Friday, June 20, 2008

Post hoc rationalization

In this post , the famous philosopher of mind, performs an experiment regarding WhetherEthicists and Political Philosophers Vote Less Often Than Other Philosophers.

Richard, makes an interesting post in Suspecting Wishful Thinking. Where he makes the good point
you would think the reasonable prior assumption would be to favour the experts over folk opinion in case of disagreement.

He then goes on to wonder why Eric isn't paying enough attention to his expert opinion.

However I think this applies better to his own position than Eric's. The key issue here seems to be the claim of expertise.

Eric's statement is
"I suspect that if, indeed, ethicists don't tend to consider voting a duty that may be post-hoc rationalization rather than genuine moral insight."

In the context of the experiment this is a psychological claim about ethical professors*. Now the next question is "is Richard an expert in that field? Well my assessment is that he probably is not.

Richard argues
Surely if anyone has reasons worth considering on a controversial moral question, it's going to be moral philosophers!
that would be true if this was a moral question - but it isn't. the moral question would be "is it right for philosophers to want to vote. But the question Richard is addressing from Eric's post is the completely different "is the effect suggested, if it exists, likely to be post hoc rationalization"

he then argues
It's curious how often people accuse each other of rationalizing, or holding a position "because they want to believe it" rather than because they have genuine reasons for thinking it true.

Well in this context it isn't nearly as curious. Rational psychologists, or people in related fields like Eric or myself, who have access to a literature full of millions of experiments can make that sort of decision based on that evidence. What evidence could Richard be calling to bear? obviously not an expertise in psychology.

Still he does have another option.

Richard could and probably is, claiming to be a data point - yes that is very weak evidence - but even there he runs into issues
1) Richard isn't a professor. Yes he is studying ethics, but being a professor is a relevant difference, i.e. it would be very unsurprising to find philosophy students have different voting habits to philosophy professors.
2) the very nature of post hoc rationalization is that you probably don't know your doing it under superficial analysis.

* I also read into this a statement as to what sort of thing Eric is considering 'genuine moral insight"


Blogger Richard said...

Perhaps I was insufficiently clear: you have been banned. Please do not post comments at my blog. Your comments are unwelcome, and will be promptly deleted.

2:42 PM  
Blogger Genius said...

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7:49 PM  

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