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Colloquium: Shaun Nichols, Sherwin Scott Professor of Philosophy, University of Arizona

Friday, October 26, 2018 - 3:00pm

Cohen Hall, Room 402

Topic:  The Wrong and the Bad: Towards a Rationalist Account of Moral Learning
Philosophical observation and psychological studies indicate that people draw subtle distinctions in the normative domain, reflected in their non-utilitarian judgments.  However, it remains unclear exactly what gives rise to such distinctions.  On one prominent approach, emotion systems trigger non-utilitarian judgments.  Such accounts fail to capture the specificity and regularity of moral judgments.  The main rival, inspired by Chomskyan linguistics, suggests that moral distinctions derive from an innate moral grammar.  We are developing an alternative account based on rational learning theory.  We argue that simple statistical principles can explain how children might use scant and equiviocal evidence to acquire rules systems with subtle distinctions and also to acquire a bias for non-utilitarian rules.