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Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
#1
Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
In ethics, some theories rely heavily on our moral intuitions. In a way, all thought experiments (like the trolley problem) test an ethical problem against our intuitions. The metaethical theory I like most (G.E. Moore's moral nonnaturalism) requires us to have accurate moral intuitions in order to make correct moral judgments.

But there's a problem here. Psychological study suggests our moral intuitions are heavily influenced by norms acquired from our cultural environment. Why does this matter? Well it suggests that (if we are relying on moral intuitions to furnish us with correct judgments) then there may be fundamental moral disagreement.

Fundamental moral disagreement is different than "regular ol' moral disagreement" because it suggests that rational people with accurate information can come to two different moral conclusions. All philosophers are aware that moral disagreement exists. That's not a problem. That can be explained away by prejudices and bad information (false premises). The problem is moral disagreement in "idealized circumstances."

Some realist theories (like moral naturalism) do not depend on moral intuitions, but still an analysis of them is still worthwhile.

Anyone have opinions on this? Can we trust our moral intuitions?
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#2
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
Doesn't this lead back to the question of objective morality?
Why is it so?
~Julius Sumner Miller
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#3
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
I can trust mine (or at least believe I can), but I'm not sure about the rest of the world.
I don't have an anger problem, I have an idiot problem




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#4
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
(October 3, 2021 at 7:07 pm)Spongebob Wrote: Doesn't this lead back to the question of objective morality?

Yes. It does. At the very least, it is criticism of those objectivist theories that rely on moral intuitions.

I'm going to post a more in depth analysis, but I didn't want a big confusing OP. I mostly just wanted to hear people's opinions on the subject.

This analysis I'm going to post later comes from Stephen Stich who uses empirical results from studies/experiments in cognitive psychology that show that our moral intuitions rely heavily on acquired norms. It's brilliant work. And he's very careful with his conclusions. His assessment casts serious doubt on the reliability of our moral intuitions. So he tends to be skeptical about moral objectivity.

What's your take on objective morality, Spongebob?

[img]<a data-flickr-embed=[/img][Image: 51537683981_e472671e45_c.jpg]

This chart has @DLJ written all over it. I'd love to hear his input if he's interested.

The important bits are the solid lines connecting the various boxes. They show empirically verified connections. Proximal cues in the environment are causally related to our norms. These norms could be moral norms, but also cultural mores and customs. These norms in turn affect our emotional reaction to things (solid line) and our emotions influence our judgments (moral or otherwise). Therein lies the problem with moral intuitions. They are formed chiefly from environmental cues. That's not a moral foundation most philosophers are comfortable with.



This analysis is provided by Stephen Stich. I've listened to nearly 12 hours of lectures from him the past two weeks, and he is a brilliant analyst on this subject. I have many objections to his lines of thinking here, but this is already a lot to chew on, so I'll wait.


Stephen Stich Lectures (for any who are interested). They are excellent.


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#5
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
Cool.  Very much up my alley.

First thoughts:
I'm not sure of the difference between the two inputs "Proximal cues in the environment" and "other emotional triggers". Is the implication that proximal cues are emotionless?

The output appears to be a) "judgement" and b) post-hoc justification.  OK.  Not behaviour?  Hmmm.

The two motivations (compliance and punitive) appear to be output (is that the 'behaviour' part?) when I'd expect them to be baseline references and therefore part of 'beliefs' (articulated ones or otherwise).

Here's my version on a similar vein.  Note that I'm using the (as previously discussed) distinction between morals and ethics (with 'morality' as container for both).

[Image: Morality-as-a-control-system.jpg]

I think that Mr Stich's diagram could be (kinda, sorta) associated with my 'b', 'c' and 'g'.  

Thanks for the series.  I'll definitely have a look when I find a spare 12 hours.

Thumb up
The PURPOSE of life is to replicate our DNA ................. (from Darwin)
The MEANING of life is the experience of living ... (from Frank Herbert)
The VALUE of life is the legacy we leave behind ..... (from observation)
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#6
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
ps. I watched the vids.

It took a frustratingly long time to get the diagram and then it was barely covered.

References to Haidt (and by extension Richard Shweder) noted. Fair enough.
The PURPOSE of life is to replicate our DNA ................. (from Darwin)
The MEANING of life is the experience of living ... (from Frank Herbert)
The VALUE of life is the legacy we leave behind ..... (from observation)
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#7
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
I’ve always felt the best way to judge moral intuition is:

You’ve done your marketing. You put your groceries in the car. Do you A) return the shopping trolley to the store (or at least one of those outside corral thingies), or B) leave it in the parking lot, with the flimsy justification that you’re leaving it out for the next person to use?

People who choose option B have no moral centre and probably kick puppies for recreation.

Boru
‘Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.’ Ralph Waldo Emerson
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#8
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
My take on objective morality since exiting the church has been that there is none; all morality is subjective and subject to exactly the things you're talking about, culture, society, experience and so on.  This comes up often in debates with Christians about morality because they see god as the source of all morality and it is absolute and objective in their view despite the many variations in morality that humans have displayed, even within Christianity.  I'm less familiar with this notion of intuitive morality.

Great topic.  About 10 levels deeper than the usual fare on this forum.
Why is it so?
~Julius Sumner Miller
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#9
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
Just as I thought, I'm ok but the jury is still out on YOU PEOPLE.
I don't have an anger problem, I have an idiot problem




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#10
RE: Can we trust our Moral Intuitions?
(October 4, 2021 at 12:09 am)DLJ Wrote: First thoughts:
I'm not sure of the difference between the two inputs "Proximal cues in the environment" and "other emotional triggers". Is the implication that proximal cues are emotionless?




Stich is saying proximal cues from the environment cause things that end up in the norm box. Let's take something not really morally loaded as an example. You are a young child in an indigenous tribe. You see that every morning all the women and girls are sent to obtain water from a nearby river, while all the men go hunting or tend to the crops. Those are the proximal cues in the environment.

From there leads a solid line (not a dotted line)... to the left-most box. The left-most box has two items: "identify norm implicating behavior" and "infer contents of normative values." So here, a a boy in the tribe being exposed repeatedly to the proximal cue of the women getting water and the men hunting would infer a norm using your "rule-relating reasoning capacity" (the next box). This would be something like: "The women get water. The men hunt." Even if such a rule is not explicitly stated, one could come to accept it as a norm. Explicit statement of the rule would be another proximal cue, but it isn't necessary for something to end up in the norm box.

The next bit is counts a serious argument against the efficacy of moral intuitions. The norm box is empirically verified to influence emotional states. For example, you, as a young tribal boy go on the hunt with the men, and you see (for the first time in your life) that a woman has come along for the hunt. This causes an emotion in you (ie... this doesn't SEEM right... this isn't NORMAL... there is something WRONG with this...) and this in turn (solid line) affects your judgment.

These things operate at a subconscious level. And Stich wants to argue that this sort of emotional entanglement (kluges) seriously undermines our moral intuitions. The big point is the empirically verified link between emotion and judgment.

Now... for "other emotional triggers"... Stich recognizes that not every emotional trigger is resultant from an idea in the norm box. Let's say, you (as the tribal boy) were bitten by a tarantula multiple times one day, and the next day your friend wants to bring his pet tarantula along on the hunt. There's nothing in your norm box that says "this is a bad idea" (there's no rule against it that you've inferred from proximal cues) but your emotional system (triggered by the memory of being bitten) urges you to make the judgment that this is a bad idea.


Quote:The output appears to be a) "judgement" and b) post-hoc justification.  OK.  Not behaviour?  Hmmm.

Stich is concerned with judgments, and not behavior. That's why. Post-hoc justifications are also not really a concern of his either. It puzzles me that he put them on the chart, but, maybe he did so to show where they are in the causal chain.



Quote:The two motivations (compliance and punitive) appear to be output (is that the 'behaviour' part?) when I'd expect them to be baseline references and therefore part of 'beliefs' (articulated ones or otherwise).

Compliance is a dotted line, so you aren't expected to take the link TOO seriously. Although the line between beliefs and judgments (which most philosophers take as axiomatic) is also dotted, so...

I see the link between emotion and compliance. I'm not exactly sure how it's relevant or why Stich included it on his chart. I'd LOVE to read the academic papers where he outlines this. I, like you, am hungry for an in-depth analysis on the items in the chart, but frustratingly (in the 10-ish lectures I've watched, he always spends like 5 minutes on it and moves on).

The main thrust of the chart is that we educated Westerners aren't really so different from the tribal boy. We have proximal cues that result in different norms in the norm box. And the moral norms that the tribal boy has (ie. don't hit other people, don't kill other people) are fundamentally similar to norm conventions about women getting water and men hunting.

Stich argues moral nihilism. He doesn't identify as a moral nihilist. He calls himself a moral skeptic. He even said that he's open to the possibility of moral objectivism (and presents a few bits of evidence in favor of it), but he ultimately feels that the arguments for nihilism are very strong.


Quote:Here's my version on a similar vein.  Note that I'm using the (as previously discussed) distinction between morals and ethics (with 'morality' as container for both).

[Image: Morality-as-a-control-system.jpg]

I think that Mr Stich's diagram could be (kinda, sorta) associated with my 'b', 'c' and 'g'.  

Thanks for the series.  I'll definitely have a look when I find a spare 12 hours.

Thumb up

Would you mind walking me through your diagram? Does the tribal boy example fit it? Because then (since I already described that example) we could explore parallels. (It's cool if it doesn't work. Any summary/description of how your chart works is fine.)

What about b, c, and, g run parallel to Stich's model?

(October 4, 2021 at 7:35 am)Spongebob Wrote: My take on objective morality since exiting the church has been that there is none; all morality is subjective and subject to exactly the things you're talking about, culture, society, experience and so on.  This comes up often in debates with Christians about morality because they see god as the source of all morality and it is absolute and objective in their view despite the many variations in morality that humans have displayed, even within Christianity.  I'm less familiar with this notion of intuitive morality.

Great topic.  About 10 levels deeper than the usual fare on this forum.

I was a moral relativist for 8 or so years after I dropped religion. Now, I tend to think that morality is objective. (Although I'm not sold on the idea of moral objectivity... I just think it's better than I once thought it was.) I'm open-minded about ethics. And I love exploring arguments for and against moral objectivity. 

I've recently been challenging my own views on the subject by listening to Stephen Stich's thoughts on the subject. Stich tends toward moral nihilism... the idea that moral beliefs are made up. (Just like an atheist thinks god/religion are just made up things that are transmitted culturally, a moral nihilist thinks that morality is not real... ie. it only exists as a belief and that belief is false.)

Not all objectivist moral theories depend on us having sound moral intuitions to make good moral judgments. But some do. And my favorite theory moral non-naturalism seems to rely on such intuitions. Moral theories like hedonism have no trouble with faulty moral intuitions because there is a hard and fast rule (making people happy is good, making them sad is bad) that they apply to each moral dilemma in order to solve it.

Anyway, I'd love to hear your input on the matter. You seem like you have the head for it. I hope I'm not scaring you off by rattling off these long ass theory names. Philosophers like to make big complicated names for simple ideas that everyone can understand. It's gatekeeping. Just hop into the discussion feet first. What's your opinion on Stich's chart? (I gave a brief explanation of the nuts and bolts of it in my reply to DLJ directly above).
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