Continuum Ethics
A series of books exploring key topics in contemporary ethics and moral philosophy.

Continuum Ethics presents a series of books that will bridge the gap between new research work and undergraduate textbooks. They will provide close examination of key concepts in contemporary moral philosophy. Aimed largely at upper-level undergraduates and research students, they will also appeal to researchers in the field. Authors will be expected to combine philosophical sophistication with an accessible style that can engage the educated reader.

In this post, all too long and speculative, I will examine how a sentimentalist theory of moral thinking could exploit and improve recently popular theories of universal moral grammar, developed by John Mikhail, Susan Dwyer, Marc Hauser’s group, Gilbert Harman and Erica Roedder, and others. I’ll be drawing mostly on Mikhail’s 2009 ‘Moral Grammar and Intuitive Jurisprudence’, in Psychology of Learning and Motivation 50, 27–100 for moral grammar. The sentimentalist theory I sketch is my own, though heavily inspired by Adam Smith. It is independently motivated, but I believe it does a better job of explaining our intuitions than other views that highlight the role of emotions.

Experimental Philosophy is a new movement that uses experiments to address traditional philosophical questions. Although the movement is only a few years old, it has attracted prolific practitioners as well as ardent critics. (For more about Experimental Philosophy, see the recent article in the New York Times or the ongoing discussion at the Experimental Philosophy Blog.)

This summer, the NEH is sponsoring an Institute on Experimental Philosophy. The Institute will bring in over a dozen distinguished guest faculty, who will present their latest research across a wide range of issues and perspectives. The Institute will also provide participants with the opportunity to learn experimental methods that are used in Experimental Philosophy. The Institute will also provide participants with the opportunity to learn experimental methods that are used in Experimental Philosophy.

There is an upcoming workshop entitled “The Economy of the Soul: Rational Choice and Moral Decision-Making,” which is sponsored by the British Academy and the LSE Choice Group, and co-sponsored by the UCL Ethics of Risk Project, funded by the AHRC.

The location for registration, coffee and all talks is now: New Academic Building (NAB) Room 104, at the London School of Economics.

Organized by: Alex Voorhoeve, E-mail:, Tel (Harvard office): +1-617-4951927. Due to space limitations, this event is open only to registered participants. Please e-mail to register.

Draft Programme
Venue: New Academic Building (NAB) Room 104, LSE. Directions.

This looks like a fantastic conference especially for those who are interested in intuitions and thought experiments. The AHRC Project on ‘Intuitions and Methodology Project’ at the Arché Philosophical Research Centre is hosting a conference on Philosophical Methodology, 25-27 April, 2009, at the University of St. Andrews.

Invited keynote speakers:
David Chalmers (Australian National University)
Jonathan Schaffer (Australian National University, Arché)
Ernest Sosa (Rutgers University)
Tamar Szabó Gendler (Yale University)

The purpose of the conference is to explore questions about philosophical methodology. Potential topics include:

Many of you will be familiar with the Moral Sense Test, which has produced some valuable data on ordinary people’s intuitions about trolley cases and related dilemmas. Eric Schwitzgebel, a philosopher of mind (who does fascinating work on the unreliability of first person judgments) and Fiery Cushman, from Marc Hauser’s lab at Harvard, have now designed a version of the test especially for philosophers. They want to be able to compare the responses of people with graduate degrees in philosophy to those of the folk. I encourage everyone to take the test; it shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes.

Towards the end of the chapter Appiah remarks that the greatest works in ethics exhibit a deep, irrepressible heterogeneity, heterogeneity that reflects a richness and complexity of the ethical life he believes that many moral philosophers overlook in their quest for neat (even: intricate) theories. This last chapter is certainly heterogeneous: starting with remarks on happiness and flourishing, it shifts to a brief discussion of meta-ethics and different forms of naturalism, moves on to poke fun at ‘quandary ethics’ and its contemporary successors, and ends with, well, a reminder of the irreducible complexity of the ethical life, and a plea for pluralism, both evaluative and methodological.

First of all, it is a genuine pleasure to contribute to this forum: I only hope my comments will not lag too far behind the quality of previous posts! Now to Experiments in Ethics . . .

Chapter four is entitled “The Varieties of Moral Experience” and my discussion will follow the sections of this chapter in order in an effort to provide an outline of the argument and substantive points, before concluding with some reflections.

In this chapter, Appiah presents experimental studies that seem to challenge our use of intuitions. He then outlines some responses to these studies. I shall begin with a summary of the chapter, using Appiah’s subheadings for easy navigation. I shall then offer some commentaries on this chapter.

The second chapter of Experiments in Ethics (E in E) is entitled ‘The Case against Character’, and it focuses on a recent critique of virtue ethics due to Gilbert Harman, John Doris and some other philosophers. The inspiration for their attack on virtue ethics is a body of experimental work produced by ‘situationists’, members of an influential school of thought in social psychology.

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