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The 32nd Annual Midwest Philosophy Colloquium
“Frontiers of Moral Psychology”

Speaker: Stephen Stich
May 9, 2008

Stephen Stich

“The Persistence of Moral Disagreement”
Stephen Stich
Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy
Winner of the 2007 Jean-Nicod Prize
Rutgers University
May 9, 2008
5:00 PM
Imholte 109

Abstract: Moral disagreement is widespread. But would that disagreement persist even under hypothetical idealized conditions in which all parties to a moral debate are rational, impartial and fully informed about the relevant non-moral facts? The answer is important for many moral theories. On some versions of theories in the "ideal observer" tradition, a positive answer entails either moral relativism or moral skepticism, and many contemporary moral realists hold that a negative answer would show that moral realism is false. In this talk I will review a number of recent empirical studies of moral judgments in different cultural groups which suggest that moral disagreement would indeed persist under idealized circumstances – though much turns on exactly how the idealized circumstances are characterized. The persistence of moral disagreement is also suggested by an empirically motivated account of the psychological mechanisms underlying the acquisition and implementation of moral norms that I have developed in collaboration with Chandra Sripada, and by theoretical work on how those mechanisms might have evolved. The model for the psychology of norms, which I'll discuss briefly, leaves abundant room for reasoning in moral deliberation, but does not support the idea that rational deliberation will lead to convergence.

Professor Stich will also be giving a workshop entitled “Experimental Philosophers are not Oxymorons” at 2:15 PM in Imholte 114. All are welcome.

Speakers: John Doris and Shaun Nichols
October 4-5, 2007

“How to Build a Person”
John Doris
Associate Professor
Washington University in St. Louis
Author of Lack of Character(Cambridge 2002)
October 4, 2007
7:30 PM
Imholte 109

Abstract: In much moral philosophy, persons are characterized by reflective activity-- a conscious and concerted mentation effecting control of behavioral outcomes. In social and cognitive psychology, quantities of work on automatic processing suggest that this philosophical conception of persons is empirically inadequate; much human behavior is the outcome of processes that are not conscious, not controlled, and very often evaluatively incongruent with the putative deliverances of reflective deliberation. An empirically adequate conception of persons will therefore de-emphasize reflection; instead, the human ethical distinctiveness marked with the honorific "person" is to be found in the narrative transactions by which humans living in groups create and sustain social relationships.

“Sentimentalist Pluralism: Moral Psychology and Philosophical Ethics”
Shaun Nichols
University of Arizona
Author of Sentimental Rules: On the Natural
Foundations of Moral Judgment
(Oxford 2004)

October 5, 2007
5:00 PM
Imholte 109

Abstract: Recent work in psychology provides support for two major claims about everyday morality. First, morality depends critically on the emotions – we would have nothing like everyday morality if it weren't for our emotional endowment. Second, moral judgment is guided by a plurality of independent rules which sometimes give conflicting answers about the proper course of action. If morality does depend on the emotions, this undermines the philosophically attractive idea that everyday morality arises from rationality or mind-independent moral truths. However, the fact that morality depends on the emotions does not have revolutionary implications for how we ought to live. In particular, the fact that the emotions give rise to a variety of independent moral rules is no reason to give up those rules.

Everyone is cordially invited to all sessions. Receptions to follow both lectures. In addition, Professors Doris and Nichols will present a joint paper, “Broad Minded,” on Friday afternoon at 2 p.m., Imholte 112

These lectures are funded by the Office of the Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs and Dean, UMM.