----- Lee said:
I noticed something yesterday that I want to bring to *some*one's attention. The impetus of my observation was this article in the Boston Globe: "Insider trading suspect was model ethics student." Fleshed out a bit, this is the story.
- In college, graduate school, and intra- and post-graduate work, Mr. Martoma "had very good training in ethics" (quoting "a Dartmouth College religion professor who direct's the school's Ethics Institute", "became part of a case study about ethics and Alzheimer's disease" at the NIH, went to Stanford University Graduate School of Business with a recommendation letter from his former professor (at Duke) in "ethics and policymaking" (for whom later became "chief teaching assistant for the class") which said in part that Martoma was "wonderfully fair-minded" and that "No one has contributed more to our class discussions of Sissela Bok's 'Lying,' nor was anyone in our class as acute on the issues of moral capacity raised by Camus' 'The Plague'".
- After getting his MBA, Martoma beganworking in finance. From 2006 to 2010, he worked "first as an analyst and then as a hedge fund portfolio manager specializing in the health care sector." During that period (according to Federal prosecutors) Martoma began collaborating with a UMich medical professor, who "leaked Martoma confidential information. [...] With the secret data, Martoma caused other investment advisers to at first buy shares in the drug companies, then ditch them and place financial bets against the companies when he found out before the public that the drug trial's final outcome was negative." The total value of these deals was a quarter of a billion dollars.
But why should this be surprising? Are ethics courses at universities supposed to be indoctrinations, rather than--like courses on other topics--investigations? Philosophy departments teach both ethics courses and esthetics courses: is it expected that any *particular* "esthetic" be inculcated by the course on esthetics? Or is it understood that, upon sufficient investigation of ethical issues, *everyone* of sufficient intelligence will agree on at least the core principals of ethical behavior, and strive to act upon them?
Taking a behaviorist stance, James Cordova (who researches "third-generation-behaviorist family therapy") replied:
In a way, not surprising at all. We can teach about ethics, but we can't teach ethical behavior (something here about choosing the long-term benefit of others over our own short-term benefit). Teaching ethical behavior would require a setting in which we could shape that behavior by its consequences (simple learning theory).
In its stead, we create sanctions for what the community (variable) agrees (variable) is unethical behavior. However, there are rarely contingencies for ethical behavior apart from our empathy for the suffering of others (variable). How do you teach empathy (broadly defined) in an ethics class? This particular fellow sounds like some who is perhaps particularly skilled at adapting to the contingencies of the setting he finds himself in. He excelled in his ethics classes and he excelled in the world of finance. Then he got caught excelling...
Aren't the contingencies of greed fairly predictable?
Lee is entirely right about how the Myth of Knowledge is a necessary part of explaining why people are surprised by this type of result. James illustrates one of the ways in which a behaviorist perspective - sans the myth - could show the supposed discrepancy to unsurprising. Recall the most basic assertion of radical behaviorism, that all questions about psychology are ultimately questions about behavior. This would include questions about a person's morality. If you look at the testimony regarding perpetrator's "ethical nature", it virtually all regards spoken responses in classroom situations. That is, people were willing to vouch for the students ethical status, despite never being in a position to witness him behaving ethically. If so many people didn't seem to doubt it, I would assert it as self-evident that you need to see someone behaving in ethically-charged situations to know if they are ethical. It doesn't matter what they say they will do, or what they tell other people to do, it matters what they actually do.
Sure, the student's instructors might have been in a good position to testify to his ability to "answer questions related to ethics" or his ability to "successfully advise others through ethical dilemmas," but they were in no position to attest to his actual ethics! Unfortunately, if you have been wooed by the myth of knowledge, you lose the ability to tell the difference.