Event Title

The Cognitive Science of Moral Judgment

Location

King Building 123

Document Type

Presentation

Start Date

4-27-2018 12:00 PM

End Date

4-27-2018 1:20 PM

Abstract

This thesis defends recent experimental philosophical and psychological works that argue that certain test subjects’ responses to abstract moral dilemma presentations, such as Philippa Foot (1967) and J.J Thomson’s (1986) “Trolley Problems”, offer evidence for the theory that humans evolved a module/ “organ” of the mind devoted to making moral judgments (Hauser et al. (2006), 214). The relevant evidence indicates that high majorities of test subjects, cross-culturally judge categorical variations in the dilemma descriptions of an agent’s actions they have never encountered before, to warrant the same status of “morally permissible” or “morally impermissible”, or a similar judgment value on scales ranging from “(1) ‘extremely morally good’ to (7) ‘extremely morally bad’ with a midpoint (4) of ‘neither good nor bad’” (Mikhail (2011), 105; Switzgebel and Cushman (2012),138). Most test subjects switch their response judgments to the same dilemma descriptions only when certain classes of changes are made to the agents’ intentions, and the mind- independent circumstances he or she is described to act in, though not others. I support philosopher John Mikhail’s (2011) claim that this response pattern may hold across an infinite number and variety of categorical changes made to the dilemma descriptions presented to subjects (Mikhail,16). If true, then moral knowledge may not be acquired solely from identify patterns in contingent mind-external stimuli processed during a subject's finite lifetime (Mikhail (2012), 7 on Hume (1740), 473).

Keywords:

moral judgment, experimental psychology, trolley problems

Notes

Session II, Panel 6 - Philosophical | Critique
Moderator: Todd Ganson, Professor of Philosophy

Major

Philosophy

Advisor(s)

Todd Ganson, Philosophy

Project Mentor(s)

Peter McInerney, Philosophy

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Apr 27th, 12:00 PM Apr 27th, 1:20 PM

The Cognitive Science of Moral Judgment

King Building 123

This thesis defends recent experimental philosophical and psychological works that argue that certain test subjects’ responses to abstract moral dilemma presentations, such as Philippa Foot (1967) and J.J Thomson’s (1986) “Trolley Problems”, offer evidence for the theory that humans evolved a module/ “organ” of the mind devoted to making moral judgments (Hauser et al. (2006), 214). The relevant evidence indicates that high majorities of test subjects, cross-culturally judge categorical variations in the dilemma descriptions of an agent’s actions they have never encountered before, to warrant the same status of “morally permissible” or “morally impermissible”, or a similar judgment value on scales ranging from “(1) ‘extremely morally good’ to (7) ‘extremely morally bad’ with a midpoint (4) of ‘neither good nor bad’” (Mikhail (2011), 105; Switzgebel and Cushman (2012),138). Most test subjects switch their response judgments to the same dilemma descriptions only when certain classes of changes are made to the agents’ intentions, and the mind- independent circumstances he or she is described to act in, though not others. I support philosopher John Mikhail’s (2011) claim that this response pattern may hold across an infinite number and variety of categorical changes made to the dilemma descriptions presented to subjects (Mikhail,16). If true, then moral knowledge may not be acquired solely from identify patterns in contingent mind-external stimuli processed during a subject's finite lifetime (Mikhail (2012), 7 on Hume (1740), 473).