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Geoff Holtzman
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Image least for the 9 questions I studied for my 2013 paper, and for the 3 of those that Buckwaler and Stitch included in their widely-discussed paper on the subject. Plus: why has philosophy made so much less progress toward gender equality than the STEM disciplines have over the past... Continue reading
Posted Jun 23, 2016 at Experimental Philosophy
Elisabeth Hildt and I are organizing a symposium focusing on whether and how neuropsychology might provide insight into normative ethics. We are thrilled about our lineup of invited speakers (including the Experimental Philosophy blog's own Eddy Nahmias!), and are excited about the submissions we hope to receive. The nuts and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2015 at Experimental Philosophy
Very excited to read this! I get the sense that many of us feel somewhat disconnected from the traditional negative and/or positive projects of x-phi, but have had troubling explicating an alternative positive thesis. Readers of the blog might like to know that as the very latest original article in Erkenntnis, the publication-draft PDF is, for the moment, available for free download (without login) on the journal's website:
This is really interesting, John! And I rather agree that knowledge of what a criminal principal is trying to do is not sufficient to establish criminal intent to aid and abet. I see no reason that philosophers should either, regardless of their views on the relevant issues in X-Phi. I think that the simplest way to put this view—thought this phrasing will probably not be satisfactory to most readers of this blog—is that aiding and abetting criminal behavior is as a general rule a means to an end, where that end is criminal. On this view, driving someone to a robbery as a means to facilitate that robbery is a manifestation of intent, but driving someone to a robbery in an effort to forestall that robbery is not. In the latter case, facilitation of the robbery is an unfortunate side effect, not an (intended, primary) end. This stark line I draw between side effects and primary, intended consequences might raise hackles among philosophers, as “side effect” has picked up a rather unusual connotation in philosophy over the past decade. Philosophers now use “side effect” to refer to any kind of event caused by an act that does not mediate the desired outcome of that act, whereas in ordinary language, a side-effect is an unintended and secondary result—it is not at bottom resultant of the action toward the desired end and not primary effects of behavior. I think this new philosophical connotation is rather disingenuous, since knowingly harming the environment is only a (“secondary,” “unintended”) “side-effect” of enacting a particular money-making strategy in the same sense that killing 200,000 Japanese is a (“secondary,” “unintentional”) “side-effect” of enacting a particular war-ending strategy. On the other hand, we can genuinely say that facilitating a robbery is not the intended result of an attempt to forestall a robbery, not is it a primary result (it is caused by driving, not by forestalling, and so is secondary). That said, we could think of this in a different way if we want to do away with side-effect language altogether, which might be for the best: A driver is taking a gamble on directly competing prospects. One of these is a low-probability, high-payout prospect of helping bank X (preventing bank X from being robbed), and the other is a high-probability, low-payout of harming bank X (making it marginally more likely or slightly easier for bank X to get robbed). Because these are directly countervailing, it makes sense that full intent for either might be questioned. This is completely different from “side-effect effect” cases in philosophy, where company X is benefitting, and rainforest Y is losing out; there is no wager in good faith. Do you have thoughts on that? I've mapped my second, X-Phi-neutral understanding of the case below. Drive---->Harm A (facilitate robbery) | | | v Help A (prevent robbery) Enact the CEO’s plan----->Harm A (hurt the environment) | | | | v Help B (pad the company’s coffers)
Hi Adam, I think it's great that you two are doing this, and I had just a few questions. First, am I correct in assuming that you've completed your literature search, and are now looking for unpublished studies in large part to combat publication bias? If so, it might make sense to highlight the fact that you're looking for BOTH significant and non-significant results. I think it's easy for all of us to forget about non-significant results we've found in the past, or to assume that no one wants to see them. A little reminder that you actually care equally about the risk of Type I and Type II errors might encourage people to share non-significant results. Second, what interest do you two have in results from papers that are currently under review? I know that a finding I published earlier this year has since been replicated once, and failed to be replicated twice. But all three results are in manuscripts intended for publication, and the authors might be discouraged from sharing those data since you ask specifically for unpublished studies. Clarification of whether you could use this data, and how you would use it, might get you at least these three sets of data. One of the non-significant tests had a power of something like 0.95, so it's a really solid failure of replication. Third, have you seen the call for data on consequentialist/deontological judgments on the SPSP board? I think it's Paul Conway who's doing a meta-analysis of that stuff. He may be worth contacting in case people have sent him compatibilism data he couldn't use. Plus, it might be worth cross-posting your call for data on that board. I suspect social psychologists like Baumeister and Schooler are more likely to follow those boards than these, and they might have very useful data for you. Fourth, the Reproducibility Project spreadsheet is accessible online, and might put you in touch with researchers trying to replicate compatibilism results. I don't actually know if any of the eligible articles is on compatibilism though.
Thomas, I’ll agree that “nature of the crime” is ambiguous. What I would like to separate are the events preceding and circumstances surrounding the act from the exact behavior of a person in the moment an act is committed. Wording this well for vignettes will be a challenge—but do would you agree that these are the two questions I need to ask/separate (and in that order, but worded better) to disambiguate in order to make stronger claims about just what the data show? That, and saying something neutral like “act,” rather than something weighted like “crime.” On your second point though, I disagree that “the nature of the crime” will be equally relevant to compatibilists and incompatibilists, even if we define it in the broader way you do. If a person thinks some factor is compatible with moral responsibility, that person certainly needs to assess facts about the nature of the crime. But if a person accepts in principle that some fact of a case—- physical determinism, insanity, intent, or anything else—- is incompatible with the possibility of moral responsibility, isn’t she essentially done her reasoning process? Once some factor is identified as making it impossible for that person to be responsible, who cares about other factors that might limit responsibility? If you disagree here, it might be that you and I are using “incompatibile” differently. Here’s how I use the word: A-->~B. Suppose Jones has never left the U.S., and Smith has been assaulted in New Guinea. I take it that never leaving the U.S. is incompatible with assaulting someone in New Guinea. This is enough to entail that Jones did not assault Smith in New Guinea. This means that Jones’s guilt is independent of the nature of the crime (he's not guilty), however we might construe the term. I don’t care if Jones had intent, or was delusional, or had his DNA all over Smith’s body. If I want to weight any further facts regarding the nature of the crime against Jones (other than his and the victim’s locale), then I would either have to relinquish my “geographic incompatibilism”, or deny the premise. If by incompatibilism, we mean the view that determinism is incompatible with moral responsibility in the way that being in the U.S. is incapable with assaulting someone in (being in) New Guinea, I’m not sure why a determinist would care about the nature of a crime. Or do we take incompatibilism about moral responsibility to mean different things? I just take it to be a thesis about the general incompatibility of determinism and moral responsibility. However, all this does bring up another shortcoming in my design, which I think you initially pointed out. The strongest evidence would show that those who previously asserted the independence of MR and the nature of an act do not go back on this assertion in concrete cases. My data is for the contrapositive claim, and I’m not sure how to do the strong data in a way that wouldn’t confound the experiment by nudging participants to make judgments that adhere to their earlier assertions about dependence. Thoughts on that?
Thomas, I actually think you get at the core of my views by essentially denying the DRP when you say, "After all, it is widely recognized that one’s level of responsibility for a crime depends on the nature of the crime (which is true regardless of whether one is a compatibilist or incompatibilist)." I disagree with this on two accounts, which is what I like about these data: (1) The part outside the parentheses is (according to my descriptive statistics) a false premise that leads to a lot of confusion in x-phi; or rather, that assumption is false, as is my own former assumption that it is widely recognized that moral responsibility dependent only on events before, but independent of events constituting or occurring after, an act. It turns out that there is a distribution of levels of recognition of this principle; you recognize it, I don't (at least not intuitively), and the people I tested are all across the board. (2) The part in parentheses is false, and this is the point of my inferential statistics. DRP isn't accepted as true "regardless of whether one is a compatibilist or incompatibilist": its acceptance was correlated >.7 with judgments in favor of compatibilism here! And this prediction of compatibilist judgments is exactly why I think studying the principle might be fruitful.
In a paper I’m preparing, I argue that concrete moral details may influence judgments of moral responsibility in determinist circumstances through processes that are neither errant nor affective (Sorry, Shaun and Josh!). I tested a competing hypothesis—that ordinary judgments of moral responsibility vary in large part due to cognitive, effable... Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2013 at Experimental Philosophy
Jason, In regards to the trolley problem, it's been found that induced negative emotion correlates with moral condemnation, and that good and bad judgments correlate to a certain extent (that's an oversimplification, it's sort of complicated) with differential activation of working memory and emotional areas, respectively, in the case of trolley problems specifically. So the idea was, if emotional induction and emotional brain activity would be expected to predict condemnation in the trolley problem, so would lifelong trait neuroticism. And that's what I found: The more neurotic, the more negative the moral judgement. In the case of reducing love, it's known that neuroticism and conscientiousness correlate with reports of the intensity and passion of love. Given that my broad thesis is that subjective experience influences philosophical belief, I expected that people who experience a phenomenon more strongly than others would be more likely to rate them as "above and beyond" physical characterization. That's also what I found: Neuroticism and conscientiousness (and according to studies, therefore intensity/passion of love experience) correlated negatively with belief in reductionism about love.
Daniel, Yes, the paper does consider that. Given that personality develops before philosophical belief and remains relatively stable throughout life, and that folk intuitions about questions they've likely never thought about before also correlate with personality, this seem probably untrue-- or at least true in addition to my claim, and not instead of it. Or, it could be that both personality and philosophy are commonly subject to some other influence, but this would still suggest that subjective factors influence belief. While proving the order of causation might technically be an empirical, it seems to me it would be an intractable one. Short of a longitudinal study, I'm not sure how you would prove anything. But how do you run a longitudinal study looking at lay people who become philosophers, let alone do that without influencing your subject pool and running into self-selection biases? Furthermore, how would you even analyze that data to see what causes what? So I address your point briefly, but it is a tough question to answer definitively.
Hi Marcus, I think your worries are reasonable, and as I mentioned, these statistics are sort of tricky, and there's not really consensus about how to interpret them. I have found that philosophers tend to worry more about the numbers than psychologists do. Bonferroni corrections provide the most conservative and least powerful test, and many psychologists feel that Bonferroni corrections are way to strong. The most inclusive test would be to calculate the odds of finding 4/9 or 10/45 results significant to p < .05-- and the odds that all of these findings were due to chance is vanishing. A middle of the road, and more popular solution, is to include only those specific correlations that fit into overall models that are significant to p < .05. I chose to take that middle route in determining my main results, but give a nod to both other methods in the article. Interestingly, the least conservative test finds effects for 6 of 9 questions, the most conservative test for 2 of 9 questions, and the in-between test for 2 of 9 questions. One of the most important things to take away from this isn't the exact results, but the overall, fairly broad-reaching pattern, which suggests that *some* philosophical beliefs are subject to personality effects-- even if not all those marked with an * are. The other important thing to keep in mind is that hypothesized findings are generally held to be exempt from post-hoc tests. In this case, that means the connections between neuroticism and the trolley problem, love reductionism, and the knowledge argument. Because I did not have room in the article (or this post) to delve meaningfully into specific hypotheses though, I treated personality effects for the trolley problem, and for the knowledge argument, as insignificant. So the 4 of 9 effects actually *exclude* two of the three hypothesized and discovered effect.
Jason, Yes, the correlations go both ways. Is there one you are particularly interested in? I may be able to update the chart in my original post when I get the time and am back at my computer.
Jonathan, You make a good point, and in my paper and in these posts, I've been careful to remain neutral towards the question of whether or not there are objective philosophical facts. What I am questioning is the ability of philosophical methods to discover these facts, if they do exist. There is a fact of the matter about what medical treatment will lead to a better outcome in a given case, and there might also be a fact of the matter about whether a robot could feel love. If over the years, doctors make partially subjective recommendations of either surgery of physical therapy for a certain type of slipped disc (I don't know if this is true), eventually treatment outcomes will show which intervention is generally the appropriate one. But if philosophers make partially subjective recommendations about whether or not a robot could feel love (which I think I have shown), how can we ever see which answer is appropriate?
Eric, That's a really interesting question. I'm sort of curious if you would find an effect, or if the potential correlation between personality factors and ethical views would wash out any overall effect from ethicists, since they would run the gamut in terms of views. This, in turn, brings up the question of whether people in a particular AOS have different belief tendencies within their own field (or other fields) than people who do not specialize in that field. Unfortunately, I didn't collect AOS info, so I can't answer any of these questions.
Neil, If what you meant is that the studies I *cite* don't show what I want them to, I'll agree with you. That's why I had to take matters into my own hands! But of course, those studies were invaluable to my own work, and probably a lot more important in other ways.
Hi Neil, First, I should mention that the present article focuses on subjectivity and does not delve into either etiological model described in my original post-- I included those models to get valuable feedback for when l do try to publish something in that regard. So I can concede that that theory may not be ready for primetime. But in regards to my claims of subjectivity, I think what I want is evidence that emotions (or personality traits) that are not *entirely* caused by moral (or philosophical) considerations covary with negative (or philosophical) judgments, and this is what I found. Moral differences are caused by emotional differences that are not the result of moral considerations. Therefore, identifying the "best" moral view is tantamount to identifying the "best" personality. This is not to say that there is no right moral view, just that its identification is a matter of subjective values. The same strikes me as true for the other findings in this study.
Jonathan: That's a good question, and a contentious point that most of the real philosophical legwork in the article is committed to defending. I know that many, and probably most readers will reject my claims of subjectivity, even if they accept the psychological findings as valid. It's a hard point to defend, but the objections I've heard are have not been well-defensed either. I think maybe an analogy is the fastest way to illustrate why I use the word "subjective." Suppose it were discovered that the more neurotic a doctor is, the more likely she is to recommend prophylactic surgery, or that the more agreeable she is, the more likely she is to dispense painkillers to anyone who asks. These are obvious cases of subjective bias in medicine, ones so serious that they seem to present real ethical concerns. Now, this does not give us reason to claim that medicine is a subjective discipline, because empirical results can, in theory, reveal objective truth. But philosophy focuses on specifically those questions that are not available to empirical study-- once philosophical questions do become (arguably) objectively determinable, they're co-opted by other disciplines (psychology, physics, etc.). To the extent that medical opinion can be measured against the objective metrics of empirical results, medical opinions may be subjective without medicine being subjective. Without any impersonal check on personal opinion, I think the subjectivity of practicing philosophers can rightly be called the subjectivity of philosophy. Again, very open to and interested in feedback and dissent on this point (as long as it's not from journal referees!).
Hi Nick and Neil, I'll respond to your posts more fully after I get some sleep. In the meantime, here are just a couple citations in response to your question, Neil. The second one focuses specifically on the effects of emotions that arise independently of moral considerations. Greene, J.D., Sommerville, R.B., Nystrom, L.E., Darley, J.M., & Cohen, J.D. (2001). An fMRI investigation of emotional engagement in moral Judgment. Science, 293, 2105-2108. Wheatley, T., & Haidt, J. (2005). Hypnotically induced disgust makes moral judgments more severe. Psychological Science, 16, 780-784.
1. Suppose scientists figure out the exact state of the universe during the big bang, and figure out all the laws of physics as well. They put this information into a computer, and the computer perfectly predicts everything that has ever happened. In other words, they prove that everything that happens, has to happen exactly that way because of the laws of physics and everything that's come before. In this case, is a person free to choose whether or not to murder someone? 2. Suppose you drive to the local baseball stadium with some friends, and try to buy tickets at the door. There are 7 of you, but there are only 6 tickets left. You can either drive everyone to a nearby bar, which will be a lot less fun than being at the game, or 6 of you can go in, and 1 of you can take the bus home and miss the game entirely. Is it most fair for everyone to go to the bar? 3. Suppose a mad scientist takes out your brain, and puts it in your best friend’s head. During the same operation, the scientist takes out your friend’s brain, and puts it in your head. Now your body has your friend’s brain, and your friend’s body has your brain. Your heroic mother storms into the room to save you, but not your friend, who she believes got you into this mess. Is the person with your body still you, her son? 4. Suppose neuroscienists are able to identify every part and every connection in the human brain. Working with a team of computer scientists, they then build a robot that has a complete electronic replica of the human brain. Could this robot experience love? 5. Suppose that all you know about Einstein is that he developed the Theory of Relativity. But suppose it turns out that Einstein actually stole the idea from some guy named Moynahan, who nobody has ever heard of. In this case, when you use the name ‘Einstein,’ are you actually referring to Moynahan? 6. Suppose you hear the sound of your cell phone, so you reach in your pocket and answer the call. Your landlord is on the line, but you realize later that your ringer was off, and the sound you heard was actually someone else’s phone. When you heard that other person’s phone ring and mistook it as your own, did you actually know someone was calling you? 7. Suppose you meet a man from the future who knows everything there is to know about science. He tells you that he doesn’t like apples, and says that though he has never eaten one, he has figured out what apples taste like just by studying the relevant science. Could he know what apples taste like without ever having eaten one? 8. Suppose scientists are able to use stem cells to grow lungs that breathe without being connected to a body. They then grow a heart that pumps without being connected to a body. If they can do all this, can they create a brain that thinks without being connected to a body? 9. Suppose a runaway train is coming down a track, and is certain to kill five workmen who can't get out of the way. You're standing next to the controls and can switch the train to the other track, but if you flip the switch, one man working on that track is sure to die. Should you flip the switch?
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Jul 18, 2012