Seattle Analytic Philosophy Club Message Board › science, intuitions, and ethics

science, intuitions, and ethics

John
user 87563592
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 34
intuition =df some statement seeming to be true
properly basic belief =df a belief that seems true, for which we cannot identify the evidence or support, but nevertheless is formed in a way that typically leads to true belief

(E1) If statements about ethics seem to be true, then they are intuited. (from definition)
(E2) If a statement seems to be true, then it either seems to have evidence or it seems like a properly basic belief. (from definition)
(E3) Some beliefs, called 'improper beliefs', are produced or reinforced through evolution and are neither properly basic nor based in evidence (e.g., some that directly contribute to survival and reproduction, like mistaking shadows for tigers).
(E4) So, if ethical intuitions are produced by the same mechanisms that produce improper beliefs, then ethical intuitions are either evidence based or improper beliefs.
(E5) If ethical intuitions are not properly basic, then they are evidence based. (they seem true, after all)
(E6) Previously held beliefs that are seen to be based in the same mechanisms that produce improper beliefs do not seem true.
(E7) Ethical intuitions seem true.
(E8) So, ethical intuitions are not based in the same mechanisms that produce improper beliefs.

I guess the remaining issue is to see if any neuroscience makes us think that our ethical intuitions are produced by the same mechanisms that produce improper beliefs. If that evidence were compelling enough, it could make my ethical intuition no longer seem true, and thus no longer be whatever intuition it was. It will no longer seem true. That means that it is perfectly consistent to hold the three previously-thought-incompatible claims: (1) ethical beliefs are intuited, (2) some beliefs are produced in neither evidence-based nor proper ways, and (3) all the findings of science can be relevant to what we regard as true ethical statements.
Gene L
user 19640341
Group Organizer
Seattle, WA
Post #: 510
John,

I've posted the handout from the meetup below. I know it doesn't address your post directly but I put it up in case you were interested.

In short, the author of "The Normative Insignificance of Neuroscience" (Berker) does not think that neuroscience plays any role at all in Singer's argument - it is a complete red herring.

The debunking arguments, in general, seem difficult to counter - however, Berker does not think that evolutionary debunking plays much of role in Singer's argument - it is another red herring.

Gene

Trolley Driver Dilemma: “You are at the wheel of a runaway trolley quickly approaching a fork in the tracks. On the tracks extending 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.
Is it appropriate for you to hit the switch in order to avoid the deaths of the five workmen?”

Footbridge Dilemma: “A runaway trolley is heading down the tracks toward five workmen who will be killed if the trolley proceeds on its present course. You are on a footbridge over the tracks, in between the approaching trolley and the five workmen. Next to you on this footbridge is a stranger who happens to be very large. The only way to save the lives of the five workmen is to push this stranger off the bridge and onto the tracks below where his large body will stop the trolley. The stranger will die if you do this, but the five workmen will be saved.
Is it appropriate for you to push the stranger onto the tracks in order to save the five workmen?”

Greene et al.’s Dual-Process Hypothesis: Characteristically deontological judgments are driven by emotional processes, whereas characteristically consequentialist judgments are driven by “cognitive” processes, and these processes compete for one’s overall moral verdict about a given case.

Emotional – fast, frugal, domain-specific
Medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate precuneus, posterior superior temporal sulcus/inferior parietal lobe, VMPC, amygdala

Cogntive – Slow, flexible, domain-neutral (abstract reasoning, working memory, self-control)
Dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, parietal lobe

ME HURT YOU

The “hurt” criterion [= (a)] picks out the most primitive kinds of harmful violations (e.g., assault rather than insider trading) while the “you” criterion [= (b)] ensures that the victim be vividly represented as an individual. Finally, the “me” criterion [= (c)] captures a notion of “agency,” requiring that the action spring in a direct way from the agent’s will, that it be “authored” rather than merely “edited” by the agent.

Three distinctions

(1) dilemmas that engage emotion processing versus dilemmas that engage “cognitive” processing;
(2) dilemmas that elicit deontological judgments versus dilemmas that elicit consequentialist judgments;
(3) personal moral dilemmas versus impersonal moral dilemmas.


Four arguments

The “Emotions Bad, Reasoning Good” Argument:
P. Deontological intuitions are driven by emotions, whereas consequentialist ntuitions involve abstract reasoning.
C. So, deontological intuitions, unlike consequentialist intuitions, do not have any genuine normative force.


The Argument from Heuristics:
P1. Deontological intuitions are driven by emotions, whereas consequentialist intuitions involve abstract reasoning.
P2. In other domains, emotional processes tend to involve fast and frugal (and hence unreliable) heuristics.
C1. So, in the moral domain, the emotional processes that drive deontological intuitions involve fast and frugal (and hence unreliable) heuristics.
C2. So, deontological intuitions, unlike consequentialist intuitions, are unreliable.


The Argument from Evolutionary History:
P. Our emotion-driven deontological intuitions are evolutionary by-products that were adapted to handle an environment we no longer find ourselves in.
C. So, deontological intuitions, unlike consequentialist intuitions, do not have any genuine normative force.


Debunking arguments

Causal premise. S’s belief that p is explained by X
Epistemic premise. X is an off-track process
Therefore S’s belief that p is unjustified

The Argument from Morally Irrelevant Factors:
P1. The emotional processing that gives rise to deontological intuitions responds to factors that make a dilemma personal rather than impersonal.
P2. The factors that make a dilemma personal rather than impersonal are morally irrelevant.
C1. So, the emotional processing that gives rise to deontological intuitions responds to factors that are morally irrelevant.
C2. So, deontological intuitions, unlike consequentialist intuitions, do not have any genuine normative force.

Rational egoism vs universal benevolence

The axiom of rational egoism says that each of us ought to aim at her or his own good on the whole, and the axiom of benevolence or utilitarianism tells us to aim at the good of all.

Intuitions with a high degree of reliability

1. careful reflection leading to a conviction of self-evidence;
2. independent agreement of other careful thinkers; and
3. the absence of a plausible explanation of the intuition as the outcome of an evolutionary or other non-truth-tracking process.
John
user 87563592
Minneapolis, MN
Post #: 38
Thanks Gene, good stuff
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