Caste Wars: The Philosophy of Discrimination (Studies in Ethics and Moral Theory)

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This is largely based on empirical evidence indicating that the psychological mechanisms involved in moral judgment and behavior are merely evolutionary adaptations triggered largely by flimsy emotional responses which vary dramatically across cultures and situations. This often leads to a thorough-going cultural relativism. It's just wrong for me to do it" p. Others, such as Greene, espouse some version of error theory according to which our moral beliefs are systematically false.

Even more extreme perhaps is a full-blown non-cognitivism--the view that moral judgments are not even capable of being true or false see Stich, p. On such a view, there aren't any moral facts at all, not even culturally relative ones! There are some representative exceptions to the bleak view, of course. De Waal a primatologist , Miller a law professor , and Haidt are notable examples. At one point, De Waal firmly objects to those who argue, for example, that human empathy is "some sort of afterthought of evolution or something contrived" or that "we are never truly empathic and kind" p.

According to De Waal, the apparently moral behavior and emotions of primates provide key "building blocks" or "prerequisites" for human morality. It has no objective foundation, a foundation outside of our fantasy--but that's true about money, that's true about music, that's true about most of the things that we care about" p. But even here Haidt seems to put an unnecessarily gloomy spin on this picture.

Does morality have "no objective foundation" whatsoever even if it's grounded in human nature, for example, in the empathic responses we have to the needs of others? Likewise, though we play a large role in the creation of money and its significance, is its existence really just a "fantasy"? Of course, Sommers can't be faulted for the arguably excessive and potentially misleading pessimism of some of the interviewees.

However, he does sometimes join in on partitioning the space of reasonable views in an overly restrictive way. For example, in his introduction to his conversation with Ruse, Sommers seems to characterize the two main positions here as either realist and anti-scientific or anti-realist and empirically-informed pp. Surely any empirically-informed view must admit that morality is intimately bound up with our own concerns and natures. But the idea that our natural, evolved mechanisms for moral judgment and behavior are doing something more like detection than capricious fabrication could be given some more consideration.

Nevertheless, as one commentator has already put it, A Very Bad Wizard is a very good book. It's an easy read while at the same time informative and amusing. I highly recommend it to anyone, expert or novice, interested in modern research on morality--or in just seeing academics cuss. Joshua May is a Ph. His research is primarily in moral psychology, action theory, meta-ethics, and epistemology. We feature over in-depth reviews of a wide range of books and DVDs written by our reviewers from many backgrounds and perspectives.

We update our front page weekly and add more than twenty new reviews each month. This outcome supports the notion that children and adolescents are sensitive, as well as adults, to personal and impersonal distinction. Similarly, Pellizzoni et al. Along with this result for children of such a young age, our findings on the evaluation of dilemmas by children from primary to high school indicate that the distinction between personal and impersonal persists across different ages.

Similarly to what happened with regard to the personal and the impersonal dilemmas, the distinction between moral and socio-conventional dilemmas was consistent in the overall sample and across the school-level groups: Transgressions of moral rules were evaluated as less acceptable than violations of socio-conventional rules whose purpose was not to preserve others but to guarantee the order of social organization. The similarity of findings on the distinction among personal and impersonal and the distinction among moral and socio-conventional is consistent with the hypothesis of an overlap between the organization of morality as conceptualized in neuroethical studies such as that by Greene et al.

We can speculate that emotions can provide the links between the two theoretical perspectives. Both personal dilemmas and moral dilemmas are likely to activate to a greater extent empathic feelings towards the person who suffers as a result of the agent's action. In situations such as those described in impersonal dilemmas the physical distance between the agent and the victim, which ensues from the indirect contact, does not elicit emotions and empathic responses at the same rate as situations of personal dilemmas. Even more than impersonal dilemmas, the actions represented in socio-conventional dilemmas are likely not to generate empathic emotions, because they are behaviors infringing rules which forbid violations of social conventions without harmful consequences.

Therefore, emotions and empathy may underlie differences in moral reasoning and the higher rate of empathy elicited by moral rule transgressions and actions that directly hurt another person may explain the reasons for which at any age e. The findings about the effects of socio-economic factors on moral evaluations help to complete this picture.

Differences in socio-economic and cultural conditions have been found not to affect evaluations of the seriousness of the actions described in personal dilemmas as compared with impersonal dilemmas. On the contrary, socio-economic factors mainly influenced the judgments on infringements of socio-conventional rules, which were considered as more acceptable than moral rule violations.

In general, breaking moral rules was scarcely accepted. This pattern of findings supports our hypothesis that personal and impersonal dilemmas may describe two categories of transgressions of the same moral norm which does not allow someone to harm another person.

Variations in socio-economic and cultural factors are not influential on differences in moral evaluations of these dilemmas since they express two instances of the same kind of moral violation, which is generally little accepted. Another novel finding of this study was that the expected higher rates of transgression in the socio-conventional dilemmas in comparison with moral ones emerged in children and adolescents through scenarios that were shorter than those used in traditional research and in which the situation was sketched in a few sentences.

These features of the dilemmas we used allow investigators to apply them in research projects realized by means of the fMRI technique, thus making possible studies of moral reasoning as conceptualized by the moral domain theory in the neuroscience framework. This is another possible link between neuroscientific and psychological research on morality.

Cultural relativism - Wikipedia

It is worth noting that, even though the structure of Greene et al. It has been argued that the dilemmas often used in neuroethics investigation concern unusual situations and this is seen as a limitation Nichols and Mallon, ; Klein, The dilemmas we employed did not share such a limitation, and thus they might be considered for future research. Besides the links between the neuroethical and psychological perspectives which can be identified at the methodological level, other relationships can be found at the theoretical level.

In addition, in both paradigms the existence of dual systems has been maintained. Finally, in both perspectives one of the two systems is perceived as closely associated with emotion Teper et al. Thus, a series of fundamental similarities despite obvious differences can help to construct bridges between the two paradigms. Such bridges can be established thanks to bi-directional relationships.

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On the one hand, the psychological perspective can propose new conceptual distinctions such as the distinction between moral vs. On the other hand, neuroscientific investigations can suggest and support conceptual distinctions on the basis of the evidence of different underlying brain structures and processes. The common goal of discovering the natural grounds of morality might be achieved better thanks to the links between the two perspectives which can be highlighted by applying the same research materials and theoretical frameworks.

There are some limitations in this study. First, as mentioned before, because of the size of the samples, we could not distinguish in the group of immigrants between children and adolescents from different countries and, consequently, from specific different cultural backgrounds. In addition, the immigrant status as assessed on the basis of the place of birth and on being or not Italian is only an approximated measure of the actual differences in cultures shared by the individuals. These limitations made our interpretation of differences depending on immigrant status speculative to some extent.

Moreover, as regards measures, we have to bear in mind that reliability coefficients for the personal and impersonal dilemmas were low, particularly for the primary school subsample. This feature of the measure may be owed to its short length, but also to the complexity of the assessed construct, for which Greene and colleagues did not provide reliability.

Nevertheless, the association we found needs to be cautiously interpreted, because it may be underestimated Schmitt, Notwithstanding these limitations, this study was one of the first to provide some bridges between studies on morality in the framework of neuroscience and in the framework of psychological research. In particular, our findings on possible overlaps between the conceptualizations of moral reasoning that were provided by the moral domain theory and the personal vs.

Future studies might investigate the neural counterpart of the distinction between different moral domains, that is, the domains of moral and socio-conventional rules. Future research might also better analyze the possible involvement of emotions in differently evaluating transgressions of moral and socio-conventional norms, even in association with judging as acceptable the harmful action of an innocent victim in the frame of personal or impersonal situations. Even more remarkably, in this study socio-economic and cultural dimensions have been found to be influential on some kinds of moral reasoning.

It agrees with the literature, providing evidence that moral knowledge and reasoning, as well as moral behavior Jimerson et al. Until now, however, research concerning the neurobiological basis of morality has not considered the possible impact of cultural and economic variation on moral knowledge and behaviors. Nevertheless, a few studies [e. Can socio-economic and cultural factors also affect the neural counterparts of morality?

Ethics and morality

If the answer to the question is positive, do these contextual factors affect differently the neuronal networks involved in the emotional and cognitive facets of morality? These are open issues for future investigation and suggest interesting routes for future research projects trying to fill the gap between distinct fields of study Killen and Smetana, The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

The authors are grateful to the students, teachers and school administrators who participated in this study and to Miss Lindamulage Nivarthana De Silva for her help in collecting the data. This work was partially supported by grant D from the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart of Milan, Italy, to the first author. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. Journal List Front Hum Neurosci v. Front Hum Neurosci. Published online Sep Simona C. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Reviewed by: Sebastian J.

Caravita, C. Received May 31; Accepted Sep 6. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License , which permits use, distribution and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited and subject to any copyright notices concerning any third-party graphics etc. This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Neuroscientific and psychological research on moral development has until now developed independently, referring to distinct theoretical models, contents, and methods.

Keywords: moral reasoning, socio-economic factors, neuroscience, psychological research, moral domain theory. Introduction Since the s research on neuroscience has devoted increasing attention to brain processes involved in moral judgments and behaviors by investigating the biological foundations of moral reasoning. Table 1 Sample characteristics as percentages.

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Open in a separate window. Procedure Before we allocated dilemmas see next section , personal and impersonal dilemmas were mixed and then divided into two sequences so that the personal and impersonal versions of the same dilemma were not included in the same sequence. Instruments Personal vs.

Middle and High school—Personal version. Middle and High school—Impersonal version. Moral vs. Primary school—Socio-conventional dilemma. Middle and High school—Socio-conventional dilemma. Immigrant status and SES At the beginning of the anonymous protocol including the dilemma measures see Procedure participants were asked to answer eight demographic questions in order to assess gender, age in years, immigrant status two questions , and family SES four open-ended questions.

Effects of kind of dilemma and gender As far as the personal vs. Table 2 Mean scores and standard deviations of personal vs. Table 4 Mean scores and standard deviations of personal vs. Effects of urban vs. Personal vs. Effects of immigrant status Personal vs. Effects of SES Personal vs. Table 6 Mean scores and standard deviations of personal vs. Discussion and conclusions First of all it is worth noting that the sets of moral dilemmas we devised appeared to be valid overall since the patterns of responses which we recorded were consistent with the underlying theoretical grounds and the literature.

Neuroscientific and psychological research on moral reasoning: bridging the theories and the methods This study is among the first to investigate sensitivity to the distinction between personal vs. Limitations and future directions There are some limitations in this study. Conflict of interest statement The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Acknowledgments The authors are grateful to the students, teachers and school administrators who participated in this study and to Miss Lindamulage Nivarthana De Silva for her help in collecting the data. References Antonietti A. What does neurobiological evidence tell us about psychological mechanisms underlying moral judgment? The psychological development and education of immigrant adolescents: a baseline study.

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In the Beginning In , affirmative action became an inflammatory public issue. The Controversy Engaged The essays by Thomson and Nagel defended the use of preferences but on different grounds. Warren , Likewise, James Rachels defended racial preferences as devices to neutralize unearned advantages by whites. Rights and Consistency To many of its critics, reverse discrimination was simply incoherent.

The means of race counting will not, cannot, issue in an end where race does not matter Eastland and Bennett , Goldman explained the derivation of the rule and its consequent limit this way: The rule for hiring the most competent was justified as part of a right to equal opportunity to succeed through socially productive effort, and on grounds of increased welfare for all members of society. Since it is justified in relation to a right to equal opportunity, and since the application of the rule may simply compound injustices when opportunities are unequal elsewhere in the system, the creation of more equal opportunities takes precedence when in conflict with the rule for awarding positions.

Thus short-run violations of the rule are justified to create a more just distribution of benefits by applying the rule itself in future years. Goldman , — Real-World Affirmative Action: The Workplace The terms of the popular debate over racial and gender preferences often mirrored the arguments philosophers and other academics were making to each other. In order to make its monitoring and revising effective, an institution ought to predict, as best it can, how many minorities and women it would select over time, were it successfully nondiscriminating.

There may still remain practices that ought to be modified or eliminated. Real-World Affirmative Action: The University In the s, while campuses were embroiled in debate about how to increase African-Americans and women on the faculty, universities were also putting into effect schemes to increase minority presence within the student body. As to the first reason, Powell dismissed it out of hand. Preferring members of any one group for no reason other than race or ethnic origin is discrimination for its own sake. Even so, contended Powell, the Court, has never approved a classification that aids persons perceived as members of relatively victimized groups at the expense of other innocent individuals in the absence of judicial, legislative, or administrative findings of constitutional or statutory violations Bakke , at The diversity that furthers a compelling state interest encompasses a far broader array of qualifications and characteristics of which racial or ethnic origin is but a single though important element.

It would mean only that his combined qualifications…did not outweigh those of the other applicant. His qualifications would have been weighed fairly and competitively, and he would have had no basis to complain of unequal treatment under the Fourteenth Amendment Bakke , at , The file of a particular African-American applicant may be examined for his potential contribution to diversity without the factor of race being decisive when compared, for example, with that of an applicant identified as an Italian-American if the latter is thought to exhibit qualities more likely to promote beneficial educational pluralism.

This kind of program treats each applicant as an individual in the admissions process Bakke , at — As Justice Powell made clear in Bakke , truly individualized consideration demands that race be used in a flexible, non-mechanical way. It follows from this mandate that universities cannot establish quotas for members of certain racial groups Grutter , at To graduate such rising generations, it needs to admit racially and ethnically representative classes. All members of our heterogeneous society must have confidence in the openness and integrity of the educational institutions that provide this training.

She goes on: The integrative model of affirmative action offers an alternative rationale for race—sensitive admissions that unites educational with democratic and social justice concerns. Grutter advances a more robust integrationist perspective, which affirms racial integration as a compelling interest apart rom its educational benefits Anderson , Others continue to find the law school mismatch hypothesis dubious and unsupported Camilli and Welner ; Camilli and Jackson ; Kidder and Lempert Other researchers, following the lead of Bowen and Bok, have focused on undergraduate performance.

Similarly, Melguizo held: that for minority students who were admitted to…selective institutions under affirmative action i. On the contrary, their probability of graduation was higher at the most and very selective institutions compared to the non—selective ones Melguizo , Desert Confounded, Desert Misapplied The affirmative action debate throws up many ironies but one in particular should be noted.

Why should the black applicant get preference over the white applicant? Edley , ff Why, indeed? Bakke was not denied anything to which he had moral claim in the first place. Provided an affirmative action plan is precisely tailored to redress the losses in prospects of success [by African-Americans and women] attributable to racism and sexism, it only deprives innocent white males of the corresponding undeserved increases in their prospects of success ….

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Guenin, Louis M. Boston: Beacon Press. Gurin, Patricia, , Expert Report, Grutter v. Nagda, and Gretchin E. Harris, Luke C. Lott ed. Haslett, D. Heilman, Madeline E. Hess, Ryan C. Hill, Thomas E. Ho, Daniel E. Ibarra, Robert A. Jacobs, Lesley A. Johnson, Kevin R. Johnson, Susan M. Kang, Jerry and Mahzarin R. Kahlenberg, Richard D. Kidder, William and Richard O. Garces eds. Kocis, Robert A. Lawrence, Charles R. Leach, Bryan W. Chambers, and Terry K.

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