Nov. 8th, 2011

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In my classes today we discussed illustrious personages such as Stanley Milgram, Fred West, and scariest of all Rebecca Wade (in the context of riots outside alleged paedophiles' houses). Milgram was pretty early on, and I think he's going to be a standard example in classes on moral responsibility - it's a situation where people could justifiably claim they were causally determined by another agent to do something apparently immoral (electrocute someone - thankfully it was actually an actor behind the screen), but where they were also making a reasoned response to circumstances (assuming none of them electrocuted people to death for a hobby outside that scenario). The ability to do the latter suggests that the person has some free will and is morally responsible for their act.

On the nonce-hunting front, the purpose was to give a concrete example of why we might want to take moral anger out of criminal justice. Dirk Pereboom sees this as a major advantage of removing free will (which he doesn't believe we have or have need of) and by extension moral responsibility from the equation. The debate in class today was whether moral anger, outrage, repugnance etc was a destructive force in dealing with crime or a necessary element in telling right from wrong.

Fred West only came up in the second of today's two classes, I'm not sure I'll make regular use of that example, but I was getting a bit desperate to convey how someone's arguably immoral and definitely harmful to others acts might be causally determined by their past. I'm not convinced by that view, but can give it some credence - the students weren't even doing that, at least bringing serial killing into the equation focuses their attention...

Oh, and I also managed to derive some innuendo from reading up on the Zapatistas. Did you know members of the EZLN army have to ask their commander's permission to have sex? The idea being that the commander then knows two people will be indisposed if there is an attack, so s/he needs to be sure they are not skiving defensive duties to go and shag. Unfortunately - or fortunately for me since corrections-related stuff brings about a need for light relief wherever I can get it - Subcommandante Marcos chose to phrase this as 'I need to find someone to cover their positions.' Which in context sounds a bit dodgy...

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