MERG Mini-Conference at NYU
By S. Matthew Liao

Metro Experimental Research Group, in conjunction with the NYU Center for Bioethics, is hosting a mini-conference at NYU on some exciting new work in experimental philosophy on Friday, March 16th.

The conference includes the following four talks:

* Zoltan Szabo (Yale), Impure Modals

* S. Matthew Liao (NYU), The Doctrine of Double Effect and Experimental Philosophy

* Shaun Nichols (Arizona), Ambiguous Reference

* Fiery Cushman (Brown), Two Functions of Morality

The conference will be held in Room 101 of NYU’s Philosophy department (5 Washington Place) from 10:30 to 5:30. All are welcome to attend.

3rd – 4th May 2012
Institute of Philosophy, London, UK

Confirmed speakers:
Fiery Cushman, Psychology, Brown University, USA
Adam Feltz, Philosophy, Schreiner University, USA
Urs Fischbacher, Economics, University of Konstanz, Germany
Natalie Gold, Philosophy, King’s College London, UK
Shaun Nichols, Philosophy, University of Arizona
Briony Pulford, Psychology, University of Leicester, UK

This is an end-of-project workshop arising from a two-year study entitled “Framing Effects in Ethical Dilemmas” in which Natalie Gold, Andrew Colman, and Briony Pulford investigated contextual factors affecting moral decisions. The project included a series of experiments in which trolley problems and related ethical dilemmas were presented to people in contexts that were systematically varied to throw light on factors affecting their responses. Experiments included both hypothetical questions and incentivised choices, of the kind associated with experimental economics.

Fellow philosophers will no doubt be familiar with the curious book, Nudge, by Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein. The book defends “libertarian paternalism” and a view of behavioural economics. While I have not been convinced by its arguments, it is a good read and I’ve half expected Nudge to be the subject of at least a small wave of papers in ethics and political philosophy. I’m not the only one who thought its ideas would find traction: the British government has also commissioned research into how it might “nudge” the public into healthier lifestyles, for example.

In “Putting the Trolley in Order: Experimental Philosophy and the Loop Case” (forthcoming in Philosophical Psychology), Alex Wiegmann, Joshua Alexander and Gerard Vong and I applied the methods of experimental philosophy to Judith Jarvis Thomson’s famous Loop Case. As the readers will know, Thomson used the Loop Case to cast doubt on the intuitively plausible Doctrine of Double Effect. Many philosophers share Thomson’s intuitions about this case (see, e.g. Kamm 2007 and Scanlon 2008), though not all (see, e.g. Otsuka 2008 and my paper in 2009). In fact, Frances Kamm developed the Doctrine of Triple Effect (DTE) in order to explain Loop intuitions.

The Character Project at Wake Forest University is very excited to launch its funding competition entitled “New Frontiers in the Philosophy of Character.” This $300,000 RFP is aimed at work in philosophy on the topic of character, and proposals can request between $40,000 and $100,000 for projects not to exceed one year in duration. We hope to make between 5-6 awards. A residential incentive of $6,000 for one semester or $12,000 for an academic year will be offered to philosophy RFP winners who are willing to move to Wake Forest University during the award period, and this stipend would not count as part of the research funding request. A willingness to move will not be taken into account when evaluating proposals.

7th International Symposium of Cognition, Logic and Communication
6-8 May 2011, Riga, Latvia


INVITED ORGANIZERS: Michael Bishop (Florida State University), Stephen Stich (Rutgers University)

Michael Bishop (Florida State University)
Luc Faucher (Université du Québec a Montréal)
Joshua Knobe (Yale University)
Edouard Machery (University of Pittsburgh)
Dominic Murphy (University of Sydney)
Shaun Nichols (University of Arizona)
Jesse Prinz (City University of New York)
Adina Roskies (Dartmouth College)
Don Ross (University of Cape Town)
Stephen Stich (Rutgers University)
Valerie Tiberius (University of Minnesota)

103rd Annual Meeting of The Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology
New Orleans, Louisiana
March 10-12, 2011

The Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology invites submission of papers for its annual meeting March 10-12, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The submission deadline is November 1, 2010. Founded in 1904, SSPP promotes philosophy and psychology by facilitating the exchange of ideas among those engaged in these fields of inquiry. Papers on any philosophical topic are welcome. Topics that have
cross-discipline appeal are especially suitable. For more information on the 2011 meeting see:

Professor Christian Miller (Wake Forest) and his colleagues have recently been awarded a $3.67 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation for The Character Project, an exploration of the nature of character.

Christian asked me to let you know that $2 million will soon be devoted to three separate funding competitions, one of which will be for philosophers working on topics related to character broadly conceived, including but not limited to the recent work on the empirical adequacy of character traits.

You can learn more about the project here and the funding competitions here. Do feel free to contact Christian at character (at) for more information.

Do moral judgments form a psychological natural kind? Lately, Stephen Stich and his colleagues have been arguing on the basis of empirical evidence that the features psychologists have identified as key to moral judgment do not, as a matter of fact, cluster together in a lawlike fashion. In particular, they argue that harm attributions do not always evoke the signature moral response pattern of authority-independence and generality, and conclude that since the purported nomological cluster breaks down, moral judgments do not form a natural kind. Their argument, of course, leaves open the possibility that there is some other cluster to be found. I am not a big believer in nomological clusters, but I will propose an alternative content feature that does seem to pair with the signature moral pattern in a lawlike fashion. Namely, it seems that whenever people take a piece of behaviour to express, in context, any of a set of attitudes that ranges from disrespect to debasement, the signature moral pattern is evoked. (As usual, I’ll just focus on wrongness judgments.) In short, people are intuitive deontologists, and for all that Stich says, there may be a psychological natural kind of moral judgment. My alternative model involves commitment to a commonsense cultural relativism, but one of an entirely innocuous kind that poses no threat to moral objectivism. To distinguish it from standard or deference relativism, I’ll call it significance relativism.

Date: May 1, 2010
Time: 10am to 5pm
Location: NYU Silver Center, Room 207
Hosted by the Metro Experimental Research Group (MERG)

(All details available at:

A series of recent experimental studies have examined people’s intuitions about metaethical issues. Participants in this workshop will discuss the implications of these studies both for questions about people’s ordinary folk views and for broader philosophical questions about moral realism, moral relativism and expressivism.

Invited Speakers: Stephen Darwall, Geoff Goodwin, Gilbert Harman, Jesse Prinz, Hagop Sarkissian and David Wong

I’ll be presenting with some colleagues and I look forward to seeing you there!

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