My wife Alison was one of the casualties of the tragedy described in the article just below. She took her life this past March by overdosing (I surmise) on the medications she’d been prescribed for chronic pain. She explicitly told me over the years that she kept a stash with her at all times in case things got bad enough for her to have to take her own life. “I have no intention of living past 70,” she’d often say. She was 57.
Each of us deserves not to be wronged. Plausibly, the basis for this (the “desert-basis” in the lingo) is something like each of us being a human person (maybe the relevant feature is a bit different from this, but let’s suppose it is this). But what is the deserving here — what does it come to?
One candidate is this: each of us ought (or is normatively required) to refrain from wronging others. But this idea seems to conflate two different things: (1) deserving not to be wronged (this being the case: it ought not to be the case that one is wronged) and (2) it being the case that each person ought not to wrong one. Another way of putting this problem: there is a mismatch between the two sorts of normative features, making the second the wrong sort of thing for analyzing or explaining the first. (Yet another decent, if less precise, way of making this point: M deserving X more comes to M getting X being valuable in a particular important sort of way than it comes to it being the case that each of us ought to provide M with X.)Continue reading
It may seem strange to have so political a reaction to the death of a spouse, but I find myself, in the wake of my wife Alison Bowles’s recent untimely death, seeing the world through her eyes. And she was, if anything, a politically opinionated person whose perspective on the world permanently changed the way I look at it. I’ve certainly done my share of entirely private grieving for her (and have a long way to go), but I can’t help feeling an imperative to preserve what I regard as her distinctive outlook on the world beyond our marriage.
This story in The New York Times about Andrew Cuomo strikes a particular chord.
In “Moral Grandstanding,” Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke defend the following account of moral grandstanding (MG):
(1) to MG is to participate in moral discourse out of the desire to be regarded by others as moral (with the desire for moral recognition or recognition desire (RD) being strong enough that, if one were not to be recognized as moral, one would be disappointed; and one acts from this desire via the proper conventionally-determined sort of “grandstanding expression”). Continue reading
In chs. 9 and 10, Haidt begins his defense of his third principle of empirical moral psychology:
(III) Morality binds and blinds.
The other two (with my interpolations), already defended in the book, are:
(I) Intuitions come first [in moral thinking] strategic reasoning [to moral conclusions] second
(II) There’s more to morality [moral thinking] than harm and fairness.
CH5 (“BEYOND ‘WEIRD’ MORALITY”) SELECTIVE SUMMARY – commentary in bold
5.1 WEIRD people (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic people) are statistical outliers in the group of humans – and therefore bad samples for generalizing about the group of humans. They are perhaps most obviously outliers in that, at least in cases not involving other-harming or unfair action, they resist inferring from feelings of disgust upon considering a social situation to that situation being morally bad or involving someone doing something morally wrong. For example, they are much less inclined to say that someone having sex with a chicken carcass and then eating it is (universally, morally) wrong. Similarly for other “harmless taboo” cases. Therefore, good empirical moral psychology should not sample only WEIRDos (e.g., university students in the United States – hard to get much WEIRDer). Continue reading
David Potts and I are reading, summarizing and commenting our way through Jonathan Haidt’s THE RIGHTEOUS MIND: WHY GOOD PEOPLE ARE DIVIDED BY POLITICS AND RELIGION. Non-readers are invited to follow along and comment – or better read along as well. This is an important and good book. All the cool kids have already read it. Here is the format: six weeks, summary/commentary on two chapters each week, David and I alternating. I’m starting off. What follows is longer and less simple and clear than I would like, but in the interests of getting things rolling, here we go.
CH1 (“WHERE DOES MORALITY COME FROM?”)
CH1 – SELECTIVE SUMMARY
Haidt presents and marshals evidence against (what was until recently) the predominant “rationalist” view of moral psychology (the study of what moral thinking is like and how it