Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy
Showing posts with label Disagreement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Disagreement. Show all posts

Friday, September 24, 2021

Hanlon’s Razor

N. Ballantyne and P. H. Ditto
Midwest Studies in Philosophy
August 2021


“Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity” – so says Hanlon’s Razor. This principle is designed to curb the human tendency toward explaining other people’s behavior by moralizing it. In this article, we ask whether Hanlon’s Razor is good or bad advice. After offering a nuanced interpretation of the principle, we critically evaluate two strategies purporting to show it is good advice. Our discussion highlights important, unsettled questions about an idea that has the potential to infuse greater humility and civility into discourse and debate.

From the Conclusion

Is Hanlon’s Razor good or bad advice? In this essay, we criticized two proposals in favor of the Razor.  One sees the benefits of the principle in terms of making us more accurate. The other sees benefits in terms of making us more charitable. Our discussion has been preliminary, but we hope careful empirical investigation can illuminate when and why the Razor is beneficial, if it is. For the time being, what else can we say about the Razor?

The Razor attempts to address the problem of detecting facts that explain opponents’ mistakes. Why do our opponents screw up? For hypermoralists, detecting stupidity in the noise of malice can be difficult: we are too eager to attribute bad motives and unsavory character to people who disagree with us. When we try to explain their mistakes, we are subject to two distinct errors:

Misidentifying-stupidity error: attributing an error to malice that is due to stupidity

Misidentifying-malice error: attributing an error to stupidity that is due to malice 

The idea driving the Razor is simple enough. People make misidentifying-stupidity errors too frequently and they should minimize those errors by risking misidentifying-malice errors. The Razor attempts to adjust our criterion for detecting the source of opponents’ mistakes. People should see stupidity more often in their opponents, even if that means they sometimes see stupidity where there is in fact malice.