Exploring Ethics (Cahn): Nagel--Right and Wrong - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

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Exploring Ethics (Cahn): Nagel--Right and Wrong

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  1. Nagel: Right and Wrong

  2. From last class…. • Cultural Differences do not imply that no objective standard exists. • There seems to be cross-cultural moral standards that exist just so that society can function. • Can any of these moral standards be “objective?”

  3. ….to this class. Cross-cultural moral standards can be objective if based on the Golden Rule. • I’m not sure that “objective,” i.e. independent of human judgment, is the right word. “Intersubjective,” i.e. universally agreed upon human judgment, seems to be closer to Nagel’s claim. I’ll try to argue through this idea.

  4. Nagel’s Golden Rule Argument (70) • If behavior X hurts anyone, then no one should X. • If no one should do X, then I should not do X (because it is something we would not want done to us). • Thus, I should not X. In other words, if we think that no one should do X (because it is something we would not want done to us), then we should not do X.

  5. Problem 1: Conflicting Favorites—All to I? • We like ourselves more than we like other people. • We like those we favor (friends/family) more than we like other people. • We life ___________(underdogs/successfuls/leaders) more than we like other people.

  6. Problem 2: Conflicting Resentments • Sometimes our moral evaluations differ from that of other people. • “I wouldn’t resent it at all. I wouldn’t like it if someone stole my umbrella in a rainstorm, but I wouldn’t think there was any reason for him to consider my feelings about it.” (70) What some hold as “dislike” others hold as “resentment” and vice versa. So, there may be conflicting sentiments about what one would resent/not resent about what was done to them.

  7. Problem 3: Egoism • The interests of others should not matter because we are not them. • Hence, we should never consider ourselves as others consider us.

  8. Summary So Far Nagel’s Golden Rule Claim: If we think that no one should do X (because it is something we would not want done to us), then we should not do X. Problem 1: Conflicting Favorites—All to I? Problem 2: Conflicting Resentments Problem 3: Egoism Are these problems with the Golden Rule? Yes! These are all problems with reflecting on how one sees others to how on sees themselves.

  9. Resolution? Maybe WE need a better mirror! Some philosophers claim that we need to work on ourselves before we can use the Golden Rule. In other words, we need to develop the skills of empathy/sympathy before we can be moral beings. (Note: Some fail to have the capacity for sympathy (e.g. psychopaths like Dexter)

  10. Innate Default Setting: Sympathy The existence of “Mirror Neurons”, neurons that are active BOTH when we see something happen to another person and when that happens to us, suggests that we can project our minds onto other places where the mind is not located. But, unless we practice our sociality, we will not develop this part of our brain.

  11. 1. Being touched: Brain response: 2. A video of someone else being touched Mirror Neurons “Feeling” someone else’s feelings...

  12. Adam Smith on Reactive Judgment • Smith argued that we experience instinctive feelings or sentiments in our first moral experiences. • “To the man who first saw an inhuman murder, committed from avarice, envy, or unjust resentment…[h]is detestation of this crime, it is evident, would arise instantaneously and antecedent to his having formed to himself any such general rule…which he might afterwards form…upon the detestation which he felt necessarily arise in his own breast, at the thought of this, and every other particular action of the same kind. (TMS III.iv.8) •  The negative sentiments of the man viewing the murder are instinctive, while the moral rules that follow are based on inferences, like generalizations, from such experiences.

  13. Adam Smith on Reflective Judgment • Smith argued that we develop a kind of automatic reflection that involves putting ourselves in the offenders shoes and sympathizing with their state at the time of the crime. “We either approve or disapprove of the conduct of another man according as we feel that, when we bring his case home to ourselves, we either can or cannot entirely sympathize with the sentiments and motives which directed it (TMS III.i.2).”  

  14. Adam Smith on Reflective Judgment • “We either approve or disapprove of the conduct of another man according as we feel that, when we bring his case home to ourselves, we either can or cannot entirely sympathize with the sentiments and motives which directed it (TMS III.i.2).”   Attribution: We instinctually attribute an emotional stateas the cause of the observed activity of the person whose actions we are observing. Projection: We project ourselves into the environment of the person whose actions we are observing. Approximation: We feel the emotional experiences approximate to what we would feel in the projected environment. Evaluation: We praise or blame the actions of the person we are observing according to a ratio of emotion, cause of emotion and warranted action were we in their situation.

  15. Reactive => Reflective Sympathetic Judgment Sympathy develops reflective judgment about oneself by developing reflective judgment about others. These judgments, after a while, become instantaneousand accurate.

  16. Summary: Sympathy and the Golden Rule Perhaps a calibrated and tuned sympathy mechanism resolves the previous problems with the Golden Rule. Problem 1: Conflicting Favorites—All to I? Problem 2: Conflicting Resentments Problem 3: Egoism (?) NOTE: Perhaps sympathy is just cloaked egoism. The only reason we help others is because we FEEL like we are helping ourselves.

  17. Golden Rule and Objectivity • If the Golden Rule is a cognitive default setting that can be tuned over time, then it is only applicable to humans with this cognitive mechanism. (Note: the mechanism is also found many other social mammals: dogs, chimps, elephants, etc.) • The products of cognitive mechanisms are not objective in themselves—they are evolutionarily distributed and thus intersubjective. • Thus, the Golden Rule is intersubjective.

  18. Summary Nagel’s Golden Rule Claim: If we think that no one should do X (because it is something we would not want done to us), then we should not do X. Problem 1: Conflicting Favorites—All to I? Problem 2: Conflicting Resentments Problem 3: Egoism To solve these problems we need to polish our mirrors by tuning the mechanism of sympathy.