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The Moral Epistemology of Natural (Virtuous) Systems

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Jen Cole Wright Departments of Psychology and Philosophy University of Wyoming Overview Two psychological models of moral judgment Piagetian/Kohlbergian model ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: The Moral Epistemology of Natural (Virtuous) Systems


1
The Moral Epistemology of Natural (Virtuous)
Systems
  • Jen Cole Wright
  • Departments of Psychology and Philosophy
  • University of Wyoming

2
Overview
  • Two psychological models of moral judgment
  • Piagetian/Kohlbergian model
  • Rationalism (what Ill call the MP model)
  • Problems for the MP model
  • Sentimental-intuitionist model
  • Worry about normativity
  • Possible way to address this worry
  • Expertise (reliable processes) approach

3
Piagetian/Kohlbergian paradigm
  • How do we gain moral knowledge?
  • identification of general moral principles (MPs)
  • All morality consists in a system of rules, and
    the essence of all morality is to be sought for
    in the respect which the individual acquires
    these rules. (p. 13)
  • rational application of MPs to particular
    situations
  • The moral agent must be able to reason
    formally, i.e. he must have a conscious
    realization of the rules of reasoning which will
    enable him to apply them to any case whatsoever,
    including purely hypothetical cases. (p. 47)

4
  • To consider socialization or the acquisition
    of values as moral education, is to consider the
    moral principles moral agents are developing
    (or are not developing). It is also to consider
    the adequacy of these principles in the light of
    an examined concept of the good and right (the
    province of moral philosophy) and in the light of
    knowledge of the moral processes of human
    development (the province of moral
    psychology).
  • Kohlberg Hersh (1977), p. 53-54.

5
Basic assumptions of the MP model
  • Moral judgments are typically formed through
    moral reasoning (i.e. through the application of
    moral rules to particular situations).
  • Particular situation Fred is lying
  • MP Lying is wrong
  • Judgment Freds behavior is wrong

6
Basic assumptions of the MP model
  • Moral judgments are typically formed through
    moral reasoning (i.e. through the application of
    moral rules to particular situations).
  • Particular situation Fred is lying
  • MP Lying is wrong ? adequacy of principles
  • Judgment Freds behavior is wrong ? adequacy of
    processes

7
Basic assumptions of MP model
  • Moral reasoning is the primary cognitive engine
    behind moral development (and the acquisition of
    moral knowledge).
  • Man as (approximating) ideal rational agent
  • Reasoning provides its own normative constraints.

8
Basic MP model
9
Challenges for the MP model
  • The adequacy of moral principles
  • Province of moral philosophy
  • VE/Particularist challenge
  • The moral processes of human judgment
  • Province of moral (and cognitive) psychology
  • Empirical challenge
  • Though both represent important challenges, for
    this talk Ill be focusing on the latter.

10
Sentiment-intuitionist challenge
  • Moral judgments are not (typically) the product
    of moral reasoning
  • Haidts research (e.g., disgust issues)
  • Doris recent attack
  • Rather, they are the product of emotive
    intuitions, which are
  • engrained (if not innate)
  • automatic
  • immediate
  • gut evaluative responses
  • While such evaluations are a form of cognition
    (i.e. they involve an awareness of the
    rightness/wrongness of things that is, itself,
    rationally evaluable) they are nonetheless not a
    form of reasoning.

11
Haidts social-intuitionist model
  • Moral judgment
  • is caused by quick moral intuitions and is
    followed (when needed) by slow, ex post facto
    moral reasoning. (2001, p. 817)
  • Moral intuition
  • the sudden appearance in consciousness of a
    moral judgment, including an affective valence
    (good-bad, like-dislike), without any conscious
    awareness of having gone through steps of
    searching, weighing evidence, or inferring a
    conclusion. (2001, p. 818)

12
Basic Sentiment-Intuition model
13
Basic assumptions
  • Moral judgments are (typically) formed on the
    basis of an immediate (and affect-laden)
    evaluation to the presence of certain
    morally-relevant stimuli.
  • Our emotive/intuitive processes are the primary
    cognitive engine behind moral development.
  • Unclear what moral development amounts to.

14
  • Unclear how to ground normative constraints how
    does such a system provide genuine moral
    knowledge?
  • If we take seriously the force of Haidts studies
  • Peoples moral judgments lookwell, silly
  • Highly error-prone, unreliable processes
  • Reflections of cultural and evolutionary biases

15
Saving normativity
  • Two sticky issues to be resolved
  • First, what sorts of features are our moral
    judgments responding to (and why should we think
    they are moral)?
  • Dont have time to go into this today (though it
    is an important question).
  • Second, in what ways are the cognitive/emotive
    processes reliably tracking these features?

16
Second problem first
  • Consider alternative accounts of emotive
    intuitions
  • Reasoning (sloppy or cognitive miser reasoning)
  • Speed through short-cuts Heuristics
    (rules-of-thumb)
  • Speed through automaticity Automatized
    inferences
  • Not really an interesting challenge to the MP
    model.

17
  • Something else (non-inferential?)
  • Instincts/Innate modules
  • Emotions
  • Moral sense (reliable processes)
  • perception Seeing as
  • intuition intellectual (conceptual) seemings
  • know-how
  • Moral judgments as the product of a moral sense
    that tracks morally relevant features in our
    environment
  • We perceive the hitting of the child as cruel (it
    seems cruel).
  • Perception-action link (emotionally-laden)
  • Thick moral concepts

18
Reliable processes
  • Regardless of what moral judgments are tracking,
    we still need an adequate account of how they
    track them.
  • Shafer-Landau moral exemplars
  • Circularity problem with this approach
  • Good moral judgments ?? moral exemplars
  • Alternative approach Draw from accounts of
    (non-moral) expertise

19
Reliable processes
  • Expertise appears to involve (at least) the
    following two reliable processes
  • Trained perception
  • the process by which (complex) patterns of
    stimuli, composing or instantiating meaningful
    features, are directly (non-inferentially)
    perceived.
  • Automatic responsiveness
  • the process by which engrained (automated) motor
    sets or programs are activated and adapted
    on-line to appropriately fit the situational
    features that originally activated them.

20
Trained perception
  • Eye tracking technology
  • experts in medicine, art, chess, and cartography
    are much more efficient and selective in their
    eye movements than non-experts
  • what they conclude on the basis of their
    perception is much more accurate
  • Birders
  • Air traffic controllers
  • Perception of meaningful patterns
  • Chunking and inhibition

21
Automated responsiveness
  • Not rote habitual behaviors
  • Skilled behavior flexible, dynamic, adaptable
  • Golfing studies (experts vs. novices)
  • Dancing, skiing, and so forth
  • Direct elicitation of behavior by (relevant)
    features in the environment
  • Automaticity in reading, speech, driving, piano
    playing, skating, or dancing is far more precise
    and accurate than the same processes would be if
    they were done with full conscious control.
  • Bloom (1986, 74)

22
Conclusion
  • A genuine alternative to the MP model
  • Relying on resources from within the
    automaticity/intuitive processes literature
  • Natural (virtuous) agents
  • Develop perceptual processes that reliably pick
    out meaningful (morally-relevant) features on
    their environments.
  • Develop action-guiding processes that facilitate
    appropriate responsiveness to those morally
    relevant features.

23
  • expertise model
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