Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Nietzschean Moral Philosophy

Josh Knobe and Brian Leiter have a paper in progress which argues for a Nietzschean approach to moral psychology, in contrast to the dominant Aristotelian and Kantian approaches. The majority of their argument is actually based on a huge body of psychological research which, they argue, is congenial towards the Nietzschean view and mostly incompatible with the alternate views. Much of this work concerns self-deception and free will (first separately then followed by free will as self-deception).

A choice study: It was assumed, for example, that any program that decreased racist attitudes would thereby also decrease racist behavior. This initial assumption was called into question by the influential work of LaPiere (1934). LaPiere went on a long car trip with a Chinese couple. Along the way, he took careful notes about how his companions were treated at each of the hotels and restaurants they visited. Despite the widespread prejudice against Chinese people in America at the time, LaPiere found that he and his companions were generally treated quite well and that they were refused service on only one occasion. Later, he wrote to all 250 hotels and restaurants listed in his notes, asking the employees whether or not they would be willing to serve Chinese guests. Over 90% of respondents said that they would not serve Chinese, in spite of the fact that they had just done exactly that. This finding seemed to suggest that attitudes and behavior were not quite as closely linked as had previously been thought.

I have two recommendations.
1) You should read the paper (it's probably the antepenultimate draft)
2) I should familiarize myself with the majority of the work they cite.

My first recommendation will probably take you 30-90 minutes to comply with. Given the various other commitments I have, the second will take me the next 6 years.

I'd already arranged to meet with Josh this thursday before finding this paper. Now I'll have even more stuff to ask about. *grins*

1 comment:

Aaron said...

that was a fascinating paper, thanks for sharing. prior to reading it i was a pretty big advocate of that whole aristotelian deal, but the evidence definitely seems stacked against it.
i wonder what some of the implications are for responsibility and political beliefs or inclinations. so, do we just back-fill our 'liberal' activities with liberal beliefs?