Up@dawn 2.0

Monday, March 21, 2016

Quiz March 22

Let's not forget to do last time's quiz first...

1. (Again:) Plato's Euthyphro poses what dilemma, and why does the popular perception of a tight link between religion and ethics persist?

2. Saying that ethical deliberations answer only to a local ethical code leads to what?

3. In the rudimentary ethical project of our ancestors, the likeliest emotion motivating conformity was what? (Hint: listen to the 2,000 Year Old Man...transcript)

4. What is the important achievement of ethical revolutionaries?

5. What Deweyan judgment does Kitcher say we should endorse?

6. The center of secular value is what?


  • Do you agree that most secular accounts "reduce ethical life to the expression of subjective attitudes"? 27 Are inter-subjective attitudes stronger?
  • Why do you think Kitcher considers Darwinian construals of goodness in terms of reproductive success inadequate? 29 Do you agree?
  • How do you explain the widely-shared recognition of the wrongness of slavery (30) and the growth of "responsiveness" (32)?
  • Was there a non-arbitrary threshold that truly began the ethical project? 36
  • Is "progress from," rooted in problem-solving, a better concept than progress to a fixed goal? (42) Is progress real?
  • Do you agree that "truth happens to an idea" rather than subsisting eternally? 45
  • Is there a cure for our "old disease"? 48
  • Is it fair to insist that participants in ethical discussions "accept a ban on appealing to substantive religious doctrines"? 50
  • Is a redistribution of material resources and reconfiguration of economic and political institutions essential to the ethical project? 51
  • Is there a place for Nietzschean "free spirits" in the evolution of ethics?  52
  • Do you agree that we're "always already" ethical? 53
  • Can fiction do philosophical and ethical work? 55 Does good fiction do it better than philosophy? Can you give an example?

Religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts, study finds

Children from religious families are less kind and more punitive than those from non-religious households, according to a new study.
Academics from seven universities across the world studied Christian, Muslim and non-religious children to test the relationship between religion and morality.
They found that religious belief is a negative influence on children’s altruism.
“Overall, our findings ... contradict the commonsense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind towards others,” said the authors of The Negative Association Between Religiousness and Children’s Altruism Across the World, published this week in Current Biology... (continues)


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  2. Quiz question:
    What is a fully ethical being?

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  4. DQ:Was there a non-arbitrary threshold that truly began the ethical project? 36
    Recently I have been rewatching Log Horizon, spoilers ahead for anyone who is going to watch it, and the plot of the first 10 or 12 episodes has a unique answer to this question. The series is about players of an MMORPG becoming taped in the game world, ie the game became their new reality. While in this new world if they died out raiding or questing they would respawn in a cathedral, this brings up the question if it is right to kill. This lead to powerful guilds taking advantage of weak players, until the main character devised a plan to institute a legal system of sorts. As to how this answers the question, people saw a problem but did nothing to fix it until one person inplemented a plan that while not solving it entirely adressed the issue. So in my mind there was no arbitrary threshold that started the ethical project, just one guy giving voice to the many.

  5. DQ: After reading the article in theguardian.com why do you think that studies found that religious children are meaner than their secular counterparts?

  6. Quiz Question

    Treating values as products of negotiation seems to do what?

    1. It seems to "rob them of their dignity, and consequently of their force."

  7. Can fiction do philosophical and ethical work? 55 Does good fiction do it better than philosophy? Can you give an example?

    Fiction often acts as an intermediary between reality and our personal internal structures. With this power in hand, it not only can but must influence us ethically and philosophically. In literary criticism, along with feminist and formalist approaches, there is also the moral/philosophical approach. The list of about six--depending on which source you cite--approaches are the methods of scrutiny any piece of literature can undergo. Therefore, since the philosophical/moral approach is almost always listed, it follows then that fictional works most often have something of philosophical value to say. Whether it does it better or worse is impossible to tell. In the case of children, I would say that fiction is better suited to incite philosophical thinking than even the most simplified treatise. But, in the adult world, it depends upon the material presented. In general, people are more likely to subject themselves to the surreptitious argument of something controversial like abortion, for instance, through the realm of fiction. The book When She Woke deals with this issue within a theocratic dystopian world. It engages the argument from both sides and, ultimately, the main character, is still ambivalent, leaving the reader to judge for herself. Yet, at some point, straight philosophical thought in its most essential form of rational argument supersedes and must be acknowledged. A novel can only encounter an issue for so long before the conversation becomes too convoluted to remain inside the text, plot, etc.

  8. DQ:
    In the ethical discussions that Kitcher proposes that lead to furthering of the ethical project, how does one discuss a change without invoking objectivity or acknowledging subjectivity? And in the case of the latter how would this influence others without appealing internally to some external form of reason?

  9. DQ:
    Would it be possible and if so how probable for our evolutionary cousins to evolve a more in depth ethical system? If so what changes in them would it take?

    1. If it happened once, I can see no reason why it cannot happen again. I couldn't speak much to the probability except to say that I would suppose it is higher than we might intuitively surmise. Perhaps as high brain function evolves, it is inevitable. As for what changes it would take, I suspect that any deep ethical system, at a minimum, would require that individuals not only have a sense of self, but also an ability to recognize the agency of other individuals. So, the development of both consciousness and empathy would be required, and may in fact be sufficient to cause a more robust ethical system to come about.

  10. "Is it fair to insist that participants in ethical discussions "accept a ban on appealing to substantive religious doctrines"?"

    I think it's fair, and possibly necessary. If you allow for religious doctrines, the discussion is not going to center on ethics but on theology. Is this act condoned or condemned by x, and is x valid. Further, those who would admit such doctrines into discussion are not likely to change their mind, which is what Kitcher gets at when he states that "they would fall foul of the requirement to eradicate identifiable errors." It ceases to be a discussion of any value when one party has a conclusion already. Their only motivation cannot be anything but convincing others to come to the same conclusion.

  11. "Is 'progress from,' rooted in problem-solving, a better concept than progress to a fixed goal? (42) Is progress real?"

    I see progress as real and do prefer to look at it "progress from," rather than progress towards a fixed goal. A fixed goal of cosmic perfection is too far off; possibly forever unattainable. Looking at problems with an eye on the past creates a more hopeful outlook for me. Knowing how far humanity has come is less depressing than thinking about how far we would still have to go to reach perfection.

    I also agree with Kitcher that we might solve problems more systematically and at higher rates if we understand them for what they are.