* Foundations of Ethics, V: Sentiment Philosophy 160 Winter 2009 Peter Railton Lecture 23 * What?s the big idea? What is the true origin of ?moral intuition?? * Review We were considering Ross? view that there are certain types of prima facie duty that are: Fundamental in moral assessment Knowable by ?rational intuition? or ?self-evident? Tied to nearly universal patterns of human relationships, needs, circumstances, and goals And we were responding the relativist?s challenge to this sort of view, according to which one finds too much variety in actual moral codes to be compatible with Ross? picture. Our response was to see if we could use a view like Ross? to explain some of the variety we observe in actual moral codes. * Some likely near-universal underlying features of moral life Some situations will recur in all societies- so needs to be adaptive A society that lacks an adaptive way of dealing with such situations will not long survive So: Expect norms for care of children and elderly Expect norms for personal security and fixity of personal property Expect norms against intra-group assault and homicide Expect norms of gratitude and reciprocity Expect norms of truth-telling and ?keeping one?s word? Expect norms of fairness and sharing Expect norms of marriage, friendship, and other ?special relations? Expect norms of loyalty to one?s kin, or one?s group Etc. * Explaining diversity We may see these norms in different shapes and mixtures, with different emphases, in different societies. This will tend to reflect the characteristic way of life in that society, e.g.: Is the mode of production cooperative, like hunting and irrigation? Or is it more solitary, like herding? Or is it primarily based on market relations or personal relations? Is the group nomadic or sedentary? Are natural conditions under which they live typically those of scarcity or relative abundance? Is the society large and relatively anonymous, or small-scale? Etc. We therefore expect to see different relationships in priority over others, and different prima facie duties in priority over others. But the basic kinds of duties are not all that different. * Fairness: The Ultimatum Game Test of fairness. Give people a pot of money, divide group into 2- offer-er/ proposer. Tell them they can split it between the two of them or they can negotiate, but if they negotiate and the offer is refused they get none. People will negotiate the least possible. * The Foundations of Human Sociability, J. Henrich et al. Evidence from 15 societies. In none of the societies do individuals behave in the manner of ?rational self-interest? In all of the societies there is some degree of sharing, most sharing between 25 and 50%- standard amount of sharing I test of fairness In all societies, individuals are willing to take an outright loss in order to ?punish? someone who makes an unfair division The variation in the amount shared is strongly correlated with differences in the way of life and mode of production * Avoiding hubris while retaining a commitment to objectivity in ethics Looking at other societies, we may find practices we do not like. Is it hubris to judge them morally wrong? Understanding/recognizing equal mindedness Before we judge them, we must try to understand the whole social setting. Once we do this, some of these practices will seem more reasonable or excusable. This does not require, however, that we refrain from judging them wrong. To judge another society?s practices to be wrong is not to judge that the people in the society are blameworthy for following them. We attach blame to a judgment when we think a person could reasonably have been expected to do otherwise. Past moral theories Past scientific theories A commitment to objectivity in ethics or science should then: Call upon us to understand other societies and their views, and not merely judge them Call upon us to hold ourselves to this same standard Thus objectivity is compatible with respecting others * Relativism and reason? Relativism turns out to be a rather unconvincing way of capturing: How we deliberate within our own lives and social settings What we can learn from looking at other societies and other ways of life ? comparative ethics. But does the theory of prima facie duties have to rest on the idea of rational intuition? Is this the only alternative to relativism and ?subjectivism?? What entitles us to say that our intuitions are the product of reason rather than, say, sentiment or emotion? This lecture and the next we will be considering two types of meta-ethical theory that look to sentiment or emotion. * Re-enter: David Hume (1711-1776) * Hume?s bombshell In the very midst of the Enlightenment, when the powers of reason were being most highly celebrated, Hume sought to show that reason alone, pure reason, was severely limited in scope and power. This critique awoke Kant from his ?dogmatic slumbers?, and served as a watershed in philosophy in the English-speaking and Continental European traditions alike. You will sometimes hear Hume described as a skeptic, but his aim was not to undermine or destroy knowledge and morality. His aim was to show their real foundation in human sentiment and practices. * The rational intuitionist?s ?What else?? argument He?s up against the ?what else?? argument Consider the following argument on behalf of the idea that moral distinctions must be founded in reason. Examine any system of thought, from science to morality, from the most unified and systematic to the most pluralistic and informal Ask: What would justify us in believing it? In the end, all attempts to justify must begin somewhere ? they cannot start from nothing. The regress of ?Why?? questions. From nothing, one can establish nothing. So there must be some fundamental principles or basic judgments that are: the basis for the system not further justified * ?What else??, continued Now since they are not based on further reasons, then either: these fundamental principles or basic judgments are arbitrary, in which case the scientific or moral system as a whole cannot be a source of knowledge or: these fundamental principles or basic judgments need no further justification because they are self-evident, in which case scientific or moral knowledge is possible That which is self-evident can be known by reason alone ? once we understand it, we can see why it must be true. Take: 2 + 2 = 4 * ?What else??, continued Therefore we face a stark choice: Either science and morality are domains of knowledge, in which case reason lies at their foundation Or, science and morality are no better than myths and fables, purely arbitrary inventions After all, what else could there be at the foundation of knowledge, besides reason? And if reason is not there, we are in the soup. * Hume Hume points out that there are two forms of reasoning: Deductive, e.g., logic ? ?relations of ideas? Inductive, e.g., experimental science ? ?matters of fact? Could either of these be the foundation for ethics? Notice that both forms of reasoning lead to conclusions in the form of beliefs. If we could explain the difference between right and wrong in terms of what reasoning can establish, then we would have to explain it in terms of belief ?going right? or ?going wrong?. How can belief?s ?go right? or ?go wrong?? Well, beliefs can be either true or false. There certainly isn?t anything morally wrong with holding a true belief. Is there anything morally wrong with holding a false belief? No. So the distinction between right and wrong cannot be established by a conclusion of reason alone. * The ?practicality of morality? We can reach this conclusion by another route. Reasoning, we saw, leads to beliefs as conclusions. But morality is not only concerned with what we believe, but also, and especially, with what we do. Compare holding a false belief with telling someone a falsehood (lying). Morality is supposed to enable us to reach the conclusion: tell the truth, or, do not tell falsehoods (except under special circumstances). That is, moral thinking is supposed to supply you with what is needed to reach this practical conclusion: a way of acting. * The ?practicality of morality?, continued What is missing for action if we have but belief? Motivation. If I belief there is water in the glass before me, no action follows. But if I believe this and also desire a drink of water, then action can follow. At the bottom of ?why??, there must be something ?desirable on its own account? Action, then requires at least belief + desire. Morality thinking thus must be a form of practical thinking ? thinking that yields action and so it must yield motivation as well as belief. Deduction and induction are merely theoretical reasoning ? reasoning that concludes in only in belief. * ?The practicality of morality?, continued But then practical thinking cannot be either deduction or induction ? it must have a source other than pure reason. This is why Hume remarks, ?It is not contrary to reason to prefer the destruction of the whole world to the scratching of my finger.? And not because reason is self-interested. He also writes: ?It is not contrary to reason for me to choose my total ruin, to prevent the least uneasiness of an Indian or person wholly unknown to me. It is as little contrary to reason to prefer even my own acknowledged lesser good to my greater ? .? Why? ?A trivial good may, from certain circumstances, produce a desire superior to what arises from the greatest and most valuable enjoyment.? ?Extinguish all the warm feelings and prepossessions in favor of virtue, and all disgust or aversion to vice; ? and morality is no longer a practical study, nor has any tendency to regulate our lives and actions.? * Belief, desire, and ?direction of fit? How do we know that belief and desire are distinct? Consider the difference between a shopping list and an inventory. If an inventory mentions an item that is not on the shelf, it is mistaken. It has a ?list-to-world? direction of fit It concerns what is the case If a shopping list mentions an item that is not on the shelf, it is not mistaken. But there is something amiss - you cannot complete your list, and so must to go to another store. It has a ?world-to-list? direction of fit It concerns what is to be the case * Lists, beliefs, and desires Belief is like an inventory ? it tries to represent what things are actually like, and will be mistaken if it does not. So it has ?mind-to-world? direction of fit (mind- mental state of belief/ world-represents) [Bel (p)] P is true. Des (p), p is false? Desire water while talking, makes sense to desire something while not doing it. Desire have a world?mind fit It concerns what is the case Desire is like a shopping list ? it does not represent how the world is, but how you would like it to be. It motivates you to make this change in the world ? e.g., to get a drink if you are thirsty and desire water. So it has a ?world-to-mind? direction of fit It concerns what is to be the case Belief and desire, thus, are distinct mental states. And if moral thinking is to lead to action, it must somehow incorporate desire as well as belief. * Sentiment This is possible only if moral thinking starts out from a state of mind that motivates. Hume believes the relevant sort of state is a sentiment ? an emotion or feeling. Such states do motivate us Moreover, we do find that, facing a question of how to act, we may feel that one or another way of acting is right or wrong. Recent brain imaging research suggests that, in making a moral judgment, the first system in the mind that is activated is affect ? feeling, emotion, sentiment ? not cognition or reasoning. Moral dumbfounding. Intuition? ?it?s just wrong? Not rounded in rationality, but in disgust/disapproval/dislike * ?Moral dumbfounding? When Jonathan Haidt (2001) had experimental subjects read scenarios and make moral judgments, they typically had quick answers When he then asked them to supply the reason for their judgment, they often gave principles that did not apply to the scenario. When this was pointed out, they did not withdraw their judgment, but looked for another principle. If shown that this principle, too, does not apply to the scenario, they still did not withdraw their judgment. Asked in the end for their reason, they were ?dumbfounded? ? ?It just is wrong?. This reaction is thought to be located in an immediate, affective response to the scenario. Part of the ?automatic evaluation process? in ordinary thought. Hume would say, one can only locate the source of this judgment in feeling, akin to taste and distaste. * ?Is? and ?ought? Drawing upon the distinction between what reasoning can accomplish and what sentiment contributes, Hume explains why so many moralists confusedly move from ?is? to ?ought? without noticing. But ?ought? concerns what ?is to be?, not what ?is?. Therefore it must be connected with motivation, and not belief and reason alone. Reason can assist sentiment: Help focus the mind Help see consequences Help gather information, form generalizations But it cannot replace it
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