Inspired by the success of generative linguistics and transformational grammar, proponents of the linguistic analogy (LA) in moral psychology hypothesize that careful attention to folk-moral judgments is likely to reveal a small set of implicit rules and structures responsible for the ubiquitous and apparently unbounded capacity for making moral judgments. As a theoretical hypothesis, LA thus requires a rich description of the computational structures that underlie mature moral judgments, an account of the acquisition and development of these structures, and an (...) analysis of those components of the moral system that are uniquely human and uniquely moral. In this paper we present the theoretical motivations for adopting LA in the study of moral cognition: (a) the distinction between competence and performance, (b) poverty of stimulus considerations, and (c) adopting the computational level as the proper level of analysis for the empirical study of moral judgment. With these motivations in hand, we review recent empirical findings that have been inspired by LA and which provide evidence for at least two predictions of LA: (a) the computational processes responsible for folk-moral judgment operate over structured representations of actions and events, as well as coding for features of agency and outcomes; and (b) folk-moral judgments are the output of a dedicated moral faculty and are largely immune to the effects of context. In addition, we highlight the complexity of the interfaces between the moral faculty and other cognitive systems external to it (e.g., number systems). We conclude by reviewing the potential utility of the theoretical and empirical tools of LA for future research in moral psychology. (shrink)
The manifest dissociation between our capacity to make moral judgments and our ability to provide justifications for them, a phenomenon labeled Moral Dumbfounding, has important implications for the theory and practice of moral psychology. I articulate and develop the Linguistic Analogy as a robust alternative to existing sentimentalist models of moral judgment inspired by this phenomenon. The Linguistic Analogy motivates a crucial distinction between moral acceptability and moral permissibility judgments, and thereby calls into question prevailing methods used in the study (...) of moral judgment. Indeed, the judgments that are the focus of most current empirical work in moral psychology are not proper targets of scientific study. (shrink)
A nativist moral psychology, modeled on the successes of theoretical linguistics, provides the best framework for explaining the acquisition of moral capacities and the diversity of moral judgment across the species. After a brief presentation of a poverty of the moral stimulus argument, this chapter sketches a view according to which a so-called Universal Moral Grammar provides a set of parameterizable principles whose specific values are set by the child's environment, resulting in the acquisition of a moral idiolect. The principles (...) and parameters approach predicts moral diversity, but does not entail moral relativism. (shrink)
We propose that the generalizations of linguistic theory serve to ascribe beliefs to humans. Ordinary speakers would explicitly (and sincerely) deny having these rather esoteric beliefs about language--e.g., the belief that an anaphor must be bound in its governing category. Such ascriptions can also seem problematic in light of certain theoretical considerations having to do with concept possession, revisability, and so on. Nonetheless, we argue that ordinary speakers believe the propositions expressed by certain sentences of linguistic theory, and that linguistics (...) can therefore teach us something about belief as well as language. Rather than insisting that ordinary speakers lack the linguistic beliefs in question, philosophers should try to show how these empirically motivated belief ascriptions can be correct. We argue that Stalnaker's (1984) "pragmatic" account--according to which beliefs are dispositions, and propositions are sets of possible worlds--does just this. Moreover, our construal of explanation in linguistics motivates (and helps provide) responses to two difficulties for the pragmatic account of belief: the phenomenon of opacity, and the so-called problem of deduction. (shrink)
The rhetoric of reconciliation is common in situations where traditional judicial responses to past wrongdoing are unavailable because of corruption, large numbers of offenders, or anxiety about the political consequences. But what constitutes reconciliation?
At the end of Section III of “Freedom and Resentment,” just after he has drawn our attention to the reactive attitudes, P. F. Strawson remarks, “The object of these commonplaces is to try to keep before our minds something it is easy to forget when we are engaged in philosophy, especially in our cool, contemporary style, viz., what it is actually like to be involved in ordinary inter-personal relationships, ranging from the most intimate to the most casual.” It is striking, (...) then, that the proponent of so thoroughly naturalistic an account of moral responsibility seems himself largely to ignore the fact that moral agents do not spring into existence ab initio. The adult moral agent, who is the central character of normative theory and of accounts of moral responsibility, was once a child. Our juvenile selves get a mention in Strawson’s paper, but only as examples of creatures who are paradigmatically not responsible or who inhabit “a borderline, penumbral area ” with respect to responsibility. Thus it remains a mystery, on Strawson’s account, how we become the morally responsible creatures he takes us to be. (shrink)
Pornography has attracted a good deal of academic and political attention, primarily from feminists of various persuasions, moral philosophers, and legal scholars. Surprisingly less work has been forthcoming from film theorists, given how much pornography has been produced on video and DVD and is now available through live streaming video over the Internet. Indeed, it is not until 1989, with the publication of Linda Williams’ groundbreaking Hard Core, that pornography is distinguished, in terms of its content, intent, and governing conventions, (...) as a filmic genre of its own. Still, not all pornography exists as film, and so a full discussion of it must encompass its other manifestations (e.g., magazines, websites, comics, etc.). The central questions about pornography are these: (1) What is it? How is it to be defined? (2) What are its effects? (3) How, if at all, ought it to be regulated? While these questions are simple, providing answers to them, as we shall see, is complicated. There is plenty of disagreement about how to define pornography; research about pornography’s effects is not univocal; and this in turn leads to substantial debate about what can and may be done about pornography. It is to these matters that the bulk of this essay is addressed. To begin, however, we will take a brief snapshot of the emergence of pornographic film and of the pornography business as it exists today. (shrink)
Philosopher Christina Hoff Sommers's target inWho Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Womenis “gender feminism.” Her aim is to convince us that gender feminists are anti-intellectual opportunists who deliberately spread lies about the incidence of date rape (chap. 10), domestic battery (Preface, chap. 9) and about the general state of male-female relations in America (chaps. 1, 9 and 11), thereby generating fear and resentment of men (chap. 2), all so that they may secure vast amounts of government funding and high-paying (...) jobs in the academy (chaps. 4, 5 and 6). Because gender feminists are condescending to and contemptuous of the “average woman,” they lack a grass-roots constituency (p. 22). Nonetheless, they are powerful enough to be feared. Gender feminists have managed to dupe the U.S. Congress (chap. 8), and an otherwise sceptical press literally eats out of their hands (p. 15). Gender feminism is also a leading cause of the weakening of the American university (p. 52), and has “made the American campus a less happy place” (p. 112). (shrink)
In chapter one I consider two arguments for the claim that we ought to attribute linguistic knowledge to speakers of a natural language. The a priori argument has it that a theory of understanding reveals what it is that speakers of a language know about their language. The second argument takes the form of an inference to the best explanation, emphasising the idea that speaking and understanding a language is a rational activity carried on by agents with intention and purpose. (...) Linguistic knowledge is attributed to speakers as a way of making such a practice intelligible. ;In chapter two, I examine the several sceptical worries and substantive objections that have been raised to the idea of linguistic knowledge. None of these objections is fatal; rather they direct our attention to the need to specify what kind of knowledge linguistic knowledge is. ;In chapter three I argue that we do best to think of the notion of implicit linguistic knowledge as a "place-holder". ;In chapter four, I turn to a discussion of implicit belief, drawing a distinction between the way in which the content of a belief might be represented in an agent's brain and the kind of access she has to that content. I argue against an account of implicit belief that is motivated by concerns about representation, and for one that focuses on the kind of access an agent has to her implicit beliefs. ;In chapter five I attempt to sketch an account of implicit linguistic knowledge that fulfills its explanatory agenda while avoiding the objections discussed in earlier chapters. A speaker's implicit linguistic knowledge, understood as a set of articulated psychological states, grounds her full-blooded linguistic dispositions. This analysis of implicit linguistic knowledge is not subject to standard objections to that notion. Furthermore, it provides a "non-reductive" explanation of a speaker's language mastery, since it holds a middle ground between strictly biological, or neurophysiological accounts and purely behavioristic accounts of what makes an agent a speaker of a language. ;Finally, I take up the question of whether Dummett can accept my account of implicit linguistic knowledge. (shrink)
We must admire the ambition of Prinz’s title question. But does he provide a convincing answer to it? Prinz’s own view of morality as “a byproduct – accidental or invented – of faculties that evolved for different purposes (1),” which appears to express a negative reply, does not receive much direct argument here. Rather, Prinz’s main aim is to try to show that the considerations he believes are typically presented by moral nativists are insufficient or inadequate to establish that morality (...) is innate. He discusses, individually, how much evidential weight the (alleged) existence of (1) universal moral norms, (2) universal moral domains, (3) fixed stages in moral development, and (4) precursors to morality among non-human animals lend to nativist claims, and, in addition, he argues that poverty-of-the-moral-stimulus arguments are as yet unconvincing. “[C]urrent evidence,” Prinz claims, “is consistent with the conclusion that children acquire moral competence through experience (22).” It is not my intention here to follow Prinz’s piecemeal criticisms of moral nativism. In their attacks on linguistic nativism (see, e.g., Cowie 1999) and now on moral nativism, empiricists typically deploy the.. (shrink)
Abortion raises a number of difficult questions for morality, law, and public policy. When, if ever, is abortion morally permissible? Do women have a legal right to abortion, and how is that right to be justified? Ought abortions for poor women be funded by the state? These questions are related in the sense that answers to any one of them have implications for answers to the others. But it is crucial to remember that they are different questions. For example, suppose (...) abortion is never morally permissible. It would not. (shrink)
Depending on how one looks at it, we have been enjoying or suffering a significant empirical turn in moral psychology during this first decade of the 21st century. While philosophers have, from time to time, considered empirical matters with respect to morality, those who took an interest in actual (rather than ideal) moral agents were primarily concerned with whether particular moral theories were ‘too demanding’ for creatures like us (Flanagan, 1991; Williams, 1976; Wolf, 1982). Faithful adherence to Utilitarianism or Kantianism (...) would appear to be inconsistent with other things we value, like personal integrity and flourishing, which depend upon pursuing individually determined projects and ways of life in rather single-minded ways. Maximizing the good is a full-time job, and the impartiality recommended by Kantian theory can get in the way of showing special care for those we know and love. All this is standard philosophical fare. However, more recently, philosophers and psychologists have begun to treat moral psychology as a legitimate branch of cognitive science. They inquire into the evolution of morality (e.g., Joyce, 2007; Nichols 2004), debate the human uniqueness of moral capacities (e.g., deWaal, 2006; Hauser, 2006), investigate the causal etiology of moral judgments (e.g., Haidt & Greene, 2002; Hauser et al., 2006; Prinz, 2006), attempt to map the neuroanatomy of moral reasoning (e.g., Greene et al., 2001; Greene et al., 2004; Moll, et al., 2005), and consider what other affective and cognitive capacities are required by a creature who sees the world in moral terms. (See also Sinnott-Armstrong, 2007, 2008a, 2008b). 1 In this essay, I discuss two issues whose interdependence and central importance for empirically informed moral psychology have not been fully grasped, or so I believe. First is what I call the Explananda Challenge. Let us assume that the primary question for moral psychology is this: How is it possible for human beings to be moral creatures? Deceptively simple, this question obscures a number of rather more difficult ones.. (shrink)
Barresi & Moore's account has at least two implications for moral psychology. First, it appears to provide support for cognitive theories of moral competence. Second, their claim that the development of social understanding depends upondomain-generalchanges in cognitive ability appears to oppose the idea that moral competence is under-pinned by a moral module.
For individuals at all points on the political spectrum, and especially for those engaged in any form of expressive enterprise – from comic book illustrators, to film directors, to performance artists – censorship typically carries very negative connotations. Indeed, for many, censorship is the very antithesis of freedom and creativity. However, we can and should conceive of censorship more neutrally – simply as the imposition of constraints. On such a construal, censorship is not obviously always a Bad Thing. This point (...) is crucial for any effective argument against particular instances of censorship. For, if we simply define censorship as something always to be rejected, then we have merely asserted what potential censors deny, and we have provided no reasons to reject censorship. Moreover, a neutral construal of censorship better allows us to grasp that there are different agents of censorship, that censorship can and does have a range of targets and motivations, and that (apparently paradoxically) constraints of some kind may well be part of the very creative enterprise itself. Here I shall be concerned only with censorship as it has affected and continues to affect film. Obviously, there is much else to be said about the censorship of the press, art and literature (see “Further Reading” in this chapter and “Pornography”). (shrink)
So far as we know, we are the only species capable of introspection, and thus, sometimes, of insight into our own individual and collective nature. Arguably, the entire discipline of philosophy and, much more recently, of psychology, is premised on this simply stated but complicated fact. We are also a social species, each of us desiring – perhaps, even needing – to live as one among others. Taken together, these perfectly trite observations invite a number of questions regarding the nature (...) of the self and self-consciousness, and about the possibility of successful intersubjective communication. One line of enquiry among these questions, one that is vigorously pursued in The Five Obstructions, concerns the extent to which an individual’s self-understanding depends on the availability to that person of a genuinely second-person perspective. In order properly to understand oneself, does one need to see oneself through another’s eyes – in particular, the eyes of another who is in relation with us? If the answer is affirmative, what obligations do we have to each other to provide secondperson perspectives? How is such a perspective to be achieved? How is it best achieved, morally speaking? As I will try to show here, The Five Obstructions provides a very powerful example of self-revelation facilitated by another. Towards the end.. (shrink)
In this book, psychiatrist Thomas Szasz returns to familiar subjects—the collusion between state and medical authorities, the social construction of mental disease—linking them with some other recent topics: so-called False Memory Syndrome and the modern erosion of individual responsibility. Szasz’s central and unifying thesis is that there is no such thing as the mind; he recommends, rather, that we focus on the concept of minding, where this encompasses a host of cognitive operations, including intentionality, thinking, remembering, pondering, and reasoning. Misunderstanding (...) “the” mind as an entity encourages mind-brain identification, gives rise to the concepts of mental illness and disease, thereby legitimating various treatments, and serves to prevent the attribution of responsibility to those who are, in fact, responsible for their behaviour. In a discussion that sweeps from the ancient Greeks through the Middle Ages to Descartes, and finally to contemporary neuroscience, Szasz contends that we have shifted from attributing minding to too much in nature to failing to attribute minding at all. He charges that a combination of brain research and bad philosophy—the Churchlands come in for considerable criticism—has rendered the concepts of the person and of personal responsibility close to otiose. (shrink)
Morality is so steeped in the quotidian details of praise and blame, of do’s and don’t’s, and of questions about the justifiability of certain practices it is no wonder that philosophers and psychologists have devoted relatively little effort to investigating what makes moral life possible in the first place. In making this claim, I neither ignore Kant and his intellectual descendants, nor the large literature in developmental moral psychology from Piaget on. My charge has to do with this fact: morality (...) is an ineliminable feature of human life and human beings are biological creatures. Hence, what wants explaining is how a biological creature – a creature with an evolved mind/brain – can be a normative creature of a particular kind – a creature that cannot help but engage in moral appraisal and evaluation. It does no good to try to wring such an explanation from the ‘very concept’ of agency, as some philosophers attempt to do. Such a strategy merely delays the inevitable: how is it that biological creatures are agents? And while we can understand the practical value of charting the trajectory of babbling infants to toddlers to adolescents to adults, absent an account of the foundations of the capacities whose emergence constitutes this trajectory, we will still not have addressed the central question. Sociobiology and evolutionary ethics fare no better. The apparent puzzle of cooperation amidst competition can and has been addressed via the notions of kin selection and reciprocal altruism. But these accounts are motivated by and hence pitched at the level of overt behavior. However, being a moral creature, in the sense that makes such entities apt subjects for deep intellectual investigation, has very little to do with whether they behave well and everything to do with being capable of a certain kind of cognition. (shrink)
Some cases of implicit knowledge involve representations of (implicitly) known propositions, but this is not the only important type of implicit knowledge. Chomskian linguistics suggests another model of how humans can know more than is accessible to consciousness. Innate capacities to focus on a small range of possibilities, thereby ignoring many others, need not be grounded by inner representations of any possibilities ignored. This model may apply to many domains where human cognition “fills a gap” between stimuli and judgment.