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Thinking and Deciding 16: Moral Judgement and Choice


This whole chapter kind of reminded me of desire utilitarianism, which shouldn’t be so surprising since Baron sees Utilitarianism as the normative model for morality.

What are moral judgments?

For Baron’s purposes, morality is a way of influencing others- rewarding or punishing others in terms of the norms we put forward. “Moral judgments can be seen as expressing principles or norms that we want others to follow (393).

Utilitarianism as a normative model

Baron points out “moralistic goals” as a misguided attempt at morality. Moralistic goals are ones imposed on others regardless of what the consequences are, a regardless of the desires of others. For example, saying that giving a drug to a child to increase IQ, with no side effects, is wrong, even if there are no drawbacks, and only benefits.

Biases in moral judgment?

A big theme in this chapter is the omission bias, in which people consider harms from omissions not as bad as those from actions. I get this intuition, but according to Baron, it can lead to worse outcomes over all, which is a bias if utilitarianism is in fact the correct normative model. A 10/10,000 chance of death from a disease may be seen as not as bad as a 5/10,000 chance of death from a vaccine. The disease deaths would be “natural” in a way, and would occur by omission. The vaccine deaths would be caused by an action.

There are also values that are seen as “sacred” or holding infinite utility. Not to be violated under any circumstances. I think earlier Baron performed the reductio to this.

Retribution for retribution’s sake (not preventing future harm or improving the world) is also a potential bias. Also, Baron says the principle of double effect is a bias, because the outcome is the same in compared cases.

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