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Haidt opens Edge junk science lectures on ethics (with a swipe at Kant)

August 2nd, 2010 · 1 Comment

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/morality10/morality.haidt.html: Haidt at Edge

Accusing Kant and Benthan of Asperger’s Syndrome to open a discussion of ethics is a bit much.
(btw, So what if they did have Asperger’s? It is almost a recommendation, quite apart from the groupie science at places like Edge.org, where everyone is a suckup trying to get a book deal)

Haidt must be worried by Kantian ethics here! It is the strongest challenge to reductionist theories of ethics. Kant’s thinking here was a work in progress and appears in several versions, and, in a way, that closer look is needed near the academic courses that teach his ethics in misaleding fashion.
But after all the problems none of these scientists, stuck on Darwinism, can get ethics right, next to Kant’s way of getting it right, at least as to basics.
Kant confronts the issue of freedom next to causality, and creates a framework where freedom is given its place in the discussion. Scientists constantly, over and over and over, get stuck here, and bloviate for us to no avail.
Kant’s ethical project, even if you disagree, points to something scientists can’t accomplish: ‘common ordinary morality’. Kant wished to assist in understanding the moral sense that is already the case. Perhaps his approach is incomplete, or fails, but he raises the issue that scientists bypass: describe morality before theorizing. Not so easy.

For Immanuel Kant, the case is not quite so clear. He also was a loner who loved routine, feared change, focused on his few interests, to the exclusion of all else. And, according to one psychiatrist, Michael Fitzgerald, who diagnoses Asperger’s in historical figures and shows how it contributed to their genius, Fitzgerald thinks that Kant would be diagnosed with Asperger’s. I think the case is not nearly so clear. I think Kant did have better social skills, more ability to empathize. So I wouldn’t say that Kant had Asperger’s, but I think it’s safe to say that he was about as high as could possibly be on systemizing, while still being rather low on empathizing, although not the absolute zero that Bentham was.

Tags: ethics · Kant · Philosophy

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Mental Disorders 101 // Aug 2, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Haidt opens Edge junk science lectures on ethics (with a swipe at Kant)…

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