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A Language Analogy: Dwyer’s Argument

‘linguistics--a domain in which ordinary human beings are also famously dumbfounded.’

\citep[p.~279]{dwyer:2009_moral}

Dwyer 2009, p. 279

‘Moral Dumbfounding suggests two desiderata for an adequate account of moral judgment; namely, it: \begin{quote} (a) must not entail what is patently false, namely, that such judgments are the conclusions of explicitly represented syllogisms, one or more premises of which are moral principles, that ordinary folk can articulate, and (b) must accommodate subjects’ grasp of the structure of the scenes they evaluate.’ \end{quote} ‘The Linguistic Analogy, which [... holds that [ethical] judgments are reflective of the structure of the Moral Faculty, satisfies these desiderata’ \citep[p.~294]{dwyer:2009_moral}.

‘Moral Dumbfounding suggests two desiderata for an adequate account of moral judgment; namely, it:

(a) must not entail what is patently false, namely, that such judgments are the conclusions of explicitly represented syllogisms, one or more premises of which are moral principles, that ordinary folk can articulate, and

(b) must accommodate subjects’ grasp of the structure of the scenes they evaluate.’

‘The Linguistic Analogy, which [... holds that [ethical] judgments are reflective of the structure of the Moral Faculty, satisfies these desiderata.’

Dwyer 2009, p. 294

This seems not to follow from dumbfounding at all, but from reflection on patterns of judgement (see the discussion of Mikhail from the last lecture).
go back to the evidence on dumbfounding ...

How well does the evidence support Dwyer’s position?

(Never trust a philospoher!)

Complication: Dwyer cites ‘Haidt’s (2001) study’ but this is actually a review paper.

Dwyer probably intends to refer to Haidt et al, 2000.

From the abstract:

‘It was hypothesized that participants’ judgments

would be highly consistent with their reasoning on the moral reasoning dilemma, but that

judgment would separate from reason and follow intuition in the other four tasks.’

So far this is consistent with Dwyer’s view, but ...
Why other?
This part does not appear to be consistent with her view at all. It implies we are back to the dual process view after all.
NB: Dwyer is explicitly attacking the dual process view!
Key Disanalogy with language: ethical reasoning seems important for exercising some ethical abilities
[topic: moral reasoning. Hindriks 2015?]

‘Moral Dumbfounding suggests two desiderata for an adequate account of moral judgment; namely, it:

(a) must not entail what is patently false, namely, that such judgments are the conclusions of explicitly represented syllogisms, one or more premises of which are moral principles, that ordinary folk can articulate, and

(b) must accommodate subjects’ grasp of the structure of the scenes they evaluate.’

‘The Linguistic Analogy, which [... holds that [ethical] judgments are reflective of the structure of the Moral Faculty, satisfies these desiderata.’

Dwyer 2009, p. 294

?

Am I reading too much into the Heinz findings?
What is the role of reasoning in moral judgement? Some appear to have suggested that moral reasoning merely serves to confirm prior intuitions, special cases aside \citep{greene:2007_secret,haidt:2001_emotional}.\footnote{Although in fact Haidt’s view is more interesting. Compare \citet[p.~181]{haidt:2008_social} ‘Moral discussion is a kind of distributed reasoning, and moral claims and justifications have important effects on individuals and societies’; yet they go on to write that ‘moral reasoning is an effortful process (as opposed to an automatic process), usually engaged in after a moral judgment is made, in which a person searches for arguments that will support an already-made judgment’ \citet[p.~189]{haidt:2008_social}.} Opposing these views, \citet{hindriks:2015_how} argues that in ordinary cases of moral disengagement, moral reasoning provides anticipatory rationalization.

post-hoc rationalization

Moral reasoning merely serves to confirm prior intuitions, in nearly all cases (Haidt; Greene)

Some theorists have proposed that oral reasoning merely serves to confirm prior intuitions, in nearly all cases (Haidt; Greene). If they are right, then Dwyer’s suggestion that moral judgements are not consequences of explicit reasoning involving known principles appears sound. However ...

ante hoc reasoning

In ordinary cases of moral disengagement, moral reasoning provides anticipatory rationalization (Hendriks, 2015)

‘Moral disengagement occurs in situations in which someone is tempted to flout his own moral standards, and thereby to frustrate his desire to maintain self-consistency’ \citep[p.~243]{hindriks:2015_how}.

moral dumbfounding does not decide this issue

Importantly for us, moral dumbfounding does not decide this issue. So Dwyer may be right to hold that moral judgements are not consequences of explicit reasoning involving known principles appears sound. But she is wrong to think this is a consequence of moral dumbfounding.

‘Moral Dumbfounding suggests two desiderata for an adequate account of moral judgment; namely, it:

(a) must not entail what is patently false, namely, that such judgments are the conclusions of explicitly represented syllogisms, one or more premises of which are moral principles, that ordinary folk can articulate, and

(b) must accommodate subjects’ grasp of the structure of the scenes they evaluate.’

‘The Linguistic Analogy, which [... holds that [ethical] judgments are reflective of the structure of the Moral Faculty, satisfies these desiderata.’

Dwyer 2009, p. 294

?

The question was whether I am reading too much into Heinz.
Moral dumbfounding does not suggest this!
So where does this leave the linguistic analogy?

What does moral dumbfounding actually show?

My view.

Moral dumbfounding shows that some ethical judgements are not consequences of reasoning from known principles

Other phenomena (e.g. moral disengagement) indicate that some ethical judgements are consequences of reasoning from known principles

‘Moral Dumbfounding suggests two desiderata for an adequate account of moral judgment; namely, it:

(a) must not entail what is patently false, namely, that such judgments are the conclusions of explicitly represented syllogisms, one or more premises of which are moral principles, that ordinary folk can articulate, and

(b) must accommodate subjects’ grasp of the structure of the scenes they evaluate.’

‘The Linguistic Analogy, which [... holds that [ethical] judgments are reflective of the structure of the Moral Faculty, satisfies these desiderata.’

Dwyer 2009, p. 294

I was asking where does this leave the linguistic analogy? My sense is that it leaves the Linguistic Analogy in a bad place. The linguistic analogy, as Dwyer construes it, seems in conflict with the point that some ethical judgements are consequences of reasoning from known principles.
How do I know? Because Dwyer says is ‘satisfies the desiderata’ of not entailing that ethical judgements are consequences of known principles. (Admittedly there is a quantifier ambiguity in this statement.)
quantifier ambiguity: All? or Any?
What evidence might bear on this question.

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

dumbfounding

resistance to revisability

structure

People say this is evidence for the Linguistic Analogy, the idea that there is a moral module. But dumbfounding involves contrasting Heniz with Incest/Dog, and this contrast seems to me to actually be a reason against accepting the Linguistic Analogy.
Let me say that again. Properly understood (in terms of the source everyone cites, Haidt et al 2000 unpublished), moral dumbfounding provides reason against accepting the Linguistic Analogy.
There’s a nice summary of further issues concerning the prospects for a linguistic analogy to consider in your handout.
Further reading (not covered in lectures): ‘the issues [a linguictic] analogy raises for moral theory are (1) whether the useful unit of analysis for moral theory is an individual’s I-grammar, in contrast, for example, with the moral conventions of a group; (2) whether and how such a moral grammar might associate structural descriptions of actions, situations, etc. with normative assessments; (3) whether and how the rules of such a moral grammar might involve recursive embedding of normative assessments; and (4) whether it is useful to distinguish moral ‘competence’ from moral ‘performance,’ using these terms in the technical senses employed in linguistic theory’ \citep[p.~283]{roedder:2010_linguistics}.
\citet{dupoux:2007_universal} provide further objections to the Linguistic Analogy. \citet{dwyer:2008_dupoux} reply, and \citet{dupoux:2008_response} reply to the reply.
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 are ethical judgements sometimes, but not always, a consequence of reasoning from known principles?