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Weinberg Institute for Cognitive Science pres.

Foundations & Frontiers Speaker Series: Universalization: philosophical origins and cognitive applications

Dr. Sydney Levine, MIT, Harvard University

Dr. Sydney Levine Dr. Sydney Levine
Dr. Sydney Levine
Dr. Sydney Levine is a postdoctoral scholar in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at MIT and the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. She will give two presentations on March 5 as part of the Foundations & Frontiers Speaker Series. (Zoom link TBA.)

3:00 pm - 3:30 pm Foundations Presentation
3:30 pm - 3:45 pm Q & A
—5 minute break—
3:50 pm - 4:40 pm Frontiers Presentation
4:40 pm - 5:05 pm Q & A

Universalization: philosophical origins and cognitive applications

Some people think it is immoral not to vote, but why? Current theories of moral psychology — based largely on outcomes, rules, or affect — have trouble explaining this intuition. After all, one vote typically makes no difference in the overall outcome of an election. Moreover, there is not necessarily a rule or norm that mandates voting. And the thought of not voting isn’t particularly emotionally charged. Rather, I propose that moral judgments in cases like this arise out of the logic of universalization — essentially the process of asking “what if everyone did that?”

The logic of universalization is well-known to moral philosophers, appearing in the theories of Kant, RM Hare, George Singer, TM Scanlon and others. In the Foundations section of this talk, I will introduce the concept of universalization and explore how and why it has been used so effectively in moral philosophy. In the Frontiers section of the talk, I will demonstrate how I have used this philosophical concept as a starting place for a model of moral cognition. I will define a computational model of universalization and show how it predicts subject judgments with quantitative precision. In addition, developmental work suggests that universalization may even be used by children as young as 4. Finally, I will end by showing how universalization may be the key to a unified theory of moral cognition.

About the Series
The Foundations & Frontiers Speaker Series brings leading cognitive scientists to U-M (virtually) to present a special pair of presentations on the same day. The first presentation serves as an introduction to an important theoretical idea or method in the field -- the Foundations. The second presentation concerns the application of that idea or method to an innovative topic, thus exploring the Frontiers of the field in a way that highlights the significance of the theoretical idea.
Dr. Sydney Levine Dr. Sydney Levine
Dr. Sydney Levine

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