Causation is one of philosophy's most venerable and thoroughly-analyzed concepts. However, the study of how ordinary people make causal judgments is a much more recent addition to the philosophical arsenal. One of the most prominent views of causal explanation, especially in the realm of harmful or potentially harmful behavior, is that unusual or counternormative events are accorded privileged status in ordinary causal explanations. This is a fundamental assumption in psychological theories of counterfactual reasoning, and has been transported to philosophy by (...) Hitchcock and Knobe (2009). A different view--the basis of the culpable control model of blame (CCM)--is that primary causal status is accorded to behaviors that arouse negative evaluative reactions, including behaviors that stem from nefarious motives, negligence or recklessness, a faulty character, or behaviors that lead to harmful or potentially harmful consequences. This paper describes four empirical studies that show consistent support for the CCM. (shrink)
A leading cognitive scientist argues that a deep sense of good and evil is bred in the bone. From John Locke to Sigmund Freud, philosophers and psychologists have long believed that we begin life as blank moral slates. Many of us take for granted that babies are born selfish and that it is the role of society—and especially parents—to transform them from little sociopaths into civilized beings. In Just Babies, Paul Bloom argues that humans are in fact hardwired with (...) a sense of morality. Drawing on groundbreaking research at Yale, Bloom demonstrates that, even before they can speak or walk, babies judge the goodness and badness of others’ actions; feel empathy and compassion; act to soothe those in distress; and have a rudimentary sense of justice. -/- Still, this innate morality is limited, sometimes tragically. We are naturally hostile to strangers, prone to parochialism and bigotry. Bringing together insights from psychology, behavioral economics, evolutionary biology, and philosophy, Bloom explores how we have come to surpass these limitations. Along the way, he examines the morality of chimpanzees, violent psychopaths, religious extremists, and Ivy League professors, and explores our often puzzling moral feelings about sex, politics, religion, and race. In his analysis of the morality of children and adults, Bloom rejects the fashionable view that our moral decisions are driven mainly by gut feelings and unconscious biases. Just as reason has driven our great scientific discoveries, he argues, it is reason and deliberation that makes possible our moral discoveries, such as the wrongness of slavery. Ultimately, it is through our imagination, our compassion, and our uniquely human capacity for rational thought that we can transcend the primitive sense of morality we were born with, becoming more than just babies. -/- Paul Bloom has a gift for bringing abstract ideas to life, moving seamlessly from Darwin, Herodotus, and Adam Smith to The Princess Bride, Hannibal Lecter, and Louis C.K. Vivid, witty, and intellectually probing, Just Babies offers a radical new perspective on our moral lives. (shrink)
The strong word and stance issue only from a strict will, a will that dares the error of reading all of reality as a text, and all prior texts as openings for its own totalizing and unique interpretations. Strong poets present themselves as looking for truth in the world, searching in reality and in tradition, but such a stance, as Nietzsche said, remains under the mastery of desire, of instinctual drives. So, in effect, the strong poet wants pleasure and not (...) truth; he wants what Nietzsche named as "the belief in truth and the pleasurable effects of this belief." No strong poet can admit that Nietzsche was accurate in this insight, and no critic need fear that any strong poet will accept and so be hurt by demystification. The concern of this book, as of my earlier studies in poetic misprision, is only with strong poets, which in this series of chapters is exemplified by the major sequence of High Romantic British and American poets: Blake, Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Browning, Yeats, Emerson, Whitman, and Stevens, but also throughout by two of the strongest poets in the European Romantic tradition: Nietzsche and Freud. By "poet" I therefore do not mean only verse-writer, as the instance of Emerson also should make clear. Harold Bloom is DeVane Professor of the Humanities at Yale University. This article is the first chapter of his new book, Poetry and Repression, to be published by the Yale University Press. The book completes a tetralogy, of which the earlier volumes are The Anxiety of Influence, A Map of Misreading, and Kabbalah and Criticism. See also: "Formalism, Savagery, and Care; or, The Function of Criticism Once Again" by Jerome J. McGann in Vol. 2, No. 3; "The Poet as Elaborator: Analytical Psychology as a Critical Paradigm" by David D. Cooper in Vol. 6, No. 1. (shrink)
In this paper Bloom analyzes the popular magazine, Men's Health, from a feminist perspective, locating ways that the magazine participates in an insidious form of anti-feminist backlash. She specifically analyzes the magazine to make sense of how its writers discursively position women in their relationships to heterosexual men and how they use the voices of women who call themselves feminists to promote an anti-feminist, pro-patriarchy agenda. She demonstrates that the “health” of men being promoted in this magazine is a (...) mental health grounded in the maintenance of male privilege and power. (shrink)
Many people have argued that the evolution of the human language faculty cannot be explained by Darwinian natural selection. Chomsky and Gould have suggested that language may have evolved as the by-product of selection for other abilities or as a consequence of as-yet unknown laws of growth and form. Others have argued that a biological specialization for grammar is incompatible with every tenet of Darwinian theory – that it shows no genetic variation, could not exist in any intermediate forms, confers (...) no selective advantage, and would require more evolutionary time and genomic space than is available. We examine these arguments and show that they depend on inaccurate assumptions about biology or language or both. Evolutionary theory offers clear criteria for when a trait should be attributed to natural selection: complex design for some function, and the absence of alternative processes capable of explaining such complexity. Human language meets these criteria: Grammar is a complex mechanism tailored to the transmission of propositional structures through a serial interface. Autonomous and arbitrary grammatical phenomena have been offered as counterexamples to the position that language is an adaptation, but this reasoning is unsound: Communication protocols depend on arbitrary conventions that are adaptive as long as they are shared. Consequently, language acquisition in the child should systematically differ from language evolution in the species, and attempts to analogize them are misleading. Reviewing other arguments and data, we conclude that there is every reason to believe that a specialization for grammar evolved by a conventional neo-Darwinian process. (shrink)
Despite its considerable intellectual interest and great social relevance, religion has been neglected by contemporary develop- mental psychologists. But in the last few years, there has been an emerging body of research exploring children’s grasp of certain universal religious ideas. Some recent findings suggest that two foundational aspects of religious belief – belief in divine agents, and belief in mind–body dualism – come naturally to young children. This research is briefly reviewed, and some future directions..
The uniquely human emotion of disgust is intimately connected to morality in many, perhaps all, cultures. We report two studies suggesting that a predisposition to feel disgust is associated with more conservative political attitudes, especially for issues related to the moral dimension of purity. In the first study, we document a positive correlation between disgust sensitivity and self-reported conservatism in a broad sample of US adults. In Study 2 we show that while disgust sensitivity is associated with more conservative attitudes (...) on a range of political issues, this relationship is strongest for purity-related issues—specifically, abortion and gay marriage. (shrink)
Compensation systems are an integral part of the relationships organizations establish with their employees. For many years, researchers viewed pay systems as an efficient way to bring market-like labour exchanges inside organizations. This view suggested that only economic considerations matter for understanding how compensation systems effect organizations and their employees. Advances in organizational research, particularly those focused on issues of justice and fairness, suggest that the fully understanding the outcomes of compensation systems requires examining their psychological, social, and moral effects.
According to models of objectification, viewing someone as a body induces de-mentalization, stripping away their psychological traits. Here evidence is presented for an alternative account, where a body focus does not diminish the attribution of all mental capacities but, instead, leads perceivers to infer a different kind of mind. Drawing on the distinction in mind perception between agency and experience, it is found that focusing on someone's body reduces perceptions of agency but increases perceptions of experience. These effects were found (...) when comparing targets represented by both revealing versus nonrevealing pictures or by simply directing attention toward physical characteristics. The effect of a body focus on mind perception also influenced moral intuitions, with those represented as a body seen to be less morally responsible but more sensitive to harm. These effects suggest that a body focus does not cause objectification per se but, instead, leads to a redistribution of perceived mind. (shrink)
Recent work within psychology demonstrates that unconscious cognition plays a central role in the judgments and actions of individuals. We distinguish between two basic types unconscious social cognition: unconsciousness of the influences on judgments and actions, and unconscious of the mental states that give rise to judgments and actions. Influence unconsciousness is corroborated by strong empirical evidence, but unconscious states are difficult to verify. We discuss procedures aimed at providing conclusive evidence of state unconsciousness, and apply them to recent empirical (...) findings. (shrink)
What would it be like to have never learned English, but instead only to know Hopi, Mandarin Chinese, or American Sign Language? Would that change the way you think? Imagine entirely losing your language, as the result of stroke or trauma. You are aphasic, unable to speak or listen, read or write. What would your thoughts now be like? As the most extreme case, imagine having been raised without any language at all, as a wild child. What—if anything—would it be (...) like to be such a person? Could you be smart; could you reminisce about the past, plan the future? (shrink)
There are two facts about word learning that everyone accepts. The ﬁrst is that words really do have to be learned. There is controversy over how much conceptual structure and linguistic knowledge is innate, but nobody thinks that this is the case for the speciﬁc mappings between sounds (or signs) and meanings. This is because these mappings vary arbitrarily from culture to culture. No matter how intelligent a British baby is, for instance, she still has to learn, by attending to (...) the language of the people around her, that rabbits are called ‘rabbits’, that sleeping is called ‘sleeping’, and so on. (shrink)
College students implicitly judge interracial sex and gay sex to be morally wrong Some moral intuitions arise from psychological processes that are not fully accessible to consciousness. For instance, most people disapprove of consensual adult incest between siblings, but are unable to articulate why—they just feel that it is wrong (Haidt, 2001). More generally, there is evidence for at least two sources of moral judgment: explicit conscious reasoning and tacit intuitions, which are motivated by emotional responses (Greene et al., 2001) (...) and learned associations (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). (shrink)
This essay examines Joseph Carens' open borders argument in the light of a case study of recent Somali migrants to the UK. It argues that, although arguments for significantly more open borders are compelling, they must take into account existing domestic injustice in receiving states as well as existing global injustice.
Normal children learn tens of thousands of words, and do so quickly and efficiently, often in highly impoverished environments. In How Children Learn the Meanings of Words, I argue that word learning is the product of certain cognitive and linguistic abilities that include the ability to acquire concepts, an appreciation of syntactic cues to meaning, and a rich understanding of the mental states of other people. These capacities are powerful, early emerging, and to some extent uniquely human, but they are (...) not special to word learning. This proposal is an alternative to the view that word learning is the result of simple associative learning mechanisms, and it rejects as well the notion that children possess constraints, either innate or learned, that are specifically earmarked for word learning. This theory is extended to account for how children learn names for objects, substances, and abstract entities, pronouns and proper names, verbs, determiners, prepositions, and number words. Several related topics are also discussed, including naïve essentialism, children's understanding of representational art, the nature of numerical and spatial reasoning, and the role of words in the shaping of mental life. Key Words: cognitive development; concepts; meaning; semantics; social cognition; syntax; theory of mind; word learning. (shrink)
Concussions in professional sports have received increased attention, which is partly attributable to evidence that found concussion incidence rates were much higher than previously thought. Further to this, professional hockey players articulated how their concussion symptoms affected their professional careers, interpersonal relationships, and qualities of life. Researchers are beginning to associate multiple/repeated concussions with Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a structural brain injury that is characterized by tau protein deposits in distinct areas of the brain. Taken together, concussions impact many people in (...) the sporting community from current and former professional athletes and their families to medical and health professionals and researchers. In light of the growing awareness and sensitivity towards concussions, the purpose of this paper is to provide recommendations that are designed to improve player safety in professional hockey and address the ethical issues surrounding these suggestions. (shrink)
Ren-xing can be aptly translated as "human nature," representing as it does the Mencian conviction of and sympathy for a common humanity. The enterprise of comparative philosophy is furthered by drawing attention to the large and important conceptual sphere within which Mencius was working, to his concern for the most fundamental realities of human life, and to his translatability across time and cultures.
This paper, through a discussion of the IRA's proxy bomb campaigns, challenges the way martyrdom is and has been constructed and forces us to examine terrorist events without preconceived notions. It is important to note that when we witness an event that on the surface appears to be an instance of martyrdom, the reality might be far more complex. Part of the problem has been the current inductive logic associated with the study of terrorism in which attacks are a given (...) and experts will engage in a psychological autopsy to trace perpetrators' intentions and motives after the fact. If they are religious, we assume that this act was one of self-sacrifice for a religious cause. However, this is not always the case. We argue that we need to question the intent of the action rather than assume that the event is automatically an act of martyrdom. While attacks in Kabul or Baghdad may appear as deliberate jihadi operations by the Taliban or by Al Qaeda in Iraq, our investigation has determined that a portion of such attacks are the product of coercion and not martyrdom in the traditional sense although observers may understand them to be martyrdom operations. (shrink)