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## Ethics from Psychology?

I want to approach this topic indirectly ...
First point: we don’t base our understanding of the physical on common-sense.

‘In putting forward an account of light, the first point I want to draw to your attention is that it is possible for there to be a difference between the sensation that we have of it, that is, the idea that we form of it in our imagination through the intermediary of our eyes, and what it is in the objects that produces the sensation in us, that is, what it is in the flame or in the Sun that we term ‘light’

\citep[][p. 81 (AT XI:3)]{descartes:1998_world}

Descartes, The World (AT 3)

This quote is quite complex. Let's try to simplify. (Do this when quoting in your own work.)
Note that this is Descartes’ starting point (in an early work that was never published because of fear of religious repression.)
Further illustration (not from The World). Descartes’ explanation of why the rainbow is a bow. Relevant because of the gap between sensory perception and the things which cause it. And shows Descartes examines sensory perceptions.

sensory perceptions
do not reveal
the natures of physical phenomena

\section{Perceiving Impetus}

representational momentum

Sometimes when adult humans observe a moving object that disappears, they will misremember the location of its disappearance in way that reflects its momentum; this effect is called \emph{representational momentum} \citep{freyd:1984_representational,hubbard:2010_rm}.
The trajectories implied by representational momentum reveal that the effect reflects impetus mechanics rather than Newtonian principles \citep{freyd:1994_representational,kozhevnikov:2001_impetus,hubbard:2001_representational,hubbard:2013_launching}. And these trajectories are independent of subjects' scientific knowledge \citep{freyd:1994_representational,kozhevnikov:2001_impetus}. Representational momentum therefore reflects judgement-independent expectations about objects’ movements which track momentum in accordance with a principle of impetus.% \footnote{ Note that momentum is only one of several factors which may influence mistakes about the location at which a moving object disappears \citep[p.\ 842]{hubbard:2005_representational}. %: %\begin{quote} %The empirical evidence is clear that (1) displacement does not always correspond to predictions based on physical principles and (2) variables unrelated to physical principles (e.g., the presence of landmarks, target identity, or expectations regarding a change in target direction) can influence displacement.' % %... % %information based on a naive understanding of physical principles or on subjective consequences of physical principles appears to be just one of many types of information that could potentially contribute to the displacement of any given target' %\end{quote} }

Hubbard 2005, figure 1a; redrawn from Freyd and Finke 1984, figure 1

Hubbard 2005, figure 1b; drawn from Freyd and Finke 1984, table 1

\textbf{Representational momentum suggests that there are automatic processes which predict the future trajectories of physical objects.}

Kozhevnikov & Hegarty (2001, figure 1)

Fix shape and density. How would increasing the object’s size affect how quickly it decelerates when launched vertically? Impetus: larger size entails greater deceleration (so slower ascent). Newtonian: larger size entails lower deceleration (so faster ascent) if considering air resistance; otherwise size makes no difference.

simplified from Kozhevnikov & Hegarty (2001)

simplified from Kozhevnikov & Hegarty (2001)

But even more convincingly, the prediction generated by Kozhevnikov and Heggarty’s conjecture about the computational description of the system underpinning representational momentum has been directly confirmed.
So while not decisive, I take this to be strong evidence for a \textbf{vertical distinction} between two systems for physical cognition.
 content process impetus fast Newtonian slow
They were let to a conjecture about the computational description by reflection on the fact that \textbf{any broadly inferrential process must make a trade-off between speed and accuracy}.

To extrapolate objects’ motion on the basis of [e.g. Newtonian] physical principles, one should have assessed and evaluated the presence and magnitude of such imperceptible forces as friction and air resistance ... This would require a time-consuming analysis that is not always possible.

‘In order to have a survival advantage, the process of extrapolation should be fast and effortless, without much conscious deliberation.

Impetus theory allows us to extrapolate objects’ motion quickly and without large demands on attentional resources.’

Kozhevnikov and Heggarty (2001, p. 450)

Perceptual processes, like all cognitive processes, involve speed-accuracy trade-offs.

To trade accuracy for gains in speed, use a simpler model.

Being uncritically guided by perceptual processes would limit us to Aristotelian theories of the physical.

To make discoveries about the physical, go beyond the Aristotelian project.
Can you imagine an analogous claim about ethics? analogy: perceptual-physical vs moral abilities-ethical

ethics?

You might think that here, at least, science must be irrelevant, but not according to Greene (among others) ...
One standard in ethics: Rawls’ reflective equilbrium idea (which is deeply Aristotelian)
‘one may think of moral theory at first [...] as the attempt to describe our moral capacity [...] what is required is a formulation of a set of principles which, when conjoined to our beliefs and knowledge of the circumstances, would lead us to make these judgments with their supporting reasons were we to apply these principles conscientiously and intelligently’ \citep[p.~41]{rawls:1999_theory}; see \citet{singer:1974_sidgwick} for critical discussion.

‘one may think of physical moral theory at first [...]
as the attempt to describe our moralperceptual capacity

Interesting: seems like Rawls’ project requires the methods of psychology (and is moral psychology)

[...]

what is required is

a formulation of a set of principles which,

when conjoined to our beliefs and knowledge of the circumstances,

would lead us to make these judgments with their supporting reasons

were we to apply these principles’

Rawls, 1999 p. 41

‘Advances in our understanding of [moral psychology] do not themselves directly imply any normative conclusions, but they undermine some conceptions of doing ethics which themselves have normative conclusions. Those conceptions of ethics tend to be too respectful of our intuitions. Our better understanding of ethics gives us grounds for being less respectful of them’

\citep[p.~349]{singer:2005_ethics}.

Singer, 2005, p. 349

‘Science can advance ethics by revealing the hidden inner workings of our moral judgments, especially the ones we make intuitively. Once those inner workings are revealed we may have less confidence in some of [...] the ethical theories that are explicitly or implicitly based on them’

Greene, 2014 pp. 695--6

Aim is to understand and evaluate this claim. Start with a puzzle ...

Thanks for the background, but is there an argument?

Preview

1. There is a puzzle about apparently inconsistent patterns in judgement (switch-drop).

2. We can solve the puzzle by invoking a dual-process theory ...

2.a ... where one process is faster; and

2.b the faster process is affective and

2.c less consequentialist.

3. The faster process is unlikely to be reliable in unfamiliar* situations.

4. Therefore, we should rely less on the faster (and less consequentialist) process in unfamiliar* situations.

Switch

Vicki [...] notices an empty boxcar rolling out of control. [...] anyone it hits will die. [...] If Vicki does nothing, the boxcar will hit the five people on the main track [...] If Vicki flips a switch next to her, it will divert the boxcar to the side track where it will hit the one person [...]

Flipping the switch is: [1:2:3:4:5:6:7]:[extremely morally good:::neither good nor bad:::extremely morally bad]

Switch

\emph{Switch}

Vicki [...] notices an empty boxcar rolling out of control. [...] anyone it hits will die. [...] If Vicki does nothing, the boxcar will hit the five people on the main track [...] If Vicki flips a switch next to her, it will divert the boxcar to the side track where it will hit the one person [...]

Flipping the switch is: [extremely morally good:::neither good nor bad:::extremely morally bad]

Drop

\emph{Drop}

Mary [...] notices an empty boxcar rolling out of control. [...] anyone it hits will die. [...] If Mary does nothing, the boxcar will hit the five people on the track. If Mary pulls a lever it will release the bottom of the footbridge and [...] one person will fall onto the track, where the boxcar will hit the one person, slow down because of the one person, and not hit the five people farther down the track.

Pulling the lever is: [extremely morally good:::neither good nor bad:::extremely morally bad]

puzzle

[switch-drop] Why do people tend to respond differently in Switch and Drop?

To solve the puzzle we have to think about the role of emotion in unreflective moral judgements ...

Schwitzgebel & Cushman, 2015 figure 2 (part)

order effects. \citep[figure~2 (part)]{schwitzgebel:2015_philosophers}
Order effects block things like appeal to doctrine of double effect.

puzzle

[switch-drop] Why do people tend to respond differently in Switch and Drop? (And why are there order effects?)

Preview

1. There is a puzzle about apparently inconsistent patterns in judgement (switch-drop).

2. We can solve the puzzle by invoking a dual-process theory ...

2.a ... where one process is faster; and

2.b the faster process is affective and

2.c less consequentialist.

3. The faster process is unlikely to be reliable in unfamiliar* situations.

4. Therefore, we should rely less on the faster (and less consequentialist) process in unfamiliar* situations.

Order effects block things like appeal to doctrine of double effect.

puzzle

[switch-drop] Why do people tend to respond differently in Switch and Drop? (And why are there order effects?)

Preview

1. There is a puzzle about apparently inconsistent patterns in judgement (switch-drop).

2. We can solve the puzzle by invoking a dual-process theory ...

2.a ... where one process is faster; and

2.b the faster process is affective and

2.c less consequentialist.

3. The faster process is unlikely to be reliable in unfamiliar* situations.

4. Therefore, we should rely less on the faster (and less consequentialist) process in unfamiliar* situations.

The answer involves a dual process theory ...
So this is our dual process theory of ethical abilities.

Dual Process Theory of Ethical Abilities (core part)

Two (or more) ethical processes are distinct:
the conditions which influence whether they occur,
and which outputs they generate,
do not completely overlap.

[Aside : camera analogy]

‘it’s worth highlighting three ways in which the camera analogy may mislead’

\citep[p.~698]{greene:2014_pointandshoot}

Greene, 2014 p. 698

I.e. this is a misleading analogy for a dual process theory (and entirely unhelpful, I think).

‘The Central Tension Principle:

Characteristically deontological judgments are preferentially supported by automatic emotional responses processes, while characteristically consequentialist judgments are preferentially supported by conscious reasoning and allied processes of cognitive control’

\citep[p.~699]{greene:2014_pointandshoot}

Greene, 2014 p. 699

This is sloppy

Compare: characteristically Impetus judgements are supported by faster* processes while characteristically Newtonian responses are supported by slower* processes.

 content process deontological fast consequential slow impetus fast Newtonian slow

Dual Process Theory of Ethical Abilities (core part)

Two (or more) ethical processes are distinct:
the conditions which influence whether they occur,
and which outputs they generate,
do not completely overlap.

One process is faster

[The faster process is affective]

Claim that faster process is affective is not strictly necessary.

The faster process is less consequentialist

Which of these additional assumptions are supported by evidence?

Preview

1. There is a puzzle about apparently inconsistent patterns in judgement (switch-drop).

2. We can solve the puzzle by invoking a dual-process theory ...

2.a ... where one process is faster; and

2.b the faster process is affective and

2.c less consequentialist.

3. The faster process is unlikely to be reliable in unfamiliar* situations.

4. Therefore, we should rely less on the faster (and less consequentialist) process in unfamiliar* situations.

They were let to a conjecture about the computational description by reflection on the fact that \textbf{any broadly inferrential process must make a trade-off between speed and accuracy}.

To extrapolate objects’ motion on the basis of [e.g. Newtonian] physical principles, one should have assessed and evaluated the presence and magnitude of such imperceptible forces as friction and air resistance ... This would require a time-consuming analysis that is not always possible.

‘In order to have a survival advantage, the process of extrapolation should be fast and effortless, without much conscious deliberation.

Impetus theory allows us to extrapolate objects’ motion quickly and without large demands on attentional resources.’

Kozhevnikov and Heggarty (2001, p. 450)

‘Direct Route’

Ought we to condemn incest?

Why do we condemn incest?

Ought we to rely rely on such emotional responses in cases in which there is no special concern about genetic diseases?

Greene, 2014

Is this a convincing argument against condemning incest? Should it work irrespective of culture?

‘Indirect Route’

Background

‘A dominant theme in normative ethics for the past century or more has been the debate between those who support a systematic normative ethical theory---utilitarianism and other forms of consequentialism have been the leading contenders---and those who ground their normative ethics on [...] intuitions

\citep[p.~343]{singer:2005_ethics}.

‘the chief weapons of opponents of utilitarianism have been examples intended to show that the dictates of utilitarianism clash with moral intuitions that we all share

\citep[p.~343]{singer:2005_ethics}.

Singer, 2005 p. 343

‘genetic transmission, cultural transmission, and learning from personal experience [...] are the only mechanisms known to endow [...] automatic [...] processes with the information they need to function well’

\citep[p.~714]{greene:2014_pointandshoot}

Greene 2014, p. 714

unfamiliar* problems = ‘ones with which we have inadequate evolutionary, cultural, or personal experience’

‘it would be a cognitive miracle if we had reliably good moral instincts about unfamiliar* moral problems’

Greene, 2014 p. 715

Not whether the principle is CORRECT, but whether you understand it and the case for it.

‘The No Cognitive Miracles Principle:

When we are dealing with unfamiliar* moral problems, we ought to rely less on [...] automatic emotional responses and more on [...] conscious, controlled reasoning, lest we bank on cognitive miracles.’

Greene, 2014 p. 715

Preview

1. There is a puzzle about apparently inconsistent patterns in judgement (switch-drop).

2. We can solve the puzzle by invoking a dual-process theory ...

2.a ... where one process is faster; and

2.b the faster process is affective and

2.c less consequentialist.

3. The faster process is unlikely to be reliable in unfamiliar* situations.

4. Therefore, we should rely less on the faster (and less consequentialist) process in unfamiliar* situations.

Switch

Vicki [...] notices an empty boxcar rolling out of control. [...] anyone it hits will die. [...] If Vicki does nothing, the boxcar will hit the five people on the main track [...] If Vicki flips a switch next to her, it will divert the boxcar to the side track where it will hit the one person [...]

Flipping the switch is: [extremely morally good:::neither good nor bad:::extremely morally bad]

Drop

Mary [...] notices an empty boxcar rolling out of control. [...] anyone it hits will die. [...] If Mary does nothing, the boxcar will hit the five people on the track. If Mary pulls a lever it will release the bottom of the footbridge and [...] one person will fall onto the track, where the boxcar will hit the one person, slow down because of the one person, and not hit the five people farther down the track.

Pulling the lever is: [extremely morally good:::neither good nor bad:::extremely morally bad]

‘I strongly suspect that [Drop] is unfamiliar*, a bizarre case in which an act of personal violence against an innocent person is the one and only way to promote a much greater good.’

Greene, 2014 p. 716

Why is drop unfamiliar?

Preview = reconstruction of Greene

1. There is a puzzle about apparently inconsistent patterns in judgement (switch-drop).

2. We can solve the puzzle by invoking a dual-process theory ...

2.a ... where one process is faster; and

2.b the faster process is affective and

2.c less consequentialist.

3. The faster process is unlikely to be reliable in unfamiliar* situations.

4. Therefore, we should rely less on the faster (and less consequentialist) process in unfamiliar* situations.

conclusion

In conclusion, ...

Perceptual processes, like all cognitive processes, involve speed-accuracy trade-offs.

Being uncritically guided by perceptual processes would limit us to Aristotelian theories of the physical.

While I suspect Greene is wrong on almost every detail, I think something similar is true in the ethical case.
Of course we should also consider other analogies, e.g. communicative abilities.