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04/11/2015

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Sue,

Thanks for both of these posts. They contain plenty of food for thought. However, while I appreciate many of your concerns about *some* of the work in experimental moral psychology, I worry that perhaps you're focusing too much on the kinds of studies you think get things *wrong*--ranging from the work by Kohlberg to the more recent work by Greene and Haidt.

This is certainly helpful as it encourages everyone who works in this area to think more carefully about their background assumptions, how they are operationalizing key terms, how they are trying to get at their various explanandum, etc. But I thought it might also be helpful if you mentioned a few of the studies, if any, that you think get things *right*.

For instance, my colleague here at CofC Jen Wright has done some developmental work on moral psychology which I really like. And she's not alone. There is plenty of work being done in developmental moral psychology--which is one area you suggest is under explored. Do you think all of this work is beset by the same problems you associate with the work by Haidt, Greene, etc.?

Obviously, it's fine if you think *all* of the work that has been done in experimental ethics is problematic for the sorts of reasons you've identified. But if you find some work to be helpful or illuminating, it would be nice to hear your thoughts on this front. It may help us start to build better experimental practices! Just a thought!

The psychologist Roger Shepard has made much use (much criticized) of the term "internalization" since the 1960s eg his target article in Behav Brain Sci 2001; 24:581-601.

"Possibly we can aspire to a science of mind that, by virtue of the evolutionary internalization of universal regularities in the world, partakes of some of the mathematical elegance and generality of theories of that world. The principles that have been most deeply internalized may reflect quite abstract features of the world, based as much (or possibly more) in geometry, probability, and group theory, as in specific, physical facts about concrete, material objects."

That is, internalization is to acquire an axiomatized model of features of the world, often relying on evolutionarily determined intrinsic properties of the brain. The examples of such knowledge that he gives, in the area of perception, seem to be procedural rather than explicit. I think the general sense of internalization is that it is un/preconscious and high level eg language, music.

Quick thought on the "crude philosophical descriptors" of utilitarian versus deontological judgments. Greene's latest version of his view (2014 paper in Ethics) qualifies this and says that the judgments are *characteristically* utilitarian vs deontological. I'm not sure it solves the problem, but I think this is at least better. I also suspect it's largely a feature of Greene's ambitious goal of drawing normative conclusions. So he kind of has to describe the empirical work in terms that can link up with normative ethics. I can see the value in the attempt, even if it's likely to be imperfect. (I say all this as a pretty staunch critic of Greene's argument, by the way.)

I have the impression that "Emotion areas" and "Reason areas" have been mistakenly swapped in the Table above.

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