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\title {Moral Psychology \\ Lecture 02}
 
\maketitle
 

Lecture 02:

Moral Psychology

\def \ititle {Lecture 02}
\def \isubtitle {Moral Psychology}
\begin{center}
{\Large
\textbf{\ititle}: \isubtitle
}
 
\iemail %
\end{center}
Moral psychology is the study of psychological aspects of ethical abilities.

Part I: What ethical abilities do humans have? What states and processes underpin them?

Does emotion influence moral judgment?

Sinnott-Armstrong el at (2010) : yes, it does

Focus: moral intuitions (ie unreflective moral judgements)

What do adult humans compute that enables their unreflective judgements to track moral attributes (such as wrongness)?

I am working with a contrast between tracking and computing. To say that a state tracks an attribute is to say ...
Simple example (1) [old]: toxicity/feeling of disgust
Simple example (2) [new]: motion sensor tracks presence of a human by computing infared energy (say). Important because shows that the distinction can be understood in a way that does not hinge on consciousness, nor on any particularly deep notion of representation.
So this is a way of setting up Sinnott-Armstrong et al’s 2010 ‘unconscious attribute substitution’ idea in a way that makes it easier to operationalise.

-- how thinking about it makes you feel

the ‘affect heuristic’:

‘if thinking about an act [...] makes you feel bad [...], then judge that it is morally wrong’.

Sinnott-Armstrong et al, 2010

The ‘affect heuristic’: ‘if thinking about an act [...] makes you feel bad [...], then judge that it is morally wrong’ \citep{sinnott:2010_moral}.

theoretical argument: I can’t make it work;

evidence needed.

But what evidence could bear on the issue?

 

The Affect Heuristic

 
\section{The Affect Heuristic}
 
\section{The Affect Heuristic}

Pachur et al 2012, table 1

VSL : ‘we asked people to indicate for each risk the value of a statistical life (VSL), which refers to the cost of reducing the number of deaths in a specific class of risk by one.’
dread score: how much participants would dread dying from that cancer. ‘The dread score for each risk was calculated as the mean rating on the 12 characteristics assessed in the risk questionnaire, coded such that a higher value indicates higher dread. ... In a risk questionnaire, people were asked to rate the 24 types of cancer on the 12 risk characteristics that Slovic, Fischhoff, and Lichtenstein (1980) found to contribute to the dread factor: voluntariness of risk, preventive control, control of severity, chronic-catastrophic, common-dread, certain to be fatal, equity of risks and benefits, threat to future generations, personal exposure, potential of global catastrophe, changes in risk, and ease of reduction.’
availability: how many people did each participant have in their social networks that were affected by the kind of cancer in question?

24 types of cancer

Three measures of risk:

perceived frequency (which cause of death has a higher annual mortality rate?)

Value of a Statistical Life, VSL (how much money should be spent to avoid one fatality due to this cause of death?)

perceived risk (which cause of death represents a higher risk of dying from it?)

How are people to answer these questions? They do not have access to the table, so they need some way to make guesses?
Frequency and risk should be the same (in most situations) but that is not how people think of these.

Inaccessible properties:

- frequency

- risk of dying from it

These should be the same, but that is not how people think.

Accessible properties:

- how easily can I bring to mind a case of this?

- how does imagining it makes me feel?

Insofar as the accessible property is a guide to the inaccessible property, it would make sense to use one as a substitute for the other.

Two heuristics

Availability Heuristic

The easier it is to bring a case of this cancer to mind, the more frequent or risky it is.

Is this really a heuristic?

It’s not a heuristic unless there’s a link between accessible and inaccessible attributes such that the presence of the accessible attribute reliably indicates, at least in a useful range of cases, the presence of the inaccessible attribute.
Pause over why this is a really heuristic: ease of bringing to mind is presumably in part a consequence of how frequently you have encountered it which may be correlated with its actual frequency.

Affect Heuristic

The more dread you feel when imagining it, the more frequent or risky it is.

Is this really a heuristic?

Dread is presumably related to how terrible the consequences would be and also how likely it seems to you. (Imagining being hit by an asteriod doesn’t cause me to feel much dread ...).
So although the accessible attribute involves factors other than frequency or risk of dying from it, it still appears that the two are linked in such a way that the presence of the accessible attribute reliably indicates, at least in a useful range of cases, the presence of the inaccessible attribute.

Hypothesis:
The Availablity Heuristic dominates frequency judgements ,
whereas the Affect Heuristic dominates risk and VSL judgements.

Prediction:
Number of cases in a subject’s social network will better predict frequency judgements,
whereas feelings of dread will better predict risk and VSL judgements.

Findings:
both predictions broadly confirmed.

Findings: ‘availability-by-recall offered a substantially better descriptive account than the affect heuristic when people judged deindividualized, statistical mortality rates. Affect, however, was at least on par with availability when people were asked to put a price tag on a single life saved from a risk, or when they were asked to indicate the perceived risk of dying’ \citep[p.~324]{pachur:2012_how}.

Pachur et al, 2012

Pachur et al, 2012 table 1

Summary

The Affect Heuristic:

The more dread you feel when imagining it, the more frequent or risky it is.

In general, heuristics

involve subsituting inaccessible for accessible properties;

and hypotheses about them generate testable predictions.

To find evidence for the operation of a heuristic, test a prediction about the correlates or causes of judgements.

How is this relevant?

In two ways ...
First respect in which it’s relevant.

1

Humans use an affect heuristic in some cases;

so the idea they use it in making unreflective ethical judgements

is at least worth considering.

Second respect in which it’s relevant.

2

We can use Pachur et al (2012) as a model

for what would count as evidence

that humans use an affect heuristic

in making unreflective ethical judgements ...

What do adult humans compute that enables their unreflective judgements to track frequency, VSL and risk?

What do adult humans compute that enables their unreflective judgements to track moral attributes (such as wrongness)?

affect (and availability) heuristics

Evidence

Affect and availability predict risk and frequency judgements, respectively

Evidence

???

 

Moral Intuitions and Heuristics: Evidence

 
\section{Moral Intuitions and Heuristics: Evidence}
 
\section{Moral Intuitions and Heuristics: Evidence}

Q: What do adult humans compute that enables their moral intuitions to track moral attributes (such as wrongness)?

Hypothesis:

They rely on the ‘affect heuristic’: ‘if thinking about an act [...] makes you feel bad [...], then judge that it is morally wrong’.

Prediction:

if you make people feel bad (/good) without them realising it, they will be more (/less) inclined to judge that something is morally wrong.

Let me explain correlational vs intervention evidence ...

Q: What do adult humans compute that enables their moral intuitions to track moral attributes (such as wrongness)?

Hypothesis:

They rely on the ‘affect heuristic’: ‘if thinking about an act [...] makes you feel bad [...], then judge that it is morally wrong’.

Prediction:

if you make people feel bad (/good) without them realising it, they will be more (/less) inclined to judge that something is morally wrong.

Evidence:

Schnall et al., 2008

‘(Schnall et al., 2008) probed subjects’ responses to moral scenarios featuring morally relevant actions such as eating one’s dead pet dog while priming subjects to feel disgusted. In one experiment, subjects filled out their questionnaires while seated at either a clean desk or a disgusting desk, stained and sticky and located near an overflowing waste bin containing used pizza boxes and dirty-looking tissues. Subjects who were rated as highly sensitive to their own bodily state were more likely to condemn the actions when seated at the disgusting desk than at the clean desk.’

Schnall et al, 2008 Experiment 4

3 groups: induce disgust, sadness or neither using video clips

‘The sadness clip (from The Champ) portrayed the death of a boy’s mentor, the disgust clip (from Trainspotting) portrayed a man using an unsanitary toilet, and the neutral clip (from a National Geographic special) portrayed fish at the Great Barrier Reef’ \citep{lerner:2004_heart}.

Judge how wrong an action is in six vignettes

Half the vignettes involve disgusting actions.

Predictions:

What do you think the predictions should be (sanity check)

Disgust (but not sadness) will influence moral judgements,

irrespective of whether the actions judged are disgusting.

Complication: Private Body Consciousness

Result: ‘disgust influenced moral judgment similarly for both disgust and nondisgust vignettes’.

What about this prediction?
Six vignettes (also used in Experiment 2):
‘Three of these vignettes involved a moral violation with disgust—Dog (a man who ate his dead dog), Plane Crash (starving survivors of a plane crash consider cannibalism), and Kitten (a man deriving sexual pleasure from playing with a kitten)—and three of the vignettes involved a moral violation with no disgust—Wallet (finding a wallet and not returning it to its owner), Resume (a person falsifying his resume), and Trolley (preventing the death of five men by killing one man). The instructions told participants to go with their initial intuitions when responding’ \citep[p.~1100]{schnall:2008_disgust}
Private Body Consciousness: ‘Miller, Murphy, and Buss (1981) devised a scale to measure people’s general attention to internal physical states, which they refer to as Private Body Consciousness (PBC)‘ \citep[p.~1100]{schnall:2008_disgust}.
\subsection{Vignettes from Schnall et al (2008) Experiment 4}
\emph{Dog} Frank’s dog was killed by a car in front of his house. Frank had heard that in China people occasionally eat dog meat, and he was curious what it tasted like. So he cut up the body and cooked it and ate it for dinner. How wrong is it for Frank to eat his dead dog for dinner?
\emph{Plane Crash} Your plane has crashed in the Himalayas. The only survivors are yourself, another man, and a young boy. The three of you travel for days, battling extreme cold and wind. Your only chance at survival is to find your way to a small village on the other side of the mountain, several days away. The boy has a broken leg and can- not move very quickly. His chances of surviving the journey are essentially zero. Without food, you and the other man will probably die as well. The other man suggests that you sacrifice the boy and eat his remains over the next few days. How wrong is it to kill this boy so that you and the other man may survive your journey to safety?
\emph{Wallet} You are walking down the street when you come across a wallet lying on the ground. You open the wal- let and find that it contains several hundred dollars in cash as well the owner’s driver’s license. From the credit cards and other items in the wallet it’s very clear that the wallet’s owner is wealthy. You, on the other hand, have been hit by hard times recently and could really use some extra money. You consider sending the wallet back to the owner without the cash, keeping the cash for yourself. How wrong is it for you to keep the money you found in the wallet in order to have more money for yourself?
\emph{Resume} You have a friend who has been trying to find a job lately without much success. He figured that he would be more likely to get hired if he had a more impressive resume. He decided to put some false information on his resume in order to make it more impressive. By doing this he ultimately managed to get hired, beating out several candidates who were actually more qualified than he. How wrong was it for your friend to put false information on his resume in order to help him find employment?
\emph{Kitten} Matthew is playing with his new kitten late one night. He is wearing only his boxer shorts, and the kit- ten sometimes walks over his genitals. Eventually, this arouses him, and he begins to rub his bare genitals along the kitten’s body. The kitten purrs, and seems to enjoy the contact. How wrong is it for Matthew to be rubbing himself against the kitten?
\emph{Trolley} You are at the wheel of a runaway trolley quickly approaching a fork in the tracks. On the tracks extend- ing to the left is a group of five railway workmen. On the tracks extending to the right is a single railway workman. If you do nothing the trolley will proceed to the left, causing the deaths of the five workmen. The only way to avoid the deaths of these workmen is to hit a switch on your dashboard that will cause the trolley to proceed to the right, causing the death of the single workman. How wrong is it for you to hit the switch in order to avoid the deaths of the five workmen?

Schnall et al, 2008 figure 3

Showing results from Experiment 4. Induce either Disgust or Sadness or neithre using a video clip. Then make moral judgements.
‘For high-PBC [Private Body Consciousness] (but not low-PBC) people, our disgust manipulations increased the severity of moral condemnation relative to the neutral conditions’ \citep[p.~1105]{schnall:2008_disgust}

Note:

Sinnot-Armstrong et al (2010)’s heuristic is about ‘feeling bad’;

Schnall et al are making a case for effects of disgust specifically.

Schnall et al, 2008 conclusions:

‘the effect of disgust applies regardless of whether the action to be judged is itself disgusting.

Second, [...] disgust influenced moral, but not additional nonmoral, judgments.

These nonmoral judgements concerned policies. ‘Six public policy items asked participants to rate whether they would support these pro- posals if they were up for a vote in the U.S. Congress on a scale from 0 (strongly oppose) to 9 (strongly support). Three items involved issues of contamination or guarding borders (i.e., spending more money for waste treatment, spending more money to “patrol the borders” against ille- gal immigrants, and making it easier for the government to “expel foreigners” with suspected links to terrorism). The other three issues did not involve such themes (i.e., allowing nondenominational school prayer, increasing federal funding for social science research, and decreasing the number of students per classroom).’ \citep[p.~1100]{schnall:2008_clean}

Third, because the effect occurred most strongly for people who were sensitive to their own bodily cues, the results appear to concern feelings of disgust rather than merely the primed concept of disgust.

Fourth, [...] induced sadness did not have similar effects.’

\citep[pp.~1105--6]{schnall:2008_disgust}

Schnall et al, 2008 pp. 1105--6

Is the prediction confirmed?

Q: What do adult humans compute that enables their moral intuitions to track moral attributes (such as wrongness)?

Hypothesis:

They rely on the ‘affect heuristic’: ‘if thinking about an act [...] makes you feel bad [...], then judge that it is morally wrong’.

Prediction:

if you make people feel bad (/good) without them realising it, they will be more (/less) inclined to judge that something is morally wrong.

Evidence:

Schnall et al., 2008

Prediction NOT confirmed: only high Private Body Consciousness yields significant effect of disgust. This actually is not quite what Sinnot-Armstrong et al’s theory predicts!
Schnall et al. (2008) are intested in high vs low PBC as a marker of those who really felt the disgust. If this is right, Sinnot-Armstrong et al’s prediction seems well supported.
An alternative possibility, however, is that it is only high-PBC people that moral intuitions are influenced by affect (disgust in this case). That would not support Sinnot-Armstrong et al’s theory (but might indicate that the theory only applies to high-PBC people).
Of course it’s just one piece of evidence. But they cite it in favour of their view.
‘For high-PBC [Private Body Consciousness] (but not low-PBC) people, our disgust manipulations increased the severity of moral condemnation relative to the neutral conditions.’ (p. 1105)

Is Schnall et al. (2008) evidence against Sinnott-Armstrong et al (2010)’s theory?

Note: Possible that there is an effect in low-PBC people that’s too small for these methods to detec, so this is not evidence against Sinnot-Armstrong et al’s theory.
Note: ‘We found a significant Condition × PBC interaction’ (p. 1105)
So everything hangs on the significance of high vs low PBC.
If it is an indicator of how disgusted subjects actually are, Schnall et al is evidence in favour of Sinnott-Armstrong et al (2010)’s theory.
But if low PBC subjects’ moral judgements are not influenced by their disgust, no matter how disgusted they are, then Schnall et al would appear to be evidence in favour of Sinnott-Armstrong et al (2010)’s theory.
What’s needed here is a manipulation check.

Never trust a philosopher on science.

You really need to read the studies and think about the details. This is why I put the vignettes on the handout.
On the other hand, you have to be careful. Our job as philosophers is not to find methodological defects in the research (you aren’t trained to do this, and will probably not fully understand the methods).
So the rule of thumb is: take what scientists say about their research at face value in the Results second, exercise some caution in the scientific Discussion section, and never trust a philosopher.
 

Moral Intuitions and Heuristics: Evaluating the Evidence

 
\section{Moral Intuitions and Heuristics: Evaluating the Evidence}
 
\section{Moral Intuitions and Heuristics: Evaluating the Evidence}

replications / related research

Never trust a single study.
Eg. the same authors pubilshed another study in the same year \citep{schnall:2008_clean} which an attempt to replicate has quite convincingly indicated that the effect is not powerful enough to have been discovered by the original study \citep{johnson:2014_does}.
How are things with \citet{schnall:2008_disgust}? \citep{chapman:2013_things} is a broadly supportive review.

Eskine et al, 2011 figure 1

\citet{eskine:2011_bad} is another study which appears to support (end extend) \citet{schnall:2008_disgust}.
Relevant because bitterness is related to disgust.
Different tastes in mouth, ‘using Wheatley and Haidt’s (2005) moral vignettes, which portray various moral trans- gressions (second cousins engaging in consensual incest, a man eating his already-dead dog, a congressman accepting bribes, a lawyer prowling hospitals for victims, a person shoplifting, and a student stealing library books)’ \citep{eskine:2011_bad}.
Also ‘using Wheatley and Haidt’s (2005) moral vignettes, which portray various moral transgressions (second cousins engaging in consensual incest, a man eating his already-dead dog, a congressman accepting bribes, a lawyer prowling hospitals for victims, a person shop-lifting, and a student stealing library books)’ \citep{eskine:2011_bad}.
‘Results revealed a significant effect of bev- erage type, F(2, 51) = 7.368, p = .002, η 2 = .224. Planned contrasts showed that participants’ moral judgments in the bitter condition (M = 78.34, SD = 10.83) were significantly harsher than judgments in the control condition (M = 61.58, SD = 16.88), t(51) = 3.117, p = .003, d = 1.09, and in the sweet condition (M = 59.58, SD = 16.70), t(51) = 3.609, p = .001, d = 1.22’ \citep{eskine:2011_bad}.
‘Judgments in the control and sweet conditions did not differ significantly, t(51) = 0.405, n.s.’ \citep{eskine:2011_bad}.

Chapman & Anderson, 2013 table 2

11 studies here. Note that two studies found no effect of manipulating disgust on moral judgement.

‘To date, almost all of the studies that have manipulated disgust or cleanliness have reported effects on moral judgment. These findings strengthen the case for a causal relationship between disgust and moral judgment, by showing that experimentally evoked disgust---or cleanliness, its opposite---can influence moral cognition’

\citep[p.~313]{chapman:2013_things}

Chapman & Anderson (2013)

conclusion so far

There seems to be a variety of evidence for the claim

that manipulating disgust-related phenomena

can influence unreflective ethical judgements.

Compare two claims about an Affect Heuristic ...

1. Pachur et al (2012) on risk judgements

2. Sinnott-Armstrong et al (2010) on unreflective ethical judgements (‘moral intuitions’)

I want to suggest that there are two points of disanalogy ...

frequency, VSL & risk vs feeling

frequency & risk are unknown to subjects

we know feelings are distinct from, and no part of, frequency & risk

ethical valence (wrongness) vs disgust

Is ethical valence unknown to subjects?

Is disugust distinct from, and no part of, ethical valence?

Sinnott-Armstrong et al (2010)’s heuristic model:

unsupported by theory,

and by evidence (so far)

But this doesn’t mean we haven’t learnt anything

But

emotions do influence

unreflective ethical judgements

(and conversely).

If we reject Sinnott-Armstong et al (2010)’s heuristic theory, we are left with a deep puzzle.

puzzle

Why do feelings of disgust influence unreflective moral judgements?

(And why do we feel disgust in response to moral transgressions?)

This is really a question about the function of morally-evoked disgust.
‘What is the function of moral disgust? One of the most intriguing features of moral disgust is that it is not clear why it exists at all. Why should an emotion originating in defense against toxicity and disease be triggered by a social stimulus? The mystery deepens when we consider that human beings already have a social emotion that seems tailored to respond to moral wrongdoing, namely, anger (Weiner, 2006). Why then do we feel disgust in response to moral transgressions?’ \citep[p.~317]{chapman:2013_things}.
Compare: why do we feel disgust generally? Because it helps us avoid poisons. ‘Disgust is thought to have originated in distaste, a food-rejection impulse or motivation triggered by the ingestion of unpleasant-tasting substances, prototypically those that are bit- ter (Chapman, Kim, Susskind, & Anderson, 2009; Rozin & Fallon, 1987). Because many bitter substances are toxic (Garcia, Hankins, Denton, & Coghlan, 1975), the role of distaste in food rejection has a clear and concrete adaptive function. Distaste appears to have very ancient origins: Even sea anemones, which first evolved some 500 million years ago, will expel bitter foods from their gastric cavity (Garcia et al., 1975)’ \citep[p.~300]{chapman:2013_things}.
Chapman & Anderson tentatively propose an analogy: Just as nonmoral disgust prompts us to withdraw and thereby enables us not only to avoid poisons but also to avoid eating things that might be less nutritous and wreck our appetites (opportunity costs), so perhaps moral disgust may exist to prompt us to withdraw from situations in which there are moral transgressions, so that we will either avoid harm or not miss an opportuinity engage in some potentially more rewarding situation. Moral disgust conserves energy. (Contrast anger, which might prompt us to punish or flight rather than to withdraw.)
 

Does emotion influence moral judgment?

 
\section{Does emotion influence moral judgment?}
 
\section{Does emotion influence moral judgment?}
Question for the essay this week is hard to understand. Hopefully thinking about Huebner et al will help

‘Does emotion influence moral judgment or merely motivate morally relevant action?’

Huebner et al, 2009

Huebner et al, 2009 figure 1 (part)

This is how Sinnott-Armstrong et al (2010) understand the situation ...

Huebner et al, 2009 figure 1 (part)

But an influence of emotion on responses is also thought to be compatible with a range of other options.
For example, Could it be that emotion of disgust influences how the scenario is interpreted?
Perhaps, for example, feelings of disgust make morally relevant features of a situation more salient and this somehow make people more likely to judge an action wrong.
In principle, there is a wide range of ways that disgust and other emotions could influence what people say about the moral wrongness of actions in vignettes ...

Huebner et al, 2009 figure 1

‘these data fail to isolate the precise point at which emotion has a role in our moral psychology. ...

emotional stimuli ... presented before the scenario is read could

... influence the interpretation of the scenario

or the question.

Or, emotion could act as a gain on what has already been conceived as a moral infraction (thereby, increasing the severity of the perceived wrong)’

\citep[pp.~2--3]{huebner:2009_role}.

Huebner et al, 2009 figure 1 (part)

But is what Huebner et al are claiming correct?

Disgust influences unreflective ethical judgement regardless of what you think you are disgusted by.

vs

Disgust associated with specific actions influences unreflective ethical judgements about those actions.

I want to suggest, tentatively, that if this second option is correct, then we should probably not
This belongs on a section about the role of emotion in moral judgement. If disgust influences regardless of what it’s attributed to, then it (a) doesn’t support Sinnott-Armstrong et al (2010)’s view; and (b) opens the way to emotion having only an indirect in influencing judgements role.
Wheras if the converse holds (disgust only matters when apparently invoked by the events in the vignette), this would support a more intimate connection between moral judgement and disgust.

Causing disgust by dipping subjects’ hands in goo doesn’t work.

‘In retrospect, it seems likely that any disgust elicited by the moral dilemmas was likely to be attributed to the feeling of the gooey substance rather than the other way around.’

‘affective influences on judgment can often be eliminated by making salient an irrelevant but plausible cause for the feelings.’

That is, subject’s disgust has to associated with the events described. (Compare aversion following poisoning.)

The heuristic only works when the disgust feeling is perceived as linked to the events, not when there is an alternative salient explanation for it.
I think this greatly strengthens the case: suggests that attributing the feeling of disgust to the episode of thinking about the events in the vignette is what is influencing moral judgements.
Note this doesn’t necessarily require reasons.
‘affective influences on judgment can often be eliminated by making salient an irrelevant but plausible cause for the feelings.
We unwittingly evoked this process in an earlier and failed attempt to carry out these experiments.
As a disgust manipulation, we asked participants to immerse one hand in a gooey substance [...]. Immediately afterward, participants made morality ratings.
This very concrete disgust experience, [...] did not influence moral judgments [...], presumably because the unusual nature of the experience and its obvious relation to disgust remained highly salient as participants made their moral judgments.
In retrospect, it seems likely that any disgust elicited by the moral dilemmas was likely to be attributed to the feeling of the gooey substance rather than the other way around.’
\citep[p.~1106]{schnall:2008_disgust}

Schnall et al, 2008 p. 1106

But should we accept their argument? Here’s the video they used to instill disgust.
In other experiments, they triggered disgust by (i) creating a fart smell, (ii) putting participants in a dirty environment, and (iii) asking them to write about disgusting events in their own lives.
Seems like (i) and (ii) might contrast with (iii) and the video in providing unattributed feelings of disgust.
Why is the video different from dipping hands in goo from the point of view of there being a ‘salient cause’? Is watching someone dip their hands into the shit-filled worst toilet in scotland somehow not a salient cause of disgust?

Causing disgust by dipping subjects’ hands in goo doesn’t work.

‘In retrospect, it seems likely that any disgust elicited by the moral dilemmas was likely to be attributed to the feeling of the gooey substance rather than the other way around.’

‘affective influences on judgment can often be eliminated by making salient an irrelevant but plausible cause for the feelings.’

That is, subject’s disgust has to associated with the events described. (Compare aversion following poisoning.)

Huebner et al, 2009 figure 1 (part)

Disgust influences unreflective ethical judgement regardless of what you think you are disgusted by.

vs

Disgust associated with specific actions influences unreflective ethical judgements about those actions.

So it seems to me that we are unclear on a critical question, one which constrains which causal model we should accept ...
In principle, there is a wide range of ways that disgust and other emotions could influence what people say about the moral wrongness of actions in vignettes ...

Huebner et al, 2009 figure 1

... And for this reason, I think we may have to accept, on the basis of the evidenc we have seen so far, that

‘these data fail to isolate the precise point at which emotion has a role in our moral psychology. ...

Question for the essay this week is hard to understand (and maybe not optimally formulated; I took it from Huebner et al, 2009 but I accept on reflection that the contrast is actually tricky to draw).

Does emotion influence moral judgment or merely motivate morally relevant action?

Just check you understand the question
I want to continue trying to understand the question by introducing a competing view.

Yes! --- Sinnott-Armstrong et al, 2010

No! --- Dwyer, 2009; Mikhail, 2007

 

A Linguistic Analogy

 
\section{A Linguistic Analogy}
 
\section{A Linguistic Analogy}
Earlier we compared ethical and linguistic intuitons ...

unreflective linguistic judgements

[1] He is a waffling fatberg of lies.

[2]* A waffling fatberg lies of he is.

How are these linguistic intuitions explained? Consider one possibility (which is far from the only one) ...

language

linguistic competence involves a special-purpose module

which operates according to linguistic rules

What is a module? This is actually a huge topic in its own right. We might come back to it. For now, see handout.
What are modules? They are ‘the psychological systems whose operations present the world to thought’; they ‘constitute a natural kind’; and there is ‘a cluster of properties that they have in common’ \citep[p.\ 101]{Fodor:1983dg}: \begin{itemize} \item domain specificity (modules deal with ‘eccentric’ bodies of knowledge) \item limited accessibility (representations in modules are not usually inferentially integrated with knowledge) \item information encapsulation (modules are unaffected by general knowledge or representations in other modules) \item innateness (roughly, the information and operations of a module not straightforwardly consequences of learning; but see \citet{Samuels:2004ho}). \end{itemize}

ethics

‘the mind contains a moral grammar: a complex and possibly domain-specific set of rules [...] this system enables individuals to determine the deontic status of an infinite variety of acts and omissions’

Mikhail, 2007 p. 144

\citep[p.~144]{mikhail:2007_universal}
You get the idea!
Researchers who consider various analogies between linguistic and ethical abilities include \citet{roedder:2010_linguistics}, \citet{mikhail:2007_universal}, and \citet{dwyer:2009_moral}.

Note: a the linguistic analogy

There are many possible points of analogy. (See \citet{roedder:2010_linguistics} for a discussion.) Here we are making just one: the idea that there is a distinctive, special-purpose and modular capacity
What evidence might bear on this question.

What evidence might indicate that humans have a language ethics module?

dumbfounding

resistance to revisability

structure implicit in moral intuitions

 

Mikhail’s Insight: Structure and a Linguistic Analogy

 
\section{Mikhail’s Insight: Structure and a Linguistic Analogy}
 
\section{Mikhail’s Insight: Structure and a Linguistic Analogy}
Mikhail’s theoretical argument (reconstruction)

Do humans have a language ethics module?

1. ‘adequately specifying the kinds of harm that humans intuitively grasp requires a technical legal vocabulary’

Compare: ‘ concepts like battery, end, means and side effect [...] can [...] predict human moral intuitions in a huge number and variety of cases’ \citep[p.~149]{mikhail:2007_universal}.

Therefore:

2. The abilities underpinning unreflective ethical judgements must involve analysis in accordance with rules.

Mikhail, 2007

For now we are setting this idea up in opposition with the emotions idea. But actually they are not in opposition at all. Compare nonmoral disgust: it too can be based on a complex analysis of a situation.

Trolley

A runaway trolley is about to run over and kill five people. You can hit a switch that will divert the trolley onto a different set of tracks where it will kill only one.

Is it okay to hit the switch?

Trolley

\emph{Trolley}

A runaway trolley is about to run over and kill five people. You can hit a switch that will divert the trolley onto a different set of tracks where it will kill only one.

Is it okay to hit the switch?

Transplant

\emph{Transplant}

Five people are going to die but you can save them all by cutting up one healthy person and distributing her organs.

Is it ok to cut her up?

Why do people respond differently?

Greene & Haidt, 2002: because they are ‘driven by social-emotional dispositions’ in one case but not the other

Mikhail, 2007; 2014: because one involves purposive battery

But crucially this depends on analysing the structure ...

Mikhail, 2007 figure 1d (part)

(read this from bottom to top)
‘the Transplant and Trolley findings can be partly explained in terms of the distinction between battery as a means and battery as a side effect’ \citep{mikhail:2007_universal}

Mikhail, 2007 figure 1d

Mikhail, 2014 table 2

Mikhail extends his analysis to many further cases where philosophers or cognitive scientists have identifed an apparently inexplicable contrast.

Mikhail’s theses:

The contrasts make sense from a legal point of view,
so there is no need to suppose incompatible ethical principles are applied.

Our intuitions conform to legal distinctions (purposive battery).

Mikhail’s theoretical argument (reconstruction)

Do humans have a language ethics module?

1. ‘adequately specifying the kinds of harm that humans intuitively grasp requires a technical legal vocabulary’

Compare: ‘ concepts like battery, end, means and side effect [...] can [...] predict human moral intuitions in a huge number and variety of cases’ \citep[p.~149]{mikhail:2007_universal}.

Therefore:

2. The abilities underpinning unreflective ethical judgements must involve analysis in accordance with rules.

Mikhail, 2007

So that was an argument for premise 1.
So this was one argument for the claim ...
The important thing for me isn’t whether you find the argument compelling or not. There’s surely much more to say. It’s that the motivating for it gives us a good question, a puzzle even.

puzzle

Why do patterns in humans’ intuitive judgements reflect legal principles they are unaware of?

What evidence might bear on this question.

What evidence might indicate that humans have a language ethics module?

dumbfounding

resistance to revisability

structure implicit in moral intuitions

Question for the essay this week is hard to understand. Hopefully thinking about Huebner et al will help

‘Does emotion influence moral judgment or merely motivate morally relevant action?’

Huebner et al, 2009

Yes! --- Sinnott-Armstrong et al, 2010

No! --- Dwyer, 2009; Mikhail, 2007

Do you understand this second answer. Do you have any quesitons about it.

‘Does emotion influence moral judgment
or merely motivate morally relevant action?’

emotion proponents

Why do patterns in humans’ intuitive judgements reflect legal principles they are unaware of?

linguistic analogy fans

Why do feelings of disgust influence unreflective moral judgements?

And why do we feel disgust in response to moral transgressions?

conclusion

In conclusion, ...

Q: What do adult humans compute that enables their moral intuitions to track moral attributes (such as wrongness)?

Sinnott-Armstrong et al (2010): their emotional responses

Mikhail (2007; 2014): moral attributes themselves

Each view is a response to a different puzzle.

Our task is to develop a theory that can solve the puzzles, is theoretically coherent and empirically motivated, and generates novel testable predictsions.