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Experimental Philosophy

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Title: Experimental Philosophy


1
Experimental Philosophy The Persistence of
Moral Disagreement
  • Stephen Stich
  • Dept. of Philosophy
  • Center for Cognitive Science
  • Rutgers University
  • sstich_at_ruccs.rutgers.edu

2
Brief Intro
3
Brief Intro
4
Brief Intro
5
PART 1
  • A Very Brief Introduction to Experimental
    Philosophy

6
Brief Intro
  • On MY view experimental philosophy does not have
    any distinctive aims or methods

7
Brief Intro
  • Rather, experimental philosophy is simply a more
    systematic way of doing something that has been
    done by philosophers from Aristotle, Descartes
    and Berkeley

8
Brief Intro
  • Rather, experimental philosophy is simply a more
    systematic way of doing something that has been
    done by philosophers from Aristotle, Descartes
    and Berkeley to Fodor and Chalmers

9
Brief Intro
  • Throughout the history of philosophy,
    philosophers have made empirical claims about
  • perception
  • the mind
  • language
  • society
  • what ordinary people think
  • and lots of other things

10
Brief Intro
  • To support those claims, philosophers have relied
    on
  • common sense
  • informal observation
  • experimental studies done by scientists in
    various disciplines

11
Brief Intro
  • To support those claims, philosophers have relied
    on
  • common sense
  • informal observation
  • experimental studies done by scientists in
    various disciplines

But scientists tend to investigate questions
whose answers are important in their own
disciplines, and often these are not the
questions to which philosophers need answers
12
Brief Intro
  • So, over the last decade, a growing number of
    philosophers have decided to design and conduct
    their own experiments, or to collaborate with
    colleagues in other disciplines, with the goal of
    answering the questions that are particularly
    relevant to philosophical debates

13
Brief Intro
Nichols
Machery
Griffiths
Greene
Knobe
14
Brief Intro
  • On my view, Experimental Philosophy is just
  • experimental work
  • aimed at answering empirical questions
  • that are relevant to philosophical debates

15
PART 2
  • The Persistence of Moral Disagreement
  • ----
  • An Example of How Experimental Philosophy the
    More Traditional Strategy of Assembling Relevant
    Scientific Findings Can Be Combined to Address
    Important Philosophical Issues

16
Philosophical Background
  • Fundamental Moral Disagreement
  • No one doubts that moral views differ both within
    cultural groups

17
Philosophical Background
  • Fundamental Moral Disagreement
  • No one doubts that moral views differ both within
    cultural groups and across cultural groups

18
Philosophical Background
  • Fundamental Moral Disagreement
  • But whether that diversity of views would persist
    under idealized circumstance is a hotly debated
    question
  • How to characterize the relevant sort of
    idealized circumstances is a difficult and
    contentious question

19
Philosophical Background
  • It is widely agreed that in to be ideally
    situated people must be
  • rational
  • impartial
  • agree on all relevant non-moral issues
  • There is much debate on how these notions are to
    be understood
  • But Ill assume we all have a rough understanding
    which is good enough for present purposes

20
Philosophical Background
  • If a moral disagreement would persist under
    idealized circumstances, Ill say that the
    disagreement is
  • Fundamental
  • If it would not persist under idealized
    circumstances, Ill say that the disagreement is
  • Superficial

21
Philosophical Background
  • There are many reasons why its philosoph-ically
    important to know whether moral disagreement is
    fundamental or superficial
  • Ill focus on two
  • Ideal Observer Qualified Attitude Theories
  • Moral Realism

22
Philosophical Background
  • Ideal Observer Qualified Attitude Theories
  • (arguably) defended by Adam Smith, Hume
    Hutcheson
  • and by Firth, Brandt, Lewis, Harman other
    leading moral theorists in the 20th century

23
Philosophical Background
  • Semantic Version
  • x is morally right (wrong) means anyone who is
    ideally situated ( rational, impartial, fully
    informed, etc.) would have a (un)favorable
    attitude toward x
  • If ideally situated people disagree about x, then
    x is neither right nor wrong
  • Semantic version fundamental disagreement ?
  • Moral Skepticism

24
Philosophical Background
  • Justification Version
  • a moral claim is justified iff the person
    making the claim would have the appropriate
    attitude toward the matter at hand, after going
    thru an appropriate idealizing process ( a
    process that corrects relevant false beliefs
    removes partiality, irrationality, etc).

25
Philosophical Background
  • If two ideally situated people have different
    attitudes about x, then
  • x is wrong
  • is justified for one while
  • x is not wrong
  • is justified for the other
  • This version of the Ideal Observer Theory
    fundamental disagreement ?
  • Moral Relativism

26
Philosophical Background
  • Moral Realism
  • defended by Boyd, Brink, Railton, Michael Smith,
    Sturgeon many others
  • there are lots of important differences between
    these theorists
  • but for most of them, the persistence of moral
    disagreement that does not depend on non-moral
    disagreement (or other distorting factors, like
    self-interest or irrationality) would pose a
    significant problem

27
Philosophical Background
  • Richard Boyd
  • "careful philosophical exam- ination will reveal
    that agreement on nonmoral issues would
    eliminate almost all disagreement about the sorts
    of issues which arise in ordinary moral
    practice. "(1988)

28
Philosophical Background
  • David Brink

It is incumbent on the moral realist . . . To
claim that most moral disputes are resolvable at
least in principle. (1984)
29
Philosophical Background
The notion of objectivity signifies the
possibility of a convergence in moral views
(1994 6)
  • Michael Smith

30
Philosophical Background
  • Many Moral Realists and many Moral Anti-Realists
    would agree that
  • Fundamental moral disagreement (i.e.
    persisting diversity under idealized conditions)
    entails, or at least strongly suggests, that
  • Moral Realism is False


Non-Convergentists disagree
31
Philosophical Background
  • For these reasons (and others) it is clearly
  • philosophically important
  • to determine whether (and to what extent)
    moral disagreement is
  • fundamental

32
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
33
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Arguably the first experimental philosopher of
    the modern period was

Richard Brandt 1910 - 1997
34
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • There is a large anthropological literature
    (going back to Westermark 1906) documenting
    radically divergent moral outlooks in different
    cultures.
  • But traditional ethnography gives little guidance
    about what peoples moral attitudes would be
    under idealized circumstances.
  • In the 1950s, Brandts began a study of the Hopis
    aimed at providing the sort of ethno-graphy that
    would be useful to philosophers

35
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Brandt found a number of examples of moral
    differences between Hopis white Americans that
    he could not trace to non-moral disagreement
  • Hopi have no moral qualms about allowing children
    to play with small animals in a way which
    causes them great pain, breaks their bones and
    ultimately kills them
  • Brandt looked for evidence that the disagreement
    between the Hopis moral view and the view of
    contemporary white Americans was superficial
  • But he found none

36
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Hopi do not believe that these animals lack the
    capacity to feel pain
  • nor do they believe (e.g.) that animals are
    rewarded for martyrdom in the afterlife
  • nor could Brandt find any other nonmoral belief
    or failure of imagination that could account for
    the disagreement

37
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Brandt concluded that these moral disagreements
    are fundamental
  • they reflect a basic difference of attitude
    which would not disappear under idealized
    conditions like those that his own qualified
    attitude theory specified

38
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • He went on to argue that the Qualified Attitude
    Theory (his own justification-based version of
    the Ideal Observer Theory) led to relativism
  • and that some semantic versions of the Ideal
    Observer Theory led to skepticism

39
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Richard Nisbetts studies of attitudes toward
    honor violence in Cultures of Honor is a
    rich source of evidence suggesting that some very
    important examples of moral disagreement are
    fundamental

40
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Richard Nisbetts studies of attitudes toward
    honor violence in Cultures of Honor is a
    rich source of evidence suggesting that some very
    important examples of moral disagreement are
    fundamental

41
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • A key aspect of the culture of honor is the
    importance placed on the insult and the necessity
    to respond to it. An insult implies that the
    target is weak enough to be bullied. Since a
    reputation for strength is of the essence in the
    culture of honor, the individual who insults
    someone must be forced to retract if the
    instigator refuses, he must be punished with
    violence or even death. (Nisbett and Cohen
    1996 5)

42
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Cultures of honor tend to arise in situations
    where resources are liable to theft and where the
    states coercive apparatus cannot be relied on to
    prevent or punish theft
  • These conditions often occur in relatively remote
    areas where herding is the main viable form of
    agriculture the "portability" of herd animals
    makes them prone to theft
  • They also occur in many urban, inner city areas
    where police protection for minorities is
    unreliable

43
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Cultures of honor exhibit considerable cultural
    inertia, persisting for many generations after
    the conditions that gave rise to them disappeared
  • Parts of the American South were originally
    settled by Scotch-Irish herders with a long
    culture of honor tradition
  • Nisbett Cohen argue that a culture of honor
    persists among white southerners in the USA
  • They support this claim with data of various
    sorts, including

44
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Demographic data indicating that
  • among southern whites homicides are more common
    in regions where herding once was common
  • white males in the South are much more likely
    than white males in other regions to be involved
    in homicides resulting from arguments
  • they are not more likely to be involved in
    homicides that occur in the course of a robbery
    or other felony

45
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Survey data indicating that white southerners are
    more likely to believe
  • that violence is extremely justified in
    response to a variety of affronts
  • that if a man fails to respond violently, he is
    not much of a man

46
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Legal scholarship indicating that southern states
    give citizens more freedom to use violence in
    defending themselves, their homes, and their
    property"

47
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Particularly compelling were a field study of
    moral responses to culture of honor violence and
    a series of laboratory experiments
  • In the field study letters were sent to hundreds
    of employers in the North South.
  • The letters purported to be from a 27 year old
    Michigan man who had one blemish on his otherwise
    solid record.

48
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • One letter explained
  • I have been convicted of manslaughter I got
    into a fight with someone who was having an
    affair with my fiancée. He confronted me in
    front of my friends at a bar, told everyone that
    he and my fiancée were sleeping together,
    laughed at me to my face, and asked me to step
    outside if I was man enough.
  • The other letter explained that the applicant
    had stolen a couple of expensive cars at a time
    when he needed money to support his family.

49
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Southern employers were more likely to be
    sympathetic in response to the manslaughter
    incident than the car theft.
  • There was no such difference in responses from
    northern employers.

50
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • One southern employer wrote back
  • As for your problems of the past, anyone could
    probably be in the situation you were in. It was
    just an unfortunate incident that should not be
    held against you. Your honesty shows that you
    are sincere. I wish you the best of luck for
    your future. You have a positive attitude and a
    willingness to work. These are qualities that
    businesses look for in employees.
  • No northern employers were comparably
    sympathetic.

51
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • The laboratory experiments were conducted on
    white, male (mostly upper middle class)
    University of Michigan undergraduates from the
    North the South
  • Subjects were told saliva samples would be
    collected to measure blood sugar as they
    performed various tasks
  • After a sample was collected, Ss walked down a
    narrow corridor where they were bumped by a
    confederate who called the S an asshole
  • A 2nd saliva sample was collected both samples
    tested for cortisol (associated with stress)
    testosterone (associated with dominance behavior
    aggression)

52
85 80 75 70 65 60 55 50 45 40 35 30 0
15 10 5 0
Change in Testosterone Level
Change in Cortisol Level
Control
Insult
Control
Insult
Culture of Honor Subjects
Non-Culture of Honor Subjects
53
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • These findings suggest that moral attitudes about
    the appropriateness of violence in response to
    insults will not converge even under idealized
    circumstances, and thus that these disagreements
    are fundamental
  • To see why, consider the standard examples of
    defusing explanations used by Moral Realists to
    argue that disagreement is not fundamental

54
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • The disagreement is caused or sustained by
    disagreement about relevant non-moral facts
  • It is hard to see what these non-moral facts
    might be
  • We know (for example) that there are no
    systematic religious differences between the
    Northern Southern students in Nisbetts
    experiment
  • Nor is there any reason to think that Northerners
    did not believe that calling someone an asshole
    is an insult

55
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Of course, it is always possible that there is an
    unsuspected systematic difference in belief
  • But it seems clear that the burden of argument
    falls squarely on those who deny that the moral
    disagreements between culture of honor subjects
    and non-culture of honor subjects are fundamental

56
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • The disagreement is caused by one group or the
    other failing to be impartial
  • There is no reason to think that southerners
    economic interests are served by being quick on
    the draw, while northerners economic interests
    are served by turning the other cheek. (Doris
    Plakias, p. 30)

57
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • The disagreement is caused by one group or the
    other being significantly more irrational
  • On thin interpretations of rationality, this is
    singularly implausible
  • It is perhaps more plausible on thick
    interpretations of rationality because

58
Southerners voted for Bush!
59
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • So they are OBVIOUSLY IRRATIONAL
  • But, of course, thick interpretations of
    rationality are typically normatively loaded, and
    thus question begging

60
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • The Geography of Morals Project (Doris, Peng,
    Uskul, Nichols Stich)
  • Inspired by Nisbetts findings
  • EAs are more collectivist Ws are more
    individualist
  • The EA conception of the person emphasizes social
    roles (mother, teacher) and de-emphasizes
    context independent attributes(honest,
    gregarious)
  • This suggests EAs would take a harsher view of
    transgressions destructive of group ties a more
    lenient view of transgressions that benefit the
    group

61
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Note that if these psychological differences have
    a significant impact on moral judgment, it is
    plausible that the resulting disagreement is
    fundamental

62
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Experiment I
  • Subjects were Asian nonAsian undergrads at
    U.C. Berkeley
  • All experimental material was in English
  • Experiment 2
  • Subjects were Chinese students in Beijing
    non-Asian undergrads at U.C. Santa Cruz
  • Experimental material was translated into Chinese
    for Chinese subjects

63
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Case I The Magistrate the Mob
  • An unidentified member of an ethnic group
    is known to be responsible for a murder that
    occurred in a town. This causes many of the
    townspeople to become extremely hostile towards
    the ethnic group. Because the town has a history
    of severe ethnic conflict and rioting, the town's
    Police Chief and Judge know that if they do not
    immediately identify and punish a culprit, the
    townspeople will start anti-ethnic rioting that
    will cause great damage to property owned by
    members of the ethnic group, and a considerable
    number of serious injuries and deaths in the
    ethnic population. But nobody in the community
    knows who the murderer is, or where to find him. ?

64
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • The Police Chief and Judge are faced with
    a dilemma. They can falsely accuse, convict, and
    imprison Mr. Smith, an innocent member of the
    ethnic group, in order to prevent the riots. Or
    they can continue hunting for the guilty man,
    thereby allowing the anti-ethnic riots to occur,
    and do the best they can to combat the riots
    until the guilty man is apprehended. After
    discussing and debating their options at length,
    the Police Chief and Judge decide to falsely
    accuse, convict, and imprison Mr. Smith, the
    innocent member of the ethnic group, in order to
    prevent the riots. They do so, thereby
    preventing the riots and preventing a
    considerable number of ethnic group deaths and
    serious injuries.

65
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • The (Western!) philosophical consensus on cases
    like this is clear.
  • Judges ought not to find the innocent guilty in
    order to prevent riots in the street, period.
    (Bloomfield 2001)
  • Someone who really thinks, in advance, that it
    is open to question whether such an action as
    procuring the judicial execution of the innocent
    is permissible should be quite excluded from
    consideration-- I do not want to argue with him

66
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • The (Western!) philosophical consensus on cases
    like this is clear.
  • Judges ought not to find the innocent guilty in
    order to prevent riots in the street, period.
    (Bloomfield 2001)
  • Someone who really thinks, in advance, that it
    is open to question whether such an action as
    procuring the judicial execution of the innocent
    is permissible should be quite excluded from
    consideration-- I do not want to argue with him
    he shows a corrupt mind. (Anscombe 1958)
  • Compare (even!) Smart (1973)

67
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Western students in a pilot study made similar
    comments
  • Falsely implicating a person is never justified.
    The individuals right to liberty outweighs the
    prevention of property damage, riots, and even
    the prevention of injury or death that would
    likely result from the riot.

68
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • However, in both Experiment I (with
    Asian-Americans) Experiment II (with Chinese
    students) the Asians were less inclined to make
    these judgments

69
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Here are some of the moral questions subjects
    were asked
  • 4. The Police Chief and Judge did the morally
    right thing
  • 5. The Police Chief and Judge did the morally
    wrong thing
  • 6. The Police Chief and Judge should be punished
    for what they did
  • 8. The Police Chief and Judge should feel guilty
    for what they did
  • 12. The Police Chief and Judge are responsible
    for Mr. Smith being falsely accused, convicted
    and imprisoned
  • 13. The townspeople are responsible for Mr. Smith
    being falsely accused, convicted and imprisoned

70
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • and here are some of the factual questions
    subjects were asked
  • 1. Being falsely accused, convicted, and
    imprisoned caused Mr. Smith to suffer
  • 2. Mr. Smith being falsely accused, convicted,
    and imprisoned caused Mr. Smiths friends,
    family, and loved ones to suffer
  • 3. If the riots occurred, they would have caused
    members of the ethnic group to suffer

71
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Results
  • Chinese subjects were significantly less likely
    to think that the Police Chief the Judge did
    was morally wrong
  • They were significantly more likely to think that
    what they did was morally right
  • They were significantly less likely to say that
    the Police Chief the Judge should be punished
  • Chinese subjects were significantly more likely
    to hold the potential rioters responsible for the
    scapegoating
  • Suggesting that they attributed more
    responsibility at the level of the collective
    than did their more individualist counterparts

72
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Case II Promiscuity
  • Jack and Debbie have been happily married
    for 15 years. Jacks best friend from childhood,
    Casey, is passing through town on business, and
    Jack and Debbie invite him to stay at their house
    for a few days. All three of them have a great
    time, drinking, eating, laughing, and talking
    over old times. On the morning before Casey is
    scheduled to leave, Jack is called in to work to
    deal with an emergency. Casey, old friend,
    Jack says, Im sorry I wont be here to see you
    off. But I want you to enjoy our fullest
    hospitality. ?

73
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Looking meaningfully at Debbie, Jack says,
    Debbie will be pleased to see to your every
    need, wont you, Debbie? The implication is
    clear Jack is inviting Casey to have sex with
    his wife. After Jack leaves, Debbie and Casey
    have sex.

74
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • 2. What Jack did was morally wrong
  • 3. What Jack did was morally right
  • 4. Jack should be punished for what he did
  • 5. Jack should have been prevented from doing
    what he did
  • 6. If what Jack did was not customary in his
    culture, it would be morally wrong
  • 7. If what Jack did was customary in his culture,
    it would be morally right
  • 8. I would be bothered by what Jack did, even if
    it were customary in his culture

75
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Results
  • Chinese subjects were more likely to agree that
    this behavior is morally wrong
  • They were less likely to agree that it was
    morally right
  • They were more likely to think that Jack should
    be punished for doing what he did
  • They were more likely to think that Jack should
    have been prevented from doing what he did

76
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • These results indicate that Chinese subjects were
    more likely to think this kind of sexual behavior
    is appropriately morally condemned, subject to
    punitive responses, and legitimately interfered
    with
  • These findings are predicted by the hypothesis
    that Chinese culture is more collectivist
  • since this kind of sexual behavior is,
    intuitively, a threat to the family, among the
    most important forms of association in a
    collectivist culture

77
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Case III Honor
  • Jack and Debbie have been happily married
    for 15 years. Jacks best friend from childhood,
    Casey, is passing through town on business, and
    Jack and Debbie invite him to stay at their house
    for a few days. All three of them have a great
    time, drinking, eating, laughing, and talking
    over old times. On the morning before Casey is
    scheduled to leave, Jack is called in to work to
    deal with an emergency. ?

78
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • When he returns a few hours later, he
    finds Debbie and Casey lying on the couch, naked
    in each others arms. They have obviously been
    having sex. Jack is enraged his best friend and
    wife have betrayed him. Bastard, he shouts at
    Casey. How can you insult a man like this, when
    you are a guest in his home? Casey tries to
    respond, but before he can do anything, Jack
    pulls a knife, stabbing and killing him.

79
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Subjects were asked many of the same questions
    they were asked about the promiscuity case. They
    were also asked some additional questions,
    including
  • 1. What Casey and Debbie did caused Jack to
    suffer
  • 2. What Jack did caused Casey and Debbie to
    suffer

80
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Results
  • Chinese subjects were less likely to think the
    homicide committed by Jack was morally wrong
  • They were more likely to think it was morally
    right
  • They were less likely to think Jack should be
    punished
  • They were more likely to assent to the statement,
    If what Jack did was customary in his culture,
    it would be morally right.

81
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Again, most of these results can be explained by
    the hypothesis that Chinese morality is more
    collectivist
  • The Chinese subjects are more tolerant of
    violence in response to an anti-collective
    behavior the individual pursuit of sexual
    gratification at the expense of a collective
    the family
  • If that is right, then it is plausible that the
    disagreement is fundamental

82
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • None of the standard defusing explanations look
    plausible
  • There were no differences between Chinese
    Westerners on any of the non-moral questions,
    like
  • What Casey and Debbie did caused Jack to suffer.
  • What Jack did caused Casey and Debbie to suffer.
  • It is hard to see how either group might be
    considered less impartial
  • And it is hard to take seriously the suggestion
    that one group or the other suffers from
    irrationality

83
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • or that 1.3 billion Chinese have

corrupt minds!
Elizabeth Anscombe
84
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • The Henrich et al. study
  • Economic games in small scale societies
  • UG, DG PGG
  • No explicit questions about norms were asked, so
    conclusions about moral views must be inferred

85
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • Henrich et al. show that the cross-cultural
    diversity in behavior cannot be entirely
    explained in terms of strategic considerations or
    culturally-variable risk aversion.
  • Rather, across these 15 small-scale societies,
    subjects distribute windfall gains differently
    because they hold different views about fairness
  • specifically about how to fairly distribute such
    windfall gains

86
Is (Some) Moral Disagreement Fundamental? A Look
at the Data
  • And it is very plausible that these differences
    in attitude about fairness clearly an important
    part of morality -- are fundamental
  • None of the standard defusing explanations are
    plausible.

87
Yes, but Some Support From a Theory
88
Yes, but Some Support From a Theory
  • We are under no illusions that this study (and
    others that point in the same direction) will
    convince those who think there is little or no
    fundamental moral disagreement
  • Those skeptical about fundamental moral
    disagreement might raise a variety of objections
    focusing on the details of these studies
  • including possible sources of superficial
    disagreement that have not been ruled out

89
Yes, but Some Support From a Theory
  • To address these Yes, but objections and move
    the debate forward, I believe that we need an
    empirically supported theory of the psychological
    mechanisms underlying the acquisition
    utilization of moral norms and of how those
    mechanisms might have evolved.
  • Chandra Sripada I have recently published a
    theory aimed at doing that

90
Yes, but Some Support From a Theory
  • Sripada Stich, A Frame-work for the
    Psychology of Norms, in The Innate Mind
    Culture Cognition, ed. by Carruthers, Laurence
    Stich, Oxford Univ. Press, 2006

91
Execution Mechanism
Acquisition Mechanism
norm data base r1---------- r2----------
r3---------- rn----------
infer contents of normative rules
identify norm implicating behavior
emotion system
Rule-related reasoning capacity
explicit reasoning
Proximal Cues in Environment
causal links that are well
supported by empirical findings
causal links for which there is currently little
evidence
92
The Model Claims that Moral Judgments
Execution Mechanism
Acquisition Mechanism
norm data base r1---------- r2----------
r3---------- rn----------
infer contents of normative rules
identify norm implicating behavior
emotion system
Rule-related reasoning capacity
explicit reasoning
Proximal Cues in Environment
causal links that are well
supported by empirical findings
causal links for which there is currently little
evidence
93
The Model Claims that Moral Judgments
Execution Mechanism
Acquisition Mechanism
norm data base r1---------- r2----------
r3---------- rn----------
infer contents of normative rules
identify norm implicating behavior
emotion system
Rule-related reasoning capacity
explicit reasoning
Proximal Cues in Environment
are largely determined by the rules in the norm
data base
causal links that are well
supported by empirical findings
causal links for which there is currently little
evidence
94
The Model Claims that Moral Judgments
Execution Mechanism
Acquisition Mechanism
norm data base r1---------- r2----------
r3---------- rn----------
infer contents of normative rules
identify norm implicating behavior
emotion system
Rule-related reasoning capacity
explicit reasoning
Proximal Cues in Environment
which are largely determined by the acquisition
mechanism
causal links that are well
supported by empirical findings
causal links for which there is currently little
evidence
95
The Model Claims that Moral Judgments
Execution Mechanism
Acquisition Mechanism
norm data base r1---------- r2----------
r3---------- rn----------
infer contents of normative rules
identify norm implicating behavior
emotion system
Rule-related reasoning capacity
explicit reasoning
Proximal Cues in Environment
which is heavily influenced by the norms that
prevail in the social environment
causal links that are well
supported by empirical findings
causal links for which there is currently little
evidence
96
Execution Mechanism
Acquisition Mechanism
norm data base r1---------- r2----------
r3---------- rn----------
infer contents of normative rules
identify norm implicating behavior
emotion system
Rule-related reasoning capacity
explicit reasoning
Proximal Cues in Environment
So people who grow up in social environments
in which different norms prevail will often make
different moral judgments even in ideal
conditions
causal links that are well
supported by empirical findings
causal links for which there is currently little
evidence
97
Execution Mechanism
Acquisition Mechanism
norm data base r1---------- r2----------
r3---------- rn----------
infer contents of normative rules
identify norm implicating behavior
emotion system
Rule-related reasoning capacity
explicit reasoning
Proximal Cues in Environment
So people who grow up in social environments
in which different norms prevail will often make
different moral judgments even in ideal
conditions
causal links that are well
supported by empirical findings
causal links for which there is currently little
evidence
98
Yes, but Some Support From a Theory
  • Sripada I survey a substantial body of evidence
    which, we maintain, is consistent with this model
  • But thats a topic for another talk

99
Yes, but Some Support From a Theory
  • My goal in this talk was to illustrate the way in
  • experiments designed to address philosophically
    important questions
  • can be combined with the more traditional
    strategy of assembling relevant scientific
    findings
  • to address important philosophical questions

100
  • The End
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