Our Inconsistent Ethical Instincts
We like to believe that the principled side of the equation is rooted in deep, reasoned conviction. But a growing wealth of research shows that those values often prove to be finicky, inconsistent intuitions, swayed by ethically irrelevant factors. What you say now you might disagree with in five minutes. And such wavering has implications for both public policy and our personal lives.[more inside]
Digital and genetic techniques increasingly influence life. Our belief in progress through technology stands in the way of a moral debate on this development. ~ by Rinie van Est
The Delights Of Disgust
I confess I am disgusted by a great many things about people (and about myself, but let's put that aside). I do not believe it is particularly urgent for me to overcome my disgust, even if I recognize that this emotion must remain entirely separate from my thinking about which laws would be most just. I am disgusted by other people's dandruff, facial moles, food stuck in their beards, yet I do not accept that in feeling this way I am judging those people to be subhuman. I take it rather that humanity, while endearing, is also capable of appearing disgusting.[more inside]
Chimp Fights and Trolley Rides from Radiolab's morality episode: "try to answer tough moral quandaries. The questions--which force you to decide between homicidal scenarios--are the same ones being asked by Dr. Joshua Greene. He'll tell us about using modern brain scanning techniques to take snapshots of the brain as it struggles to resolve these moral conflicts. And he'll describe what he sees in these images: quite literally, a battle taking place in the brain. It's 'inner chimp' versus a calculator-wielding rationale."
When the Chrysler car company released its new model Dodge Coronet in 1967, the theme of its ad campaign was the "White Hat Special," with some ads featuring the "Dodge Girl" in her signature white Stetson, saying that "Only the good guys could put together a deal like this." These ads didn't need any elaboration. Madison Avenue knew the potential buyers had all been raised on film and TV Westerns, and knew the symbolism of white hats. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger — cinematic heroes wore white hats, and bad guys wore black. It was all very simple. The colors white and black have carried layers of moral meaning since long before American infatuation with cowboys and automobiles, and some scientists believe that those associations may be automatic and universal and ancient (abstract). [more inside]
Markets and Morals -- "without quite realising it, without ever deciding to do so, we drifted from having a market economy to being a market society" -- is the first of the 2009 Reith Lectures delivered by Michael Sandel. (previously) cf. Yglesias on free markets... [more inside]
The best of the worst of the week on television. The Parents Television Council, a U.S.-based watchdog organization trying to stamp out indecency on the airwaves, is doing their part in the war against moral turpitude. How? By creating a website where they host videos of the most offensive scenes on television... inadvertently creating some of the most amusing content on the internet!
On Americans and their Morals. A look at the demise of morality in America and our history as a country and a culture to always complain that our moral fabric is worse than it really is.