Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Implications of Moral Instruction on Moral Theory / The Party of Reason and Progress

159 days until first class.

My accomplishments in the past 24 hours include continued work on "Bigotry and the Immorality of Sentimentalism".

The part that I am currently working on aims to show that the evidence Prinz points to in his argument from moral instruction not only fails to support moral sentimentalism - it directly contradicts the theory.

Prinz defines a wrong act as the act that one would be disposed to morally disapprove of under conditions of perfect information - dismissing those biases the agent herself judges to be irrelevant. (In other words, something is a bias if and only if the agent judges it to be a bias.)

One of the arguments he uses in defense of this thesis is the fact that a parent's moral instruction of a child involves emotional conditioning. It involves reward and punishment and ostracism in order to link the misbehavior to a negative emotion. This demonstrates that emotions are central to morality.

It may do this. However, my argument is that the use of techniques of emotional conditioning such as praise and condemnation - techniques that aim to change the sentiments the child has - demonstrate that the sentiments can be out of alignment with the moral facts and must be brought into alignment. This, in turn, implies that there are moral facts independent of the sentiment of the assessor - and that those sentiments, if used as a guide to right and wrong action, can give a false reading. To make the sentiments more reliable, they need to be properly calibrated.

Yet, Prinz argues that there can be no such thing as an improperly calibrated sentiment. It is like saying, no matter where the compass points, that direction is north by definition. "North" simply means "the direction the compass points when I look at it."

As I will try to always do, I will be posting my most recent drafts on the brand new, ugly, but utilitarian Desirism website as I write them - updating them nightly with that day's changes.

What a wonderful incentive to write.

In other news, I have been putting in effort to become active in the newly forming Party of Reason and Progress. I have mentioned here that I am interested in my ideas being put to practical use to making the world a better place than it would have otherwise been. Some work in improving the real world seems in order.

In this, I have been posting comments on some discussions arguing for getting involved in the primary process in both major political parties in order to select science-friendly candidates.

My argument is that, let us assume you have a group in a legislative district with 100 members and each person can bring in the political support of 10 more (on average) for a voting block of 1000 voters.

You have two options.

Option 1: You run your own candidate and draw 1000 votes away from the most science-friendly major party candidate, giving the office over to the least science-friendly major party candidate.

Option 2: You get involved in the selection process of the dominant party in the district - the one that will likely select the candidate that, due to party voting, will win the general election - and make sure that major party selects a pro-science candidate in the primaries.

Your 1000 votes are going to be a lot more effective pursuing the second option than the first.

I hope I have successfully planted the idea in at least a few heads.

I received a message from their new head of policy formation to contact him - which I have done. We'll see where that goes.

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