Events

Apr 29

"Should We Trust Moral Intuition?"

The second public lecture given by Cowling Distinguished Visiting Professor Stephen Stich will be held on April 29th during common time in Leighton 304. A venerable view, still very much alive in contemporary debates, urges that our spontaneous moral judgments reflect a deep wisdom, except when the processes underlying those judgments are interfered with by morally problematic forces. However, much recent work suggests that we should have a very different view of our spontaneous moral judgments. This work indicates that there is no one psychological system underlying moral judgments. Rather, there is a hodgepodge of different systems that pull in different directions. Moreover, some of these systems were designed to perform cognitive functions that have little to do with morality. When they are co-opted to play a role in moral judgment they often reflect aspects of these other functions in unexpected and alarming ways. Far from being the sort of "elegant machines" imagined by both traditional philosophers and contemporary evolutionary psychologists, these mechanisms are kludges (a clumsy or inelegant solution to a problem or difficulty). If the mechanisms underlying moral judgment are indeed a hodgepodge of kludges, it poses a major challenge to those who believe that the pronouncements of those systems should be relied upon.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008
12:00 – 1:00 pm / Leighton 304

Abstract: A venerable view, still very much alive in contemporary debates, urges that our spontaneous moral judgments reflect a deep wisdom, except when the processes underlying those judgments are interfered with by morally problematic forces. However, much recent work suggests that we should have a very different view of our spontaneous moral judgments. This work indicates that there is no one psychological system underlying moral judgments. Rather, there is a hodgepodge of different systems that pull in different directions. Moreover, some of these systems were designed to perform cognitive functions that have little to do with morality. When they are co-opted to play a role in moral judgment they often reflect aspects of these other functions in unexpected and alarming ways. Far from being the sort of “elegant machines” imagined by both traditional philosophers and contemporary evolutionary psychologists, these mechanisms are kludges 1 . If the mechanisms underlying moral judgment are indeed a hodgepodge of kludges, it poses a major challenge to those who believe that the pronouncements of those systems should be relied upon.

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