Poll: The Gang Leader Case
By S. Matthew Liao

Hi everyone,

I’d be quite interested in your intuitions regarding this case. So as not to bias anyone’s judgment unnecessarily, I’ll open the post for comments after I close the poll. Also, please vote only once. Thanks in advance!

A member of a local gang went to the leader and said, ‘We are thinking of trying a new tactic. It will flood the neighborhood with cheaper cocaine, increasing our profits, but it will also harm the cops since more cops will die in drug-related violence.’

The leader answered, ‘I don’t really care at all about harming the cops. I just want to make as much profit as I can. Let’s implement the new tactic.’

They did implement the new tactic, and sure enough, the cops were harmed since more cops died in drug-related violence.

Did the leader of the gang intentionally harm the cops?

  • No (64%)
  • Yes (36%)

Total Votes: 122

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In “Putting the Trolley in Order: Experimental Philosophy and the Loop Case” (forthcoming in Philosophical Psychology), Alex Wiegmann, Joshua Alexander and Gerard Vong and I applied the methods of experimental philosophy to Judith Jarvis Thomson’s famous Loop Case. As the readers will know, Thomson used the Loop Case to cast doubt on the intuitively plausible Doctrine of Double Effect. Many philosophers share Thomson’s intuitions about this case (see, e.g. Kamm 2007 and Scanlon 2008), though not all (see, e.g. Otsuka 2008 and my paper in 2009). In fact, Frances Kamm developed the Doctrine of Triple Effect (DTE) in order to explain Loop intuitions.

Experimental Month Initiative
By S. Matthew Liao

The Experimental Month Initiative hosts 17 different experimental philosophy studies designed by 29 philosophers, each working on illuminating a different philosophical question.

Please take a moment to help these philosophers out, either by stopping by the Experiment Month website to fill out a brief questionnaire or by spreading the word about these new studies.

7th International Symposium of Cognition, Logic and Communication
6-8 May 2011, Riga, Latvia


INVITED ORGANIZERS: Michael Bishop (Florida State University), Stephen Stich (Rutgers University)

Michael Bishop (Florida State University)
Luc Faucher (Université du Québec a Montréal)
Joshua Knobe (Yale University)
Edouard Machery (University of Pittsburgh)
Dominic Murphy (University of Sydney)
Shaun Nichols (University of Arizona)
Jesse Prinz (City University of New York)
Adina Roskies (Dartmouth College)
Don Ross (University of Cape Town)
Stephen Stich (Rutgers University)
Valerie Tiberius (University of Minnesota)

Moral philosophers disagree about a lot of stuff.  They disagree, for example, on whether moral properties exist and, if so, what the heck they are and how we have knowledge of them; on whether one can derive an ‘ought’ from an ‘is’ and, if not, whether this really matters or not; on whether moral judgments are the deliverances of affective or purely cognitive faculties; on whether moral omissions have the same status as moral comissions; and a whole lot besides.

One particular claim, though, seems to have widespread endorsement—the claim that ordinary folk are objectivists when it comes to morality.  According to this view, ordinary folk believe moral issues admit of a single correct answer, and reject the idea that two people with conflicting positions on a moral issue may both be right.  This claim of  ‘folk objectivism’ enjoys a surprising degree of consensus, and can be found in the works of a diverse range of moral philosophers with disparate theoretical commitments (e.g. Blackburn 1984; Brink 1989; Gibbard 1992; Mackie 1977; Shafer-Landau 2003).  It is a datum that most metaethical theories try to vindicate or accommodate.  But is this claim correct?  The answer would seem to be important, as the claim of folk objectivism has played a significant role in theorizing about the nature of ethics.

103rd Annual Meeting of The Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology
New Orleans, Louisiana
March 10-12, 2011

The Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology invites submission of papers for its annual meeting March 10-12, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The submission deadline is November 1, 2010. Founded in 1904, SSPP promotes philosophy and psychology by facilitating the exchange of ideas among those engaged in these fields of inquiry. Papers on any philosophical topic are welcome. Topics that have
cross-discipline appeal are especially suitable. For more information on the 2011 meeting see: http://southernsociety.org/annualmeeting.htm

47th Cincinnati Philosophy Colloquium
21-23 October 2010
425 Tangeman University Center
University of Cincinnati

• Owen Flanagan, Duke University
• Hilary Kornblith, University of Massachusetts
• Michael Lynch, University of Connecticut
• Penelope Maddy, University of California
• David Papineau, King’s College London
• L. A. Paul, University of North Carolina
• Thomas Polger, University of Cincinnati
• Elliott Sober, University of Wisconsin

Free and open to the public. For more information or to RSVP please contact thomas.polger (at) uc.edu

Experiment Month
By S. Matthew Liao

The Experiment Month initiative is a program designed to help philosophers conduct experimental studies. If you are interested in running a study, you can send your study proposal to the Experiment Month staff. Then, if your proposal is selected for inclusion, they will conduct the study online, send you the results and help out with any statistical analysis you may need. All proposals are due Sept. 1.

For further information, see the Experiment Month website: http://www.yale.edu/cogsci/XM/

Do moral judgments form a psychological natural kind? Lately, Stephen Stich and his colleagues have been arguing on the basis of empirical evidence that the features psychologists have identified as key to moral judgment do not, as a matter of fact, cluster together in a lawlike fashion. In particular, they argue that harm attributions do not always evoke the signature moral response pattern of authority-independence and generality, and conclude that since the purported nomological cluster breaks down, moral judgments do not form a natural kind. Their argument, of course, leaves open the possibility that there is some other cluster to be found. I am not a big believer in nomological clusters, but I will propose an alternative content feature that does seem to pair with the signature moral pattern in a lawlike fashion. Namely, it seems that whenever people take a piece of behaviour to express, in context, any of a set of attitudes that ranges from disrespect to debasement, the signature moral pattern is evoked. (As usual, I’ll just focus on wrongness judgments.) In short, people are intuitive deontologists, and for all that Stich says, there may be a psychological natural kind of moral judgment. My alternative model involves commitment to a commonsense cultural relativism, but one of an entirely innocuous kind that poses no threat to moral objectivism. To distinguish it from standard or deference relativism, I’ll call it significance relativism.

Date: May 1, 2010
Time: 10am to 5pm
Location: NYU Silver Center, Room 207
Hosted by the Metro Experimental Research Group (MERG)

(All details available at: http://www.yale.edu/cogsci/metaxphi.htm)

A series of recent experimental studies have examined people’s intuitions about metaethical issues. Participants in this workshop will discuss the implications of these studies both for questions about people’s ordinary folk views and for broader philosophical questions about moral realism, moral relativism and expressivism.

Invited Speakers: Stephen Darwall, Geoff Goodwin, Gilbert Harman, Jesse Prinz, Hagop Sarkissian and David Wong

I’ll be presenting with some colleagues and I look forward to seeing you there!

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