mobile Repair Van -- read 148 -- did the question, "What are the odds you can fix it?" create "reliance" and obligation. Was the clock running? What if he fixed the car? Would benefit alone confer obligation. Take away: make things very clear, especially if you have limited funds!
  • 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?
  • 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.

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"
  • 70's and 80s research on RWA - right wing authoritarianism. measure of submission to authority, willingness to restrict freedoms, harsh punishment, heightened hostility to out-groups. Sound familiar? Proud Boys, Oathkeepers
  • But, note: Hibbing et al assessment: 102: criticisms persist in effort to find an "authoritarian personality". But claim, "there is a deep psychology underlying politics"
  • 103: Personality Theory research: Big Five model:
  • openness to experience, ** p. 104
  • conscientiousness, ** p. 105
  • extroversion,
  • agreeableness,
  • neuroticism.
  • Two of these (**) are relevant to political orientation. Conscientiousness connected to research on "cognitive closure"
  • "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.