Seminar: Dr Graham Wood, "Is Morality Modular?"

Past Event

21 January 2009, 4:00pm - 6:00pm

Lecture Theatre, Oxford Martin School
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

Dr Graham Wood, School or Philosophy, University of Tasmania

Abstract: Developing an idea proposed by John Mackie, this paper argues that moral and ethical beliefs can be explained with reference to mental modules that attach to-be-pursuedness to objects, acts, or states of affairs, and that these moral modules are the product of evolution. I suggest that the outputs of some moral modules are hard-wired in the way that the outputs of certain Fodorian modules are hard-wired, but that the outputs of other moral modules are set through a process of social referencing. The idea of the output of a moral module being set over time is similar to the process of modularization suggested by Annette Karmiloff-Smith. Once the moral module is set, and given the appropriate input, the module generates a moral affect that is outputted to central cognition. To explain the output of the module central cognition attributes objective value to the content of the module. The idea of moral and ethical motivations as outputs of moral modules can be used to reinterpret Mackie's observation that if objective values existed in the world they would generate in us a certain to-be-pursuedness.