Lara Pourabdolrahim: When the bad effect is a murder: A unifying account for moral life-death dilemmas

Most people judge actions with bad effects more morally permissible if the agent did not intend this effect. However, intentionality is only one of many factors that might influence judgments of moral permissibility.  Discussions of trolley problems (thought experiments where one person's death is accepted to save the lives of five others) suggest a whole range of factors is relevant. (Bruers and Braeckman 2014)


We have hypothesized that all trolley dilemma judgments can be explained by one factor: How strongly the victims’ death reminds people of murder. Intentionality plays a role insofar as it has been closely associated with the concept of murder (e.g., in the form of intent). I will present new findings from our survey about prototypical vs. supernormal features of murder that put this hypothesis to test.


Kevin Reuter: No knowledge required: On the norms of assertion

Assertions are the centre of gravity in social epistemology. But what are the norms of assertion? Do we request of a person to believe with justification what she claims, is it crucial that the claim she makes is true, or do we even need to know what we assert? Philosophers have to a large extent relied on their own intuitions to argue for one or the other account. In this paper, we present empirical evidence showing that having a justified belief that p is sufficient for asserting p. Truth and knowledge don’t seem to be required. Our results challenge recent studies conducted by Turri (2013, 2016) which are supposed to support a knowledge norm of assertion. We will demonstrate empirically that his conclusion is not warranted but that the justified belief account prevails.


Pascale Willemsen: I must although I can’t!? A pragmatically grounded two-level theory of ‘ought implies can’

The principle ‘Ought implies can’ (OIC) states that if you lack the ability to do X, then you are not morally obligated to do X. While philosophers believed it to be both normatively adequate and intuitively compelling, recent empirical findings suggest that laypeople reject OIC. In this talk, we suggest a pragmatically grounded model of the relationship between ought- and can-judgments that can account for such findings. More specifically we argue that ‘ought’ is pragmatically used in two ways: namely as expressing an obligation or recommending an action. We further argue that also ‘can’ is understood in two different ways: it can either describe a person’s general physical and mental faculties, or refer to a situation-specific ability. In five experiments we show that moral obligations imply general abilities, and that moral imperatives imply situation-specific abilities. Once these two levels are carefully discriminated in empirical research, OIC-incompatible answers vanish.


Alex Wiegmann: Morally irrelevant factors and moral intuitions

In this talk, I will present two morally irrelevant factors that have been shown to influence our moral intuitions, namely the order of presentation of a moral dilemma and the addition of irrelevant options. Some of the studies were conducted with both lay people and professional philosophers. The presented findings are meant to stimulate a discussion about the philosophical implications of these kind of findings.


Adina Roskies: Moral enhancement: Can and should we do it?

Neuroethics has long been concerned about cognitive enhancement, but discussions of moral enhancement have only recently begun. In this talk I identify possible targets for moral enhancement based on moral psychology, and discuss their potential. I then turn to arguments against enhancement, and assess their force. I conclude that there are some arguments against enhancement that have some bite, but they are not the ones generally recognized in the enhancement literature.


Katharina Anna Helming and Maureen Sie: Sharing responsibility. The importance of tokens of appraisal

In this talk we will share some preliminary experiments that resulted from collaboration at prior Einstein meetings. First, Maureen will elaborate on a view on moral agency defended elsewhere as the "Traffic Participation View on Human Agency" and argue that that view enables us to understand the social function and importance of the moral sentiments (such as blame, resentment, gratitude, moral indignation and praise). She will contrast this understanding with discussion of moral responsibility in contemporary  moral philosophy. Secondly, she will shortly outline some of the implications of the Traffic Participation View for the interpretation of work in moral and social psychology. Next Katharina will present two experiments related to this work, explain their underlying  hypothesis and how they were tested.


Julia Christensen: Moral dilemmas reloaded

A range of disciplines including cognitive neuroscience, experimental psychology and empirical philosophy approach the question of what guides our moral decision-making and judgment by means of ‘moral dilemmas’. It has been suggested that human sense of what is right and what is wrong in a given dilemmatic situation is triggered by specific parameters of that situation. Therefore, moral dilemmas are formulated in such way that they probe for particular parameters, teasing them apart, as much as allowing to investigate the interaction between various parameters.


However, given the complexity of dilemmatic situations, dilemma creation is troublesome. Two main issues stand out. First, the formulation of the key parameters within the dilemmatic situation (e.g., Personal Force, Benefit Recipient, Evitability, and Intention) and the formulation of enough and plausible dilemmas of the required type to have a statistically viable design. The second issue regards the actual writing of the dilemmas. There are several stylistic elements and methodological aspects that may hinder the comprehension of the narrative of a dilemma. In the present talk I will address both these issues.


Different moral dilemma libraries are available in literature for empirical research. The most extensively used are the Trolley type dilemmas proposed by Foot, (1967) and Thomson (1976), and extended by researchers such as Greene et al. (2001, 2004) and Moore (2011). We have recently revised and validated a dilemma set based on these previous dilemmas. A total of 46 moral dilemmas was selected and fine-tuned in terms of 4 conceptual factors and methodological aspects of the dilemma formulation (word count, expression style, question formats). Normative ratings were obtained for each dilemma in 2 norming experiments. This allowed to statistically classify the dilemmas according to the dilemmatic parameters Personal Force, Benefit Recipient, and Intentionality. The said dilemma set is available in 6 languages (English, French, German, Spanish, Catalan, and Danish). I will present this dilemma set and outline pros and cons.


Finally, I briefly discuss the use of ‘moral dilemmas’ in relation to other types of paradigms available in cognitive neuroscience of morality. In particular, outlining evidence comparing short-story versus video versions of moral dilemmas, and, examining the benefits of implicit tasks as opposed to moral dilemma paradigms which probe for people’s explicit moral judgment.