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Bloggingheads
02-16-2008, 04:17 AM

nojp
02-16-2008, 09:53 AM
Although my Philosopher is Kidneystones

It seems most of the moral examples were evidence of a lack of critical thinking rather than any innate morale philosophical human tendency.

Great Subject

Bloggin' Noggin
02-16-2008, 09:56 AM
You can skip past this section http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/8796?in=00:18:56&out=22:30 where you can't hear Josh or see Josh. The diavloggers do come back to the issues John raises after the technical problems.

Also, the link to Josh's paper on mind and moral cognition seems not to be working for me -- I googled it and again couldn't get it, so apparently UNC is at fault there. I hope they'll fix that.

I'm still watching, so I'll come back later with something more substantive to say later.

Many thanks to BloggingHeads for having another philosopher on!

Simon Willard
02-16-2008, 10:43 AM
For those who wonder about the very existence of Joshua's chosen field of inquiry, here is a time-saving summary:
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/8796?in=00:22:12&out=00:22:24

ohcomeon
02-16-2008, 11:05 AM
The sound is terrible but the subjects are fascinating. I really enjoyed Prof. Knobe and I hope he returns soon. BTW, I thought it was hilarious when Mr. Knobe pointed out the strangeness of rejecting a scientific hypothesis on the basis that it might have bad moral implications. Mr. Horgan goes on to say that this hypothesis is too much like theology. Wouldn't rejecting a scientific hypothesis on the basis of moral implications be like a theology?

Simon Willard
02-16-2008, 01:08 PM
Josh's experiments are interesting, but difficult to interpret when they depend on the slipperiness of language. Before we accept that Josh has constructed a controlled experiment in philosophy, we have to examine to what extent the experiment relies on the reproducibility of word meanings.

Take the "Lottery/Dr. Evil" experiment. I know people who play the lottery in the full (and justified) expectation of losing. It's not simply an effort to win the jackpot. It is a form of entertainment, which provides some value for the $1, even in failure. Dr. Wright, we assume, feels more urgency about winning out against Dr. Evil, and we project the difference in intensity of feeling onto the word "intend". If "intend" has a different meaning in the two cases, this breaks the beautiful symmetry that Josh tries to construct.

In the "Harm/Help the Environment" experiment, the chairman is confronted, in one case, with what appears to be a balance of good and ill. In the other case there seems to be no choice to be made. The lack of choice again colors the meaning of the word "intend", breaking the symmetry claimed between the two experiments.

Eastwest
02-16-2008, 01:38 PM
Fascinating and delightful discussion which performs a ground-breaking service for all of humanity: placing both science and philosophy in proper perspective as deeply amusing excursions of the unenlightened mind, sort of like big games of "Pin the Tail on the Donkey" where the guys in the labcoats party down with the fellows in tweed, the only entry requirement being some sheepskin you got somewhere.

My favorite highlight:

Robert Wright Defeats Dr. Evil. (http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/8796?in=00:30:15&out=00:31:18)

EW

PS: John brings up the inflationary single-big-bang cul-de-sac and Steinhardt's dissatisfaction with it. Why not do an hour on that conroversy?

Bloggin' Noggin
02-16-2008, 01:41 PM
http://bloggingheads.tv/diavlogs/8796?in=01:01:52&out=1:02:14

I think that remark, understood as the outcome of this wonderful philosophy experiment is actually a bit silly. OF COURSE people are pulled in different directions by free will: it is a paradox, we believe three seemingly incompatible things (determinism is true; responsibility and determinism are incompatible and that we have free will), now what do you do about that? THAT is the philosophical problem of free will. How does it help in the least to be told that maybe philosophers have been torn between rejecting one or another of these assumptions and that for some, one intuition wins out and for others another intuition wins out? You could describe scientific debates in a similar way. Josh is just describing THE PROBLEM of free will as though it were some grand result.

I suspect that Josh is assuming that "abstract reasoning" is right and our reactions to particular cases just bring in some kind of instinctual reaction that we should discount. But one could equally argue that most people aren't very good at abstract thought, and even those who are do much better when they try to tie themselves down by reflecting on concrete cases rather than letting their minds wander off into the Platonic Heaven of absolute abstraction. From what I've seen of Experimental Philosophers (and what I've read in Appiah's book _Experimental Ethics_, which I recomend), there is often a kind of tendentious tendency among them to assume that the "obvious" result of "Abstract Thinking" is always right and that a more concrete and emotional kind of thought is always to be easily dismissed as distortion.

I see experimental philosophy generally as attempting to change the subject from a first-person inquiry to a third person inquiry. If you are a newspaper reporter, you settle the issue of innocence or guilt of an accused person by reporting what a jury of 12 people decides. In effect, for you as a reporter, the issue can be resolved by polling 12 people. But now suppose you are on that jury. You can't all ask each other what to think or find some other jury to tell you whether the guy is innocent. The decision comes down to the considerations that tend to make you think he is guilty and the considerations that tend to exonerate him. That's the first person decision.

There used to be a school of philosophy called "ordinary language philosophy" which attempted to change the personal puzzlement of philosophical problems into a more tractable third person question. The approach was to appeal to what we (the linguistic community) would ordinarily SAY about freedom or responsibility or whatever, and from this derive fairly large philosophical conclusions. This approach usually rested on the particular linguistic intuitions of the philosopher and his clique, and in this way was significantly inferior to Josh's experimental approach. But Josh's approach (as far as I'm aware of it -- the 1st two links don't work) seems very much like an empirically more adequate version of ordinary language philosophy.

One problem with ordinary language philosophy as I've already mentioned is that it seems to evade the real philosophical problem (which is a 1st person problem about how to reconcile incompatible beliefs all of which I appear to hold) by changing the subject to talk other people. It's a cop-out like the cop-out of resting your own jury vote on a poll of what the other jurors think.
Of course, there's nothing wrong with trying to get a better empirical handle on these questions -- it's only a cop-out if you take it as actually resolving the philosophical question or if you just never make it back to your arm chair to decide what you yourself actually believe and whether you can reconcile those beliefs with one another.

The main thing that killed ordinary language philosophy, though, was Grice's paper on conversational implicature. Grice pointed out that what we SAY is governed not only by the meanings of sentences (conceived of as derived from the interesting concepts we were contemplating), but also from the assumption that conversation is a rational goal-directed behavior. "Do you have a watch?" doesn't MEAN "can you tell me the time?" But, assuming that someone would not ask a purely idle question, we divine that the other person wants the time. Ordinary language philosophy had not taken account of this extra ingredient in what we ordinarily say -- it had gone from ordinary speech directly to meaning and from there directly to inferences about philosophically interesting concepts.
As I see it, Josh's study about people's use of the word "intentionally" might well suffer from something very similar to this Gricean problem. It's certainly plausible that good environmental consequences must be as intentional as the bad environmental consequences, if our concern is simply truth. But, given conversational implicature, it will SOUND ODD and seem to imply more than we mean if we say that the CEO intended the good consequences. If we add the word "intentionally" in that case, we will seem to mean to praise the CEO, when we recognize that he isn't particularly worthy of praise. That doesn't show that people are using an inconsistent notion of intention. They may just be trying to avoid saying true things that would seem to imply something they don't believe.

I'd love to see Josh come back some time. Maybe he could have a conversation with Kwame Anthony Appiah next time!
(By the way, here's a link to Appiah's book: Experimental Ethics (http://www.amazon.com/Experiments-Ethics-Flexner-Lecture-College/dp/0674026098/ref=pd_bbs_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1203187496&sr=8-2).

del
02-16-2008, 03:01 PM
hi all,

i'd tend to agree with josh that it's arguable that what you yourself decide "once you get back to your armchair" is relatively trivial, masturbatory, etc., but i think a "20th century" ethicist like peter singer would make a slightly different argument -- namely, everybody or 90% of everybody could be objectively/categorically wrong about fundamental issues like world hunger and/or animal rights . . . my two cents is that it's really only once you get to an ethical issue like animal rights that moves beyond humans that you can make a strong argument for rejecting global majoritarian intuitions when and if they exist (indeed they do exist vis a vis the idea that world hunger is bad, but not vis a vis the idea that, say, heterosexism is bad). i'm willing to then take the next step and say "given people's extant intuitions, we could do more good for more people by worrying about world hunger than about world heterosexism) but understandably there are a lot of people who want to reject that sort of argument entirely. (i should also say that my own familiarity is with cross-national /survey/ research rather than experiments.)

del

Wonderment
02-16-2008, 03:45 PM
. BTW, I thought it was hilarious when Mr. Knobe pointed out the strangeness of rejecting a scientific hypothesis on the basis that it might have bad moral implications. Mr. Horgan goes on to say that this hypothesis is too much like theology. Wouldn't rejecting a scientific hypothesis on the basis of moral implications be like a theology?

I don't think the irony of John's position was lost on either of them. But, at the end of the day I share John's concerns, especially given his long experience of interacting with many very smart people devoting their "big brains" to how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

Not that John and Josh's positions are mutually exclusive. John and Josh could -- and I'll bet do -- have a healthy skepticism about abstract philosophical "solutions" providing reasons to ignore or dismiss issues of a more worldly nature, like human rights. But they both could be -- and I believe are -- suspicious of people who would close their minds to philosophical insight in order to preserve a belief.

I liked Josh's admission that the more he contemplates the issues the less certain he becomes of things.

R. Mirman
02-16-2008, 04:05 PM
The problem with free will is that it has more than one meaning, and these are confused. That is why it is a major philosophical problem. For discussion of what it means see
Our Almost Impossible Universe: Why the laws of nature make the existence of humans extraordinarily unlikely (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2006)

ohcomeon
02-16-2008, 04:48 PM
I like that admission, too. And I agree Mr. Horgan has a point about spending too much brain power on these untestable and unknowable questions. The whole exchage was full of self contridiction - yet delightful.

bjkeefe
02-16-2008, 05:07 PM
The problem with free will is that it has more than one meaning, and these are confused. That is why it is a major philosophical problem. For discussion of what it means see
Our Almost Impossible Universe: Why the laws of nature make the existence of humans extraordinarily unlikely (Lincoln, NE: iUniverse, Inc., 2006)

For discussion of what R. Mirman's book means, see here (http://www.amazon.com/review/product/0595378412/ref=dp_top_cm_cr_acr_txt/103-5645936-9084633?%5Fencoding=UTF8&showViewpoints=1).

Me&theboys
02-16-2008, 05:09 PM
I think the most fascinating, if rather discouraging, aspect of the harm/good study is not that we assign blame for collateral and avoidable damage, but that we withhold credit for collateral and unintended good. I’d be interested to see the non-zero-sum adherents’ explanation for such behavior. We’re a parsimonious lot. And given the talent our species has for deceiving others and ourselves as to our intentions, associated with the high cost back in the day of getting one’s assessment of another hunter/gatherer’s intentions wrong, it should surprise few that the bar for awarding credit is much higher than that for assigning blame. Better to err on the side of caution was surely the motto of our ancestors. I don't think experimental philosophy told us anything here we did not already know though studies in evolutionary psychology and behavioral economics.

I am inclined to believe that we should use the same standard, whatever it may be, for awarding credit and assigning blame. To do otherwise strikes me as somehow hypocritical. There is something about the desire to withhold credit from someone who causes a collateral good consequence that is just not admirable. We should reward good whenever we find it, however unintended it may be.

I am curious to know how people would judge the actions of the CEO if he were UNAWARE of either the positive or negative consequences of his actions. Does unawareness of the consequences or potential consequences of one’s actions absolve one from responsibility for them? Do we have a moral responsibility to try and understand the consequences and potential consequences of our actions to the greatest extent possible? Surely one’s position on this latter question has implications for how one chooses to assign responsibility for collateral damage. But people's talents for envisioning the future are qute variable. As are their places on the bell curve of optimism/pessimism, which colors one's vision of the future.

I write this as I sit here weighing the harm/good equation of doing something non-admirable to the thousands of starlings that have descended on my back yard and are making a lot of loud noise......surely there are some good consequences to getting rid of starlings?

Bloggin' Noggin
02-16-2008, 11:12 PM
hi all,

i'd tend to agree with josh that it's arguable that what you yourself decide "once you get back to your armchair" is relatively trivial, masturbatory, etc., del

I don't recall him saying that.
Anyway, trivial from whose point of view? Other people may not care much whether my views are consistent (especially those views I can't help but hold -- e.g., I am conscious, I have free will etc.). But I might care. If the question is a moral one, I have a responsibility to figure it out.

Also, I think the switch to the third person perspective is precisely what permits the cop out. It's plenty easy to imagine that no one ELSE is conscious -- they're all amazingly convincing automata -- but it's not so easy to believe you aren't conscious. Nor is it easy to act from the point of view that you have no real choice about how to act.

And further, there's always the problem of how to interpret the experiments. As Simon and I both point out, they don't really interpret themselves. The "armchair" comes along when you have to figure out whether the experiment reveals something about the concept under discussion (free will or intention) or only about the more pragmatic side of communication.

The experiments are interesting, but the real question is what happens when a single group is presented with BOTH cases -- or when the two groups start talking to each other. That's when the actual philosophy gets started.

By the way, Singer himself doesn't escape the appeal to intuition -- how could he possibly do that? The intuition that suffering matters in itself conflicts with our intuition that it's fine to eat meat. The fact that many other people find it pretty easy to side with the latter intuition doesn't make it any less incumbent on us individually to confront the former.

del
02-17-2008, 01:56 AM
hi bloggin,
i think you have a good point against singer about competing intutions but he himself is pretty explicit in his critique of intutionism -- see intro/ch. 1 of PRACTICAL ETHICS and/or ch. 5 of ONE WORLD. i may also be connecting dots that josh isn't connecting based on the slate and NYT links, but i was mainly working off the part where he says that the question of "what intention means to you" is less important than how we as human beings in general go about thinking about intentionality. (plus we can at least agree that he's less "pro-armchairs" than you, correct?) anyway, to avoid any third-person cop-outs i'll observe that in teaching poli sci students i've found it's far easier to get students interested in playing philosopher-kings than it is in consulting the moral intuitions of the demos . . . while they take their armchair philosophizing seriously and inevitably find it superior to aristotle's "wisdom of the multitude" i often wish they'd take themselves less seriously (hence, i suppose, a personal bias in favor of majoritarianism).
all best, del

Bloggin' Noggin
02-17-2008, 09:16 AM
Josh seems to regard it as a surprising result of his experiments that we have the intuitions we have but do not know why we make the distinctions we do. He seems to assume that previous philosophers assumed that once you had an intuition about a particular case you must fully understand it. It does seem that some intuitionist philosophers writing as late as the middle of the last century went a long way in this direction. But I don't think many philosophers before XPhi came along would have been very startled by the fact that our intutions about particular cases don't come with ready-made explanations -- any more than our linguistic intuitions do. (Think of the linguistic intuitions Steven Pinker begins _The Language of Thought_ with. Why can you say both "I loaded the wagon with hay" and "I loaded hay into the wagon", but you can't say both "I poured milk into the glass" and "I poured the glass with milk". We know what we can say, but we need somebody to do a lot of thinking to explain why we can say this and not that.)

My comparison shouldn't be taken too far: obviously grammatical intuitions of native speakers simply settle the truth of grammatical claims, while philosophical intuitions could conceivably be quite consistent and yet deeply mistaken about the actual world. My point is (in agreement with yours) that, going back all the way to Socrates, it's been fairly clear that we have strong intuitions about particular cases that cause puzzlement when brought together, and that reconciling the intuitions is a matter of much after-the-fact reflection and speculation.

As I note above, it seems like the experimental philosophers are taking up where the intuitionists or the ordinary language philosophers left off, but whereas those philosophers were far too ready to say "we don't say this," on the evidence of their own intuitions alone, the experimental philosophers actually look for evidence concerning what "we" say. No doubt this makes them much better ordinary language philosophers than the original ordinary language philosophers, but I'm not all that interested in ordinary language philosophy of any type. The real philosophical work begins when you try to work out consistent concepts that take these intuitions into account, along with whatever we have learned about actual human behavior and the workings of the brain etc.

What often seems to happen among the experimental philosophers actually is that they have certain very strong pro-abstract-thought., pro-consequentialist and anti-emotion, anti-deontological biases which they do not actually justify (or even feel the need to justify). If they can associate one of our intuitions with emotion, they feel they have undermined it while leaving the intuition associated with abstract thought untouched. But this unexamined assumption is precisely what philosophy is supposed to examine.

If experimental philosophers were linguists, they'd look at Pinker's examples and assume that we rationally ought to be able to say "I pour the glass with milk" and try to show how some powerful emotion was distorting our understanding when we regard that statement as ungrammatical.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-17-2008, 10:36 AM
hi bloggin,
i think you have a good point against singer about competing intutions but he himself is pretty explicit in his critique of intutionism -- see intro/ch. 1 of PRACTICAL ETHICS and/or ch. 5 of ONE WORLD. i may also be connecting dots that josh isn't connecting based on the slate and NYT links, but i was mainly working off the part where he says that the question of "what intention means to you" is less important than how we as human beings in general go about thinking about intentionality. (plus we can at least agree that he's less "pro-armchairs" than you, correct?) anyway, to avoid any third-person cop-outs i'll observe that in teaching poli sci students i've found it's far easier to get students interested in playing philosopher-kings than it is in consulting the moral intuitions of the demos . . . while they take their armchair philosophizing seriously and inevitably find it superior to aristotle's "wisdom of the multitude" i often wish they'd take themselves less seriously (hence, i suppose, a personal bias in favor of majoritarianism).
all best, del

Hi del,
I don't have those books of Singer's at hand, but normally "intuitionism" is not simply any sort of reliance on intuitions -- how could one possibly avoid that in ethics? It is rather the assumption that at least certain intuitions are somehow self-justifying and self-evident. It is this outdated view which the XPhi types seem to regard as though it were the received opinion in philosophy.
I certainly think you're right that we all ought to take seriously, as Aristotle does, the opinions of both the many and the wise and that we shouldn't just assume that we are right and everyone else is wrong. But I detect actually a very similar arrogance in Joshua Greene's interpretations of his trolley experiments for instance. He is very quick to dismiss any moral intuitions that don't coincide with his strongly (and simplistically) consequentialist intuitions as just the influence of emotion (which they take to be much less "rational" than abstract consequentialist "reason".) Ordinary moral thought and our emotional reactions may be smarter than Greene gives them credit for being. Maybe we should understand them on their own terms before rejecting them. Maybe our intuitions about the "intentional" actually make a fair amount of sense too (as I suggested, in my first substantive post, I think Knobe's subjects are revealing less about their concept of intention than about their natural assumptions about why they would be asked whether something was intentional).
Let me add that the "armchair" isn't peculiar to philosophy. Experiments in physics, no less than in philosophy, require interpretation. That attempt to understand what's going on either in our own intuitions or in the intuitions of randomly selected groups of people is what I would call the "armchair".

del
02-17-2008, 02:19 PM
Hi Bloggin,
It's interesting that you mention Joshua Greene because while I agree with his conclusions I had a similar reaction to his tone in an NPR interview I heard. Re the possibility of eliminating intuitions entirely and such, I think there's considerable interest in rational cogitation and intuition being different brain functions . . . I found the below NYT article by Pinker kind of rambly, but if you didn't see it it covers some of that research in the context of the Trolley Problem specifically (not sure link will work but you can Google "The Moral Instinct". My personal sense is that there's probably some distribution of cogitating/intuiting among individuals and that Singer's on one end of it:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/13/magazine/13Psychology-t.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Best,
Del

Wonderment
02-17-2008, 03:19 PM
But my point is that it's very unclear (at least to me) what running subjects, analyzing the data, etc. is supposed to contribute here. In the diavlog, after all, Josh described the cases, and we all saw pretty clearly that our pattern of intuitive judgments reveals something surprising and interesting about our concept of intentional action (specifically, regarding the way it's related to certain moral concepts). This point could have been made to BhTV viewers without any talk of empirical experiments at all -- as is the case with philosophical thought experiments generally.

Appaih, who was Knobe's professor, seems to (almost) concede this point in his NYT article:

The best work in experimental philosophy would be valuable and suggestive even if it skipped the actual experiments. ... X-phi helps keep us honest and enforces a useful modesty about how much weight to give one’s personal hunches, even when they’re shared by the guy in the next office. But — this is my own empirical observation — although experiments can illuminate philosophical arguments, they don’t settle them.
.... You can conduct more research to try to clarify matters, but you’re left having to interpret the findings; they don’t interpret themselves. There always comes a point where the clipboards and questionnaires and M.R.I. scans have to be put aside. To sort things out, it seems, another powerful instrument is needed. Let’s see — there’s one in the corner, over there. The springs are sagging a bit, and the cushions are worn, but never mind. That armchair will do nicely.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-18-2008, 01:11 AM
You seem to feel we disagree more than I think we do. I find the passages from my posts that you quote rather horribly written now that I see them excerpted, so I can see how I could have been pretty unclear.

But my point is that it's very unclear (at least to me) what running subjects, analyzing the data, etc. is supposed to contribute here. In the diavlog, after all, Josh described the cases, and we all saw pretty clearly that our pattern of intuitive judgments reveals something surprising and interesting about our concept of intentional action (specifically, regarding the way it's related to certain moral concepts).

I don't want to deny that the conflict among our intuitions and the fact that we don't automatically know how to explain these conflicts is surprising to someone. My point is that as a general matter such conflicts and our need to theorize about them after the fact (as opposed to simply "intuiting" the explanation) should NOT be suprising to anyone who knows anything about thehistory of philosophy back to Socrates. The particular thought experiments in question may be new -- though Anthony Appiah in _Experiments in Ethics_ points out that Gilbert Ryle would not have been surprised by them (nor would he have been at a loss for an explanation that still stands up fairly well now -- see pp. 103-104 in his discussion of Knobe's paper).
One point of disagreement between you and me possibly is that you follow Knobe in assuming that the thought experiment automatically reveals a lot about our concept of intention, where I would argue that our intuitions about what to say in the two cases are governed not only by the concept of intention, but by conversational implicature.
In any case, I think you and I both agree on the main point which is that very likely one could generate the apparently conflicting results by presenting both cases to each individual. What then is the point of splitting the subjects up? What additional surprise is generated by the actual experiment rather than the thought experiment? The one advantage seems to be that you'll be less likely to base too much on the idiosyncracies of a particular philosopher or on the idiosyncracies of the whole class of academic philosophers. That's worthwhile in a small way, but hardly the grand new method seemingly promised by XPhi.

I'm quite sure Josh and other experimental philosophers don't think this about all or most pre-XPhi philosophers. There are just too many central thought experiments in philosophy -- particularly 20th century analytic philosophy -- which give rise to quite robust intuitions, but which philosophers have attempted to explain in numerous incompatible ways.

Certainly one would like to be sure that they aren't ignoring vast amounts of previous philosophy, but have a look at Haidt's paper "The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail" (http://faculty.virginia.edu/haidtlab/articles/haidt.emotionaldog.manuscript.pdf) The paper seems to assume that those who think morality (or at least a substantial core of morality) is rationally sound must believe that moral intuitions are of the rationally self-justifying sort. If our intuitive answers are not the result of reasoning or if they are not self-explicating, then, Haidt seems to assume, they cannot really be rational.
As someone who had studied philosophy, this struck me as weird: philosophy is full of conflicting intuitions (your example of the debate over Gettier cases is a good one). In some instances, it's quite likely that our intuitions and even our emotions (vindictiveness in one of Josh's examples and a revulsion for incest in Haidt's) really are leading us astray. But that's something that philosophers have assumed from the beginning. Why though should Haidt assume that that reasoning after the fact to explain conflicting intuitions is always just rationalization?

No doubt philosophical intuitions seem an inadequate basis for philosophical theories. But there is no royal road to philosophical truth that lies outside of intuition. The best approach to a rational approach to philosophy is, not to give up intuition, but rather to confront puzzles raised by intuition and try to find intellectually satisfying resolutions to them. (Physics didn't just throw intuition overboard: it started with conflicting intuitions: reason and experience suggest that motion should require an explanation, yet, if motion requires an explanation, how do we account for the parabolic motion of a thrown stone -- why doesn't the stone stop moving forward after it leaves the hand?) The experimental philosophers seem to feel that just confronting us with the problems of common sense should be enough to get us to reject all our intuitions at once without even trying to work out a solution. What would normally be the starting point for philosophical reflection is, for them, an obvious reductio ad absurdum of our entire commonsense conceptual scheme -- no need to even consider various theories that might try to make sense of some portion of common sense.

Bloggin' Noggin
02-18-2008, 10:31 AM
My main point, Bloggin, has been that it's not clear to me what the need is for running subjects at all. It would have been enough, it seems to me, to just write a paper describing the two cases with the chairman of the board either hurting or helping the environment, pointing out that in only one of the cases there's a strong intuition that the chairman acted intentionally, and then discussing what the implications of all this are -- as is done with philosophical thought experiments generally.

Yes, I agree. I see the philosophical process as JUST BEGINNING with this kind of surprising clash of cases. When we have a real puzzle it's because the clash arrises WITHIN ONE PERSON. Even if the problem doesn't arise for others in quite the same way, that person must reflect on what's going on with his conceptual scheme. (Many of Plato's problems have to be translated for us moderns, since we don't have quite the same intuitions about virtue -- and yet something like the same problems arise if we put them in more modern terms.) This is why I focus on the splitting up part of the experiment. The thought experiment has its value if it presents a conflict of intuitions within one individual -- or better yet within EACH individual. A conflict of intuitions between groups need not be philosophically very interesting -- though of course, the assumption is that since the samples are random, the conflict probably arise within one individual. But as I said, the conflict of intuitions is just the bare first step; the next step involves bringing the two intuitions together and trying to find a way out -- this requires that one and the same person confront the two intuitions -- as in your idea of just writing the paper and confronting each reader of the paper with the thought experiment directly.
The two of us agree that it's not clear what doing the experiment adds. I'm trying to go further and explain this point of agreement in terms of the position that a conflict of intuitions has in my conception of what philosophy is -- and in that further endeavor, the separation of those who have one intuition and those who have the other intuition in the experiments is the problem.


I will certainly admit in connection with the rest of your post that I don't have a vast experience of XPhi -- beyond a few papers plus Anthony Appiah's book. Your charitable response might well be more right than my response. However, I think that when these philosophers come to Ethics the ones I'm aware of exhibit the long-standing double standard that philosophers have evinced since early in the 20th century at least. A problem that goes for most commonsense concepts is treated as something to be overcome when it comes to knowledge or space, and as evidence against the whole idea of ethics. Moore's open question argument is basically the paradox of analysis, which can be applied to ANY concept you aren't sure how to define (knowledge included). Moore himself felt this showed that there was something special and a little spooky about the concept of 'good', and later philosophers, rejecting the "spooky", felt the argument gave them reason to reject ethics. But why raise this problem only for ethical concepts when it actually applies to all philosophically interesting concepts?
I think Joshua Greene and Haidt (and I suspect, Knobe) probably don't deserve your charitable assumptions when it comes to ethics -- even if they might deserve them when it comes to other concepts. Even there, I'm not so sure they do, but I must admit that my exposure to them doesn't really go beyond the broadly ethical realm.

334
02-21-2008, 09:54 AM
I thought it was interesting, after saying that it was logical, if there is no free will, to not punish someone who does a crime, he goes on to say that it then makes most sense to give the impression that you would punish someone. He did not say anything to justify that claim. He just brought in this new element of how it's best to prevent crime out of nowhere. I just thought it was him showing, at least in this case, that his final conclusion is based more on his own feelings than actually following logically from his previous statements. At least that's how I saw it.

chrisdornan
08-30-2009, 03:18 PM
I really think Joshua ought to replace that armchair his friends burnt and read up some moral philosophy.

Ans I really, really think he should be careful about speculating about ethics using highly speculative physics--to the point that it is not clear any more that it is physics--while making utterly inappropriate metaphysical assumptions.

Experimental Philosophy: back to Hume? (http://senseorsensibility.com/blog/experimental-philosophy-back-to-hume/)