Caltech ethical dilemma essay - essays on citizenship









caltech ethical dilemma essay

caltech ethical dilemma essayCaltech ethical dilemma essay -If political disputes had a purely cognitive explanation, we would expect them to be more easily resolvable.People who like suits are more likely to be conservative than people who like tie-dye T-shirts. None of these correlations would be expected if political beliefs had a solely cognitive origin.But if you take the time to research politicians’ records to find out which politician to vote for, you do not thereby get that politician.Political issues are normative; they concern what people should do: should abortion be permitted? This hypothesis invites the further question, why do people have different fundamental values?Nevertheless, I contend that explanation (D), irrationality, is the most important factor, and that explanations (A) - (C), in the absence of irrationality, fail to explain almost any of the salient features of political disagreement.Many logically unrelated beliefs are correlated—that is, you can often predict someone’s belief about one issue on the basis of his opinion about some other, completely unrelated issue.Since these issues are logically unrelated to each other, on a purely cognitive theory of people’s political beliefs, we would expect there to be no correlation.Thus, there should be some core moral claim that unites all or most ‘liberal’ political beliefs, and a different moral claim that unites all or most ‘conservative’ political beliefs.First, individuals have non-epistemic belief preferences (otherwise known as “biases”).This would tend to explain, or at least render it none too surprising, that many people have divergent values and are unable to resolve these value-differences.(Thus, affirmative action is just, abortion is permissible, welfare programs are good, capital punishment is bad, human beings are seriously damaging the environment, etc.) Why would there be a significant number of people who tend to embrace the opposite beliefs on all these issues?This is the most natural kind of explanation to look to, in the absence of specific evidence against a cognitive explanation.The second reason is that this hypothesis fails to explain the clustering of political beliefs described above.Even then, it wouldn’t do you any good—perhaps you’d know which politician to vote for in the next election, but the other 400,000 voters in your district (or the 200,000 who are going to turn up to vote) are still going to vote for whomever they were going to vote for before you collected the information.That is, suppose that liberal beliefs are, in general, true, and that this explains why there are many people who generally embrace this cluster of beliefs.Several hours’ of argumentation typically fails to produce progress.” But many people think that value questions have no objective answers, and that value is merely a matter of personal feelings and preferences.To understand this, one has to distinguish two senses of the word “rational”: Instrumental rationality (or “means-end rationality”) consists in choosing the correct means to attain one’s actual goals, given one’s actual beliefs.That is, there are certain things that people want to believe, for reasons independent of the truth of those propositions or of how well-supported they are by the evidence.These issues are logically unrelated to each other; however, if some people are in general good at getting to the truth, then those who believe one of these propositions would be more likely to believe the other.caltech ethical dilemma essayBut in political matters, people tend to hold their beliefs with great confidence, and to regard them as not very difficult to verify, that is, as obvious.If everyone had adequate factual knowledge, most political disputes would be resolved.For instance, one would naively expect that those who support animal rights would be far more likely to oppose abortion than those who reject the notion of animal rights; conversely, those who oppose abortion should be much more likely to accept animal rights.Two beliefs are ‘logically unrelated’ if neither of them, even if true, would constitute evidence for or against the other.Then I ask if anyone knows what the last vote taken in Congress was.Thus, if people’s political beliefs generally have cognitive explanations, we should expect a positive statistical correlation between being pro-life and being pro-animal-rights. Some clustering of logically unrelated beliefs could be explained cognitively—for instance, by the hypothesis that some people tend to be good, in general, at getting to the truth (perhaps because they are intelligent, knowledgeable, etc.) So suppose that it is true both that affirmative action is just and that abortion is morally permissible.Similarly, people who support gun control generally believe that gun control laws significantly reduce violent crime.For this reason, I have an incentive to be more rational about the individual-level effects of trade than I am about the general effects of trade between nations.Contrast what happens when you buy a product on the market.This is what happens with other issues that are intrinsically difficult.Thus, while there could be a ‘true cluster’ of political beliefs, the present consideration strongly suggests that neither the liberal nor the conservative belief-cluster is it. Perhaps political disputes persist because people start from different fundamental values, and they correctly reason from those values to divergent political conclusions.People who disagree about the justice of capital punishment also tend to disagree about the non-moral facts about capital punishment.So far, of hundreds of people I have asked, not one has answered affirmatively. It simply isn’t worth their while to collect this information.The first is that value questions are objective, and moral anti-realism is completely unjustified.If you take the time to read the Consumer Reports to determine which kind of car to buy, you then get that car.If we have just worked out a very complicated mathematical problem, we tend to hold at most tentative belief in the answer arrived at.Although partisans of political disputes do commonly share their reasons and evidence with each other, the disputes persist.If you tried to keep track of every politician and bureaucrat who is supposed to be representing (or serving) you, you’d probably spend your whole life on that.Members of the entertainment industry are much more likely to be liberal than conservative.Epistemic rationality consists, roughly, in forming beliefs in truth-conducive ways—accepting beliefs that are well-supported by evidence, avoiding logical fallacies, avoiding contradictions, revising one’s beliefs in the light of new evidence against them, and so on. caltech ethical dilemma essay Some disputes have persisted for decades (either with the same principals or with different parties over multiple generations). Most other subjects—for instance, geology, or linguistics, or algebra—are not subject to disagreements at all like this; their disputes are far fewer in number and take place against a backdrop of substantial agreement in basic theory; and they tend to be more tentative and more easily resolved.Those who support capital punishment are much more likely to believe that it has a deterrent effect, and that few innocent people have been executed.Political Disputes Are Not Explained by Divergent Values 4. (ii) They are strong, that is, the disagreeing parties are typically very convinced of their own positions, not at all tentative.For example, people who support gun control are much more likely to support welfare programs and abortion rights.Sometimes the observed correlations are the opposite of what one would expect on the basis of reason alone—sometimes, that is, people who hold one belief are less likely to hold other beliefs that are supported by the first one.The best explanation is provided by the hypothesis that most people are irrational about politics and not, for example, that political issues are particularly difficult or that we lack sufficient evidence for resolving them. Summary References Perhaps the most striking feature of the subject of politics is how prone it is to disagreement—only religion and morality rival politics as a source of disagreement.If another, intelligent person reports having worked out the same problem and obtained a different answer, this shakes our confidence in our answer; we take this as strong evidence that we may be in error.The Ignorance Theory: Rather than being inherently difficult (for instance, because of their complexity or abstractness), political issues are difficult for us to resolve due to insufficient information, and/or because different people have different information available to them.People’s political beliefs tend to correlate strongly with their race, sex, socioeconomic status, occupation, and personality traits.And the earlier example of abortion and animal rights (section 2d) shows that in some cases, the political belief clusters we find are the opposite of what we would expect from people who were correctly reasoning from fundamental moral theories.As a final example, socialists tend to blame capitalism for the poverty of the Third World; but supporters of capitalism typically view capitalism as the solution to Third World poverty. Are some political disagreements due to moral disagreements?There is a tiny chance that my belief may have some effect on public policy; if so, the costs will be borne by society as a whole; only a negligible portion of it will be borne by me personally.This, too, is a factual question, and one cannot determine what effect gun control laws have on crime by appealing to one’s moral beliefs.Once again, this is a factual issue, which cannot be solved by appeal to moral beliefs. Almost certainly (affirmative action and abortion are good candidates).Political Disputes Are Not Explained by Miscalculation or Ignorance 3. It isn’t just a few people disagreeing about a few issues; rather, any two randomly-chosen people are likely to disagree about many political issues.Or, in case the two parties have different information available to them, they could simply meet, share their information, and then come to an agreement.Those who oppose gun control generally believe that gun control laws do not significantly reduce violent crime, and even that they increase violent crime.Of course, it may be that my moral values affect my beliefs about those factual questions because I am irrational—that would be consistent with the theory put forward in this paper.You still get the politician that the majority of the other people voted for (unless the other voters are exactly tied, a negligible possibility).The third and biggest problem with the Divergent Values theory is that political disputes involve all sorts of non-moral disputes. caltech ethical dilemma essay Second, individuals can exercise some control over their beliefs.If values are objective, then this question is just as puzzling as the initial question, “Why do people disagree about political issues?The Ignorance Theory fares slightly better, since if people were ignorant, not only of the facts pertaining to the political issue, but also of their own level of ignorance, their confidence in their political beliefs would be understandable.The theory of Rational Irrationality holds that it is often instrumentally rational to be epistemically irrational. If I believe, irrationally, that trade between myself and other people is harmful, I bear the costs of this belief.Moreover, the Ignorance Theory has difficulty explaining the following feature of political disputes.Why is politics subject to such widespread, strong, and persistent disagreements?Even if there are people who are not very good at getting to the truth (perhaps they are stupid, ignorant, etc.), their beliefs should be, at worst, unrelated to the truth; they should not be systematically directed away from the truth.From the standpoint of self-interest, it is normally irrational to collect political information.I discuss how this irrationality works and why people are especially irrational about politics. Introduction: The Problem of Political Disagreement 2. There are three main features of political disagreements I want to point out: (i) They are very widespread.Those are factual questions, and my moral values should not have any effect on what I think about those factual questions.We begin with the two cognitive explanations—that is, theories that attempt to explain political disputes in terms of the normal functioning of our cognitive faculties.This is the kind of rationality that economists generally assume in explaining human behavior.Abstract: I look for explanations for the phenomenon of widespread, strong, and persistent disagreements about political issues.(iii) They are persistent, that is, it is extremely difficult to resolve them.Members of minorities are more likely to support affirmative action than white men are.Similarly, the theory of Rational Irrationality holds that people often choose—rationally—to adopt irrational beliefs because the costs of rational beliefs exceed their benefits.These facts suggest that bias, rather than mere miscalculation, plays a key role in explaining political mistakes.Nevertheless, the point is that many political disagreements are factual disagreements and cannot be explained—without invoking a hypothesis of irrationality—by appeal to moral disagreements.On the Divergent Fundamental Values theory, we should expect prevalent political belief clusters to correspond to different basic moral theories.In general, just as I receive virtually none of the benefit of my collecting of political information, so I receive virtually none of the benefit of my thinking rationally about political issues. caltech ethical dilemma essay But if you take the time to research politicians’ records to find out which politician to vote for, you do not thereby get that politician. caltech ethical dilemma essay

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