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Singer’s Version

Stragegy: Singer’s Choice

‘We can take the view that our moral intuitions and judgments are and always will be emotionally based intuitive responses, and reason can do no more than build the best possible case for a decision already made on nonrational grounds. That approach leads to a form of moral skepticism, although one still compatible with advocating our emotionally based moral values and encouraging clear thinking about them. Alternatively, we might attempt the ambitious task of separating those moral judgments that we owe to our evolutionary and cultural history, from those that have a rational basis’ \citep[p.~351]{singer:2005_ethics}.

‘We can take the view that our moral intuitions and judgments are and always will be emotionally based intuitive responses, and reason can do no more than build the best possible case for a decision already made on nonrational grounds.

‘Alternatively, we might attempt the ambitious task of separating those moral judgments that we owe to our evolutionary and cultural history, from those that have a rational basis

Singer, 2005 p. 351

What kind of rational basis could there be for moral judgements?

Background: Personal contact influences ethical judgements.

E.g. Feltz & May, 2017’s meta-analysis

Contrast situations which are as similar as possible except that:

(a) means vs side-effect

--- harm is framed as a means to doing something or as a side-effect (or ‘byproduct’);

and in some, but not all cases,

(b) personal contact vs personal distance

--- the ‘means’ situation involves the use of personal or bodily contact (e.g. pushing or bumping)

\citep{feltz:2017_means} contrast studies on means/byproduct effect which do, and which do not, involve ‘the use of personal or bodily contact (e.g. pushing or bumping) in the means condition but not in the byproduct condition’. They find that the effect is significantly larger when personal or bodily contact is also a contrasting factor.
‘A mixed-model analysis using contact/no contact as the moderator variable indicated that this moderator accounted for a significant amount of the variation in effect sizes: Qm (df = 1) = 18.04, p < 0.001. More specifically, the mean effect size was sig- nificant when contact was involved (standardized mean change = 0.71, 95% CI 0.59–0.83 z = 11.5, p < 0.001), but was sub- stantially less (about a third the size) when contact was absent (standardized mean change = 0.24, 95% CI 0.05–0.42, z = 2.53, p = 0.01).’

Singer’s version

‘If [...]

our intuitive responses are due to differences in

the emotional pull of situations that involve bringing about someone’s death in a close-up, personal way,

and bringing about the same person’s death in a way that is at a distance, and less personal,

why should we believe that there is anything that justifies these responses?’

\citep[p.~347]{singer:2005_ethics}.

Singer, 2005, p. 347

Obs 1, this depends on close-up vs distant (which doesn’t explain everything)
Obs 2, the argument here is about justification. (Contrast Greene, which is about reliability)

Could scientific discoveries undermine, or support, ethical principles?

How does Singer’s argument relate to the question?

Against Consequentialism

Many spontaneously judge that we should not Drop.

Consequentialism* implies we should Drop.

Therefore:

Consequentialism* is wrong.

Let’s see why Singer rejects this.

Singer (reconstruction)

Varying Drop to make it more or less up-close and personal varies how people spontaneously judge Drop.

Whether it’s up-close is morally irrelevant.

Therefore:

Spontaneous judgements in Drop are sensitive to morally irrelevant factors.

Therefore:

Spontaneous judgements in Drop are unreliable.

Explain. And note that Greene’s argument doesn’t depend on moral relavance.