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Unread April 15th, 2006, 04:12 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Join Date: Jul 2004
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 138
Default Re: Pinker's Blank Slate

Hi Tom,

You and I agree on the biology of social interaction, and how morality is simply a tool in humans' repertoire (I think there's a solid argument that social instrincts evolved to reduce conflict and thereby increase the potency of selection at the group level - in our ancestral environment). Punishment is a kind of programmed apoptosis, but for people rather than cancer cells.

I disagree with you about moral responsibility - I think mass murderes and rapists are entirely responsible for their actions, based on the following interpretation:

Responsibility is not a matter of free will, but rather of establishing the consequences of cheating in a social system. Perhaps a given murderer did not have control over his behavior, but as far as the social group is concerned, he has broken one of the rules, and that's all that matters. The subsequent punishment (particularly if it is on publich display, which is often the case) serves as a warning to others, who may be on the brink of cheating, that the resulting punishment does not make cheating worthwhile. This is essentially the story of altruistic punishing, in which cooperative individuals incur a cost to themselves in order to hurt cheaters, which in the end increases the stability of the whole group by eliminating the benefit of selfishness. Responsibility is the link between behavior and its consequences, and that is maintained by a collective in order to instil a fear of cheating among its members.

I understand that this may be a semantic issue . . . what I call responsibility you may call something else, in which case our views on the subject aren't really different.

-Carey
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