Friday, September 28, 2007

"Nietzsche, Naturalism, and Moral Psychology"

A description of my Spring 2008 graduate seminar follows:

The course has two interlocking aims: (1) to introduce students to Nietzsche’s philosophical naturalism and its role in his moral philosophy; and (2) to critically evaluate some of the philosophical issues about moral psychology that Nietzsche raises—about moral motivation, the will, the nature of conscious and unconscious experience, the role of consciousness in agency, the nature and causal import of “character”—in light of recent work in both philosophy and empirical psychology. We shall spend the first few weeks on a careful study of On the Genealogy of Morality (read in conjunction with my Nietzsche on Morality), before turning, first, to critiques of my naturalist reading of Nietzsche (e.g., many of the essays in the recent Blackwell Companion to Nietzsche), and then, second, to a topical study of the issues in moral psychology just noted. Each session will be based on readings from elsewhere in Nietzsche’s corpus, together with work by contemporary philosophers (e.g., Doris, Pereboom, G. Strawson, P. Strawson, Velleman) and empirical psychologists (e.g., Haggard, Haidt, Libet, Nisbett, Wegner, Wilson).

I'd especially welcome advice about the literature in empirical psychology.


Rob Sica said...

"Though we sometimes deliver moral judgements based on consciously accessed principles, often we fail to account for our judgements. When we fail, it appears that operative, but not expressed principles, drive our moral judgements."

Hauser, Marc, et al. "A Dissociation Between Moral Judgments and Justifications." Mind & Language 22.1 (Feb. 2007): 1-21.

Rob Sica said...

Joshua Green's "The Secret Joke of Kant's Soul," available from the Experimental Philosophy Blog:

"I will argue that deontological
judgments tend to be driven by emotional responses, and that deontological philosophy, rather than being grounded in moral reasoning, is to a large extent an exercise in moral rationalization. This is in contrast to consequentialism,
which, I will argue, arises from rather different psychological processes, ones that
are more “cognitive,” and more likely to involve genuine moral reasoning. These
claims are strictly empirical, and I will defend them on the basis of the available
evidence. Needless to say, my argument will be speculative and will not be
conclusive. Beyond this, I will argue that if these empirical claims are true, they
may have normative implications, casting doubt on deontology as a school of
normative moral thought."

Rob Sica said...

Haidt's engaging overview of his work at BEYOND BELIEF 2.0 this past October can be watched on Google Video here:

(Haidt's presentation opens the second 10/31 session)

It's striking how closely some of his work is anticipated by Nietzsche's concept of "morality of custom" (cf. DAYBREAK 9, 14, 16).