Moral judgments, we expect, ought not to depend on luck. A person should be blamed only for actions and outcomes that were under the person’s control. Yet often, moral judgments appear to be influenced by luck. A father who leaves his child by the bath, after telling his child to stay put and believing that he will stay put, is judged to be morally blameworthy if the child drowns (an unlucky outcome), but not if his child stays put and doesn’t (...) drown. Previous theories of moral luck suggest that this asymmetry reflects primarily the influence of unlucky outcomes on moral judgments. In the current study, we use behavioral methods and fMRI to test an alternative: these moral judgments largely reflect participants’ judgments of the agent’s beliefs. In “moral luck” scenarios, the unlucky agent also holds a false belief. Here, we show that moral luck depends more on false beliefs than bad outcomes. We also show that participants with false beliefs are judged as having less justified beliefs and are therefore judged as more morally blameworthy. The current study lends support to a rationalist account of moral luck: moral luck asymmetries are driven not by outcome bias primarily, but by mental state assessments we endorse as morally relevant, i.e. whether agents are justified in thinking that they won’t cause harm. (shrink)
Is the basis of criminality an act that causes harm, or an act undertaken with the belief that one will cause harm? The present study takes a cognitive neuroscience approach to investigating how information about an agent’s beliefs and an action’s conse- quences contribute to moral judgment. We build on prior devel- opmental evidence showing that these factors contribute differ- entially to the young child’s moral judgments coupled with neurobiological evidence suggesting a role for the right tem- poroparietal junction (RTPJ) (...) in belief attribution. Participants read vignettes in a 2 2 design: protagonists produced either a negative or neutral outcome based on the belief that they were causing the negative outcome (‘‘negative’’ belief) or the neutral outcome (‘‘neutral’’ belief). The RTPJ showed significant activation above baseline for all four conditions but was modulated by an interaction between belief and outcome. Specifically, the RTPJ response was highest for cases of attempted harm, where protag- onists were condemned for actions that they believed would cause harm to others, even though the harm did not occur. The results not only suggest a general role for belief attribution during moral judgment, but also add detail to our understanding of the inter- action between these processes at both the neural and behavioral levels. (shrink)
Simulation theory accounts of mind-reading propose that the observer generates a mental state that matches the state of the target and then uses this state as the basis for an attribution of a similar state to the target. The key proposal is thus that mechanisms that are primarily used online, when a person experiences a kind of mental state, are then co-opted to run Simulations of similar states in another person. Here I consider the neuroscientific evidence for this view. I (...) argue that there is substantial evidence for co-opted mechanisms, leading from one individual’s mental state to a matching state in an observer, but there is no evidence that the output of these co-opted mechanisms serve as the basis for mental state attributions. There is also substantial evidence for attribution mechanisms that serve as the basis for mental state attributions, but there is no evidence that these mechanisms receive their input from co-opted mechanisms. (shrink)
What is the impact of science on philosophy? In “Experiments in Ethics”, Kwame Anthony Appiah addresses this question for morality and ethics. Appiah suggests that scientific results may undermine moral intuitions by undermining our confidence in the actual sources of our intuitions, or by invalidating our factual assumptions about the causes of human behavior. Appiah worries that scientific results showing situational causes on human behavior force us to abandon the intuition, formalized in virtue ethics, that what matters is “who you (...) are on the inside”. In this review, we agree with Appiah that scientific results at once force and do not force us to abandon this intuition. We also propose that Appiah’s worry is due in part to an over-simplified conception of “internal causes”, shared widely among scientists and philosophers. By re-introducing the true richness of internal causes invoked in moral judgments, we hope to relax the tension between scientific results and moral intuitions. Ultimately, we propose that science can undermine and constrain but cannot affirm our commitment to specific moral intuitions. (shrink)
Language has been shown to play a key role in the development of a child’s theory of mind, but its role in adult belief reasoning remains unclear. One recent study used verbal and nonverbal interference during a false-belief task to show that accurate belief reasoning in adults necessarily requires language (Newton & de Villiers, 2007). The strength of this inference depends on the cognitive processes that are matched between the verbal and nonverbal inference tasks. Here, we matched the two interference (...) tasks in terms of their effects on spatial working memory. We found equal success on false-belief reasoning during both verbal and nonverbal interference, suggesting that language is not specifically necessary for adult theory of mind. (shrink)
When engaging in joint attention, one person directs another person’s attention to an object (Initiating Joint Attention, IJA), and the second person’s attention follows (Responding to Joint Attention, RJA). As such, joint attention must occur within the context of a social interaction. This ability is critical to language and social development; yet the neural bases for this pivotal skill remain understudied. This paucity of research is likely due to the challenge in acquiring functional MRI data during a naturalistic, contingent social (...) interaction. To examine the neural bases of both IJA and RJA we implemented a dual-video set-up that allowed for a face-to-face interaction between subject and experimenter via video during fMRI data collection. In each trial, participants either followed the experimenter’s gaze to a target (RJA) or cued the experimenter to look at the target (IJA). A control condition, solo attention (SA), was included in which the subject shifted gaze to a target while the experimenter closed her eyes. Block and event-related analyses were conducted and revealed common and distinct regions for IJA and RJA. Distinct regions included the ventromedial prefrontal cortex for RJA and intraparietal sulcus and middle frontal gyrus for IJA (as compared to SA). Conjunction analyses revealed overlap in the dorsal medial prefrontal cortex (dMPFC) and right posterior superior temporal sulcus (pSTS) for IJA and RJA (as compared to SA) for the event analyses. Functional connectivity analyses during a resting baseline suggest joint attention processes recruit distinct but interacting networks, including social-cognitive, voluntary attention orienting, and visual networks. This novel experimental set-up allowed for the identification of the neural bases of joint attention during a real-time interaction and findings suggest that whether one is the initiator or responder, the dMPFC and right pSTS, are selectively recruited during periods of joint attention. (shrink)
Shors & Matzel's target article is a thought-provoking attempt to reconceptualise long-term potentiation as an attentional or arousal mechanism rather than a memory storage mechanism. This is incompatible with the facts of the neurobiology of attention and of the behavioural neurophysiological properties of hippocampal neurons.
Should Lesbian and women's events have policies banning sadomasochists or sadomasochistic acts? This question is being heatedly debated in the Lesbian community. In this paper, I examine the moral and political problems with sadomasochism from a Lesbian-feminist perspective, concluding that sadomasochism is antifeminist and antiliberatory for many reasons. Then, given this conclusion, I explore how events such as women's music festivals should determine their policies about sadomasochism.
What is the relationship between our perceptual and linguistic representations of the same event? We approached this question by asking to whether visual perception of motion and understanding linguistic depictions of motion rely on the same neural architecture. The same group of participants took part in two language tasks and one visual task. In task 1, participants made semantic similarity judgments with high (e.g. “to bounce”) and low motion (e.g. “to look”) words. In task 2, participants made plausibility judgments for (...) passages describing movement (“A centaur hurled a spear…”) or cognitive events (“A gentleman loved cheese…”). Task 3 was a visual motion localizer in which participants viewed animations of point-light walkers, randomly moving dots, and stationary dots changing in luminance. Based on the visual motion localizer we identified classic visual motion areas of the temporal (MT/MST and STS) and parietal cortex (inferior and superior parietal lobules). We find that linguistic depictions of motion and seeing motion activate largely distinct cortical areas. Motion words did not activate any part of the visual motion system. Motion passages produced a small response in the right superior parietal lobule, but none of the temporal motion regions. These results suggest 1) as compared to words, rich language stimuli such as passages are more likely to evoke mental imagery and more likely to affect perceptual circuits and 2) effects of language on the visual system are more likely in secondary perceptual areas as compared to early sensory areas. We conclude that language and visual perception constitute distinct but interacting systems. (shrink)
Contemporary moral psychology has focused on the notion of a universal moral sense, robust to individual and cultural differences. Yet recent evidence has revealed individual differences in the psychological processes for moral judgment: controlled cognition, mental-state reasoning, and emotional responding. We discuss this evidence and its relation to cross-cultural diversity in morality.
In “The Search for Environmental Rights,” Joseph Sax argues that each individual should have, as a right, freedom from environmental hazards and access to environmental benefits, but he makes clear that environmental rights do not exist and their recognition would truly be a novel step. Sax states that environmental rights are different from existing human rights and argues that the closest analogy is welfare interests. In arguing for environmental rights, I follow Sax’s direction and draw from the work of those (...) who are the most relevant in establishing environmental rights. I consider Joel Feinberg’s notion of welfare interests, Henry Shue’s notion of basic rights, and James Nickel’s right to a safe environment. I draw from Mill’s harm principle, the superfund legislation, and the Clean Air Act to illustrate the existing ethical and legal bases for establishing environmental rights. Finally, I discuss positive and negative duties that such rights might carry. (shrink)
This paper responds to the four critiques of my book Experiments in Ethics published in this issue. The main theme I take up is how we should understand the relation between psychology and philosophy. Young and Saxe believe that “bottom line” evaluative judgments don’t depend on facts. I argue for a different view, according to which our evaluative and non-evaluative judgments must cohere in a way that makes it rational, sometimes, to abandon even what looks like a basic evaluative (...) judgment because we have changed our minds about the facts. This leads me to qualify Tiberius’s claim that our moral judgments always derive, in part, from fundamental evaluative “justificatory stopping points,” arguing that even these can themselves be adjusted in the light of scientific understanding. Weinberg and Wang object to my use of Kant’s distinction between the perspective of the senses and the perspective of the understanding, because they identify it with a distinction between scientific and philosophical worlds. I argue that a distinction of perspectives isn’t a distinction between worlds and that, in any case, the distinction is not between science and ethics. Finally, in responding to Machery’s objections to a couple of my proposals, I return to the suggestion that a coherentist epistemology is required to deal with the relations between science and ethics. (shrink)
This study examines the relationship between the ethical behavior and customer orientation of insurance sales agents engaged in the selling of complex services, e.g. health, life, auto, and property insurance. The effect of ethical and customer-oriented behavior, measured by the SOCO scale (Saxe and Weitz, 1982), on the annual premiums generated by the agents is also investigated. Customeroriented sales agents are found to engage in less unethical behavior than their sales-oriented counterparts. Further, sales-oriented agents are found to perceive greater (...) levels of unethical behavior among their significant others. Alarmingly, higher levels of sales premiums are found among those agents who engage in unethical behavior. (shrink)
Stanley and Williamson reject Ryle's knowing-how/knowing-that distinction charging that it obstructs our understanding of human action. Incorrectly interpreting the distinction to imply that knowledge-how is non-propositional, they object that Ryle's argument for it is unsound and linguistic theory contradicts it. I show that they (and their interlocutors) misconstrue the distinction and Ryle's argument. Consequently, their objections fail. On my reading, Ryle's distinction pertains to, not knowledge, but an explanatory gap between explicit and implicit content, and his argument for it is (...) sound. I defend the distinction's necessity in explaining human action and show that it propels a fruitful explanatory program. (shrink)
Leif Wenar examines the impact on takings scholarship of the redefinition of "property" early in the twentieth century. He argues that the Hohfeldian characterization of property as rights (instead of as tangible things) forced major scholars such as Michelman, Sax, and Epstein into extreme interpretations of the Takings Clause. This extremism is unnecessary, however, since the original objections to the idea that "property is things" are mistaken.
Our understanding of South Asian society and history is sometimes muddled by the rigid distinctions we make between ‘religion’ and ‘politics.’ The resurgent appeal of Hindu nationalism, the involvement of Hindu renouncers in contemporary Indian politics, and the continuing relevance of religious issues to political discourse throughout South Asia, show that such a distinction is of limited utility. In this essay, I have examined the notion of digvijaya in some detail, in an attempt to show that this ‘most important Indian (...) concept with regard to sovereignty’ was always both a ‘religious’ and a ‘political’ phenomenon. When it was performed by Hindu kings in the classical period, the ‘political’ dimension of digvijaya was foregrounded, while in the medieval and modern periods, when it was associated primarily with Hindu renouncers, its ‘religious’ aspects were paramount. But neither ‘political’ nor ‘religious’ aspects were ever absent from any of the digvijayas discussed here because religion and politics were mutually entailed in the digvijaya at all times, just as kings and renouncers were—and still are—alter-egos of each other. I am tempted to conclude that the digvijaya melded religious and political domains. Yet perhaps even to speak of ‘melding’ religion and politics is a peculiarly modern kind of discourse. Perhaps we need to rethink our categories and recognize that politics always has a religious element, while religion is always a political force. (shrink)
In an effort to understand the mechanisms of irradiation embrittlement of reactor pressure-vessel steels, hardening and microstructure evolution in a number of simple ferritic model alloys and complex bainitic steels irradiated with 3.2?MeV protons over a range of doses, dose rates and temperatures were characterized. Irradiations were conducted on selected model alloys to 1?dpa, which is a much higher dose than has been explored for neutron irradiations of these materials. Irradiation hardening was determined from Vickers hardness measurements, and the microstructures (...) were characterized using small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS) in selected cases. At low-to-intermediate dose, the hardening trends in the proton-irradiated ferritic alloys without nickel were similar to those under neutron irradiation. Hardening also decreased with the proton irradiation temperature in this case, broadly consistent with neutron irradiation trends, and was generally relatively insensitive to dose rate. Quantitative differences were observed between the proton and neutron irradiations of model alloys and, to a lesser extent, complex steels, containing both copper and nickel. These differences can be rationalized by shifts in the hardening curves to higher dose, due to proton dose rates that are 700 or more times higher than for neutrons. Precipitate sizes in the proton-irradiated alloys generally increase with dose and are qualitatively similar to those observed in neutron-irradiated alloys. However, much larger scattering features were also detected at 1?dpa. All the alloys irradiated to this high dose were remarkably hardened by amounts from 490 to 740?MPa. (shrink)