morality as kluge

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  1. 1. Debunking Moral IntuitionA Hodgepodge of MultipurposeKludgesBased on work by: Stephen Stich Joshua KnobeDaniel Kelly 1
  2. 2. Introduction Philosophers and more recently cognitivescientists have offered many accounts of thepsychological mechanisms & processes underlyingintuitive moral judgment Moral philosophers have always insisted thatsometimes the outputs of those processes peoples moral intuitions are not to be trusted though they disagree about when skepticism is warranted2
  3. 3. Introduction Our goal in this talk is to sketch a newly emergingperspective on the mechanisms underlying moralintuition and to explore its implications for the hotlydebated issue of whether and when intuitionsshould be relied on3
  4. 4. Introduction Philosophers have typically assumed that thosemechanisms were well designed for something But we now have reasons to think that many oftheses mechanisms are not well designed forANYTHING 4
  5. 5. IntroductionMoral Psychology is a KludgeA hodgepodge of multipurposekludges! 5
  6. 6. Introduction Before explaining and defending this claim it will beuseful to consider some of the reasons thatphilosophers both classic & contemporary haveoffered for discounting moral intuitions6
  7. 7. Philosophical Background Reflective Equilibrium Rawls Decision Procedure for Ethics (1951) Narrow Reflective Equilibrium Bring intuitions about particular cases moral principles into accord To do this, sometimes an intuition about a particular casemust be rejected 7
  8. 8. Philosophical Background Wide Reflective Equilibrium Bring intuitions about particular cases moral principles into accord with the rest of our beliefs including beliefs about scientific matters, history, politics even metaphysics & semantics Even more of our intuitions about particular cases will have to be rejected8
  9. 9. Philosophical Background Evolutionary arguments debunking intuition Perhaps the most influential writer in this tradition is Peter SingerTheExpandingCircle Ethics and SociobiologyPeter SingerFARRAR, STRAUS & GIROUX New York 1981Updated in Ethics & Intuition (2005)
  10. 10. Philosophical Background In The Expanding Circle, Singer focuses on nepotisticintuitions which maintain that, in various domains, weought to value the welfare of our kin and tribesmen morethan the welfare of people outside these circles The psychological processes leading to judgments of thissort were adaptive in ancestral environments (andperhaps they still are) But once we see why we have these nepotistic & tribalintuitions, Singer suggests, we can also see that there isintuitionsno good reason to use them in a decision procedure forethics 10
  11. 11. Philosophical Background In Ethics and Intuition (2005) Singer develops theargument by focusing on the sort of trolley problemsthat have loomed large in recent philosophical andempirical studies 11
  12. 12. Philosophical Background Singer (following Greene) maintains that theneuroscientific evidence suggests thatintuitions about the footbridge case are theresult of our emotional reaction to cases inwhich harm is caused by the sort ofinteraction that would have occurred inancestral environments 12
  13. 13. Philosophical BackgroundThe salient feature that explains our different intuitive judgments concerning the two cases is that the footbridge case is the kind of situation that was likely to arise during the eons of time over which we were evolving; whereas the standard trolley case describes a way of bringing about someones death that has only been possible in the past century or two. But what is the moral salience of the fact that I have killed someone in a way that was possible a million years ago, rather than in a way that became possible only two hundred years ago? I would answer: none. 13
  14. 14. Philosophical BackgroundAt [a] more general level this casts serious doubt on the method of reflective equilibrium. There is little point in constructing a moral theory designed to match considered moral judgments that themselves stem from our evolved responses to the situations in which we and our ancestors lived during the period of our evolution as social mammals, primates, and finally, human beings. We should, with our current powers of reasoning and our rapidly changing circumstances, be able to do better than that. (348)What I am saying, in brief, is this. Advances in our understanding ofethics undermine some conceptions of doing ethics . Thoseconceptions of ethics tend to be too respectful of our intuitions.Our better understanding of ethics gives us grounds for being lessrespectful of them. (349)them. 14
  15. 15. Philosophical Background Assumptions that Singer and the friends of intuitionshare:share The psychological system underlying our moral intuitions is well designed Thus there is some point to or reason for the intuitive moral judgments people make when the system is working properly Though Singer (unlike the friends of intuition) insists that the function the system is designed for is of dubious moral importance, and thus that the intuitions are not to be taken importance seriously15
  16. 16. Philosophical Background We believe that the engine of moral intuition is not welldesigned at all Far from being the sort of elegant machine celebratedin the writings of some evolutionary psychologists, wethink that it is a kludge a cluster of mechanisms cobbled together rather awkwardly from bits of mental machinery most of which were designed for functions that have noting to do with morality 16
  17. 17. Kelly on Disgust Kelly has constructed a rich,nuanced, empiricallysupported account of thepsychological mechanismsunderlying the uniquelyhuman disgust system andDaniel Kellyhow that system evolved 17
  18. 18. Kelly on Disgust The Entanglement Thesis Disgust is itself a kludge a uniquely humanemotion produced by the merger of twodistinct systems The Co-Optation Thesis After the merger, disgust was co-opted by the norm system the ethnic boundary system which were central elements in the emergence of human ultra-sociality18
  19. 19. Kelly on Disgust Kelly assembles a vast array of evidence for thesetheses, drawn from neuroscience social psychology cognitive psychology developmental psychology evolutionary psychology gene-culture co-evolution theory As usual, the devil is in the details read the work as it appears in print 19
  20. 20. Kelly on Disgust The Entanglement Thesis Disgust exhibits a puzzling array of elicitors which evoke an equally puzzling cluster ofresponses20
  21. 21. Kelly on DisgustThe Entanglement Thesis Elicitors include Foods: dog meat, grubs, insectsFoods21
  22. 22. Kelly on Disgust The Entanglement Thesis Elicitors include Foods: dog meat, grubs, insectsFoods Substances associated with the body: feces, vomit, spit body Organic decay People and objects associated with illness: a shirt onceillnessworn by a person with leprosy Sexual practices: necrophilia, incest practices Some moral transgressions & transgressors: rape, torture,child molestation Members of low status outgroups: untouchables, Jews outgroups22
  23. 23. Kelly on DisgustSome elicitors are pan-cultural The Entanglement Thesis Elicitors include Foods: dog meat, grubs, insectsFoods Substances associated with the body: feces, vomit, spit body Organic decay People and objects associated with illness: a shirt onceillnessworn by a person with leprosy Sexual practices: necrophilia, incest practices Some moral transgressions & transgressors: rape, torture,child molestation Members of low status outgroups: untouchables, Jews outgroups23
  24. 24. Kelly on DisgustOthers are culturally local (or idiosyncratic) The Entanglement Thesis Elicitors include Foods: dog meat, grubs, insectsFoods Substances associated with the body: feces, vomit, spit body Organic decay People and objects associated with illness: a shirt onceillnessworn by a person with leprosy Sexual practices: necrophilia, incest practices Some moral transgressions & transgressors: rape, torture,child molestation Members of low status outgroups: untouchables, Jews outgroups24
  25. 25. Kelly on Disgust The Entanglement Thesis The disgust response includes Gape face (occasionally accompanied by retching) Feeling of nausea Sense oral incorporation Quick withdrawal A more sustained & cognitive sense of offensiveness A more sustained & cognitive sense of contamination25
  26. 26. Kelly on Disgust The Entanglement Thesis How are all of these connected? connected The Entanglement Thesis maintains thatthe human emotion of disgust is the resultof the fusion of two distinct mechanisms each of which has homologous counterparts inother species though they have combined only in humans26
  27. 27. Kelly on DisgustThe Entanglement Thesis One mechanism (the poison avoidance mechanism) is mechanismdirectly linked to digestion It evolved to regulate food intake and protect the gut against ingested substances that are poisonous or otherwise harmful It was designed to expel substances entering the gastro- intestinal system via the mouth And to acquire new elicitors very quickly As John Garcia famously demonstrated, ingested substances that induce gut-based distress often generate acquired aversions27
  28. 28. Kelly on DisgustThe Entanglement Thesis The other mechanism (the parasite avoidancemechanism)mechanism Evolved to protect against infection from pathogens and parasites, by avoiding them parasites Not specific to ingestion, but serves to guard against coming into close physical proximity with infectious agents This involves avoiding not only visible pathogens and parasites, but also places, substances and other organisms parasites that might be harboring them28
  29. 29. Kelly on DisgustThes