Institut Jean Nicod

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Jonathan Phillips (Harvard University)

Vendredi 10 avril 2015 à 11h30 à 13h

Séance organisée conjointement avec le séminaire LINGUAE et le séminaire XPhi.

Institut Nicod, ENS, Pavillon Jardin, 29, rue d'Ulm 75005 Paris. Salle de réunion, RDC.

Jonathan Phillips

Titre : The psychological representation of modality

Abstract :
A surprising number of independent research programs have documented the pervasive effects that people’s understanding of physics, probability, and morality have on cognition. These effects have been discussed, for example, in research areas as diverse as causal selection, the development of understanding possibility, judgments of force and freedom, and counterfactual reasoning. In each of these cases, one finds that the effect of an event involving a violation of physics is quite similar to the effect of an event involving a morally bad action or a statistically improbable occurrence, but never the other way around. Despite the growing work on each of these different topics, no account of the similarity the impact of these factors throughout cognition has been offered.

Against this background, I offer a unified account on which physics, probability, and morality are each relevant to how people represent possibilities. Borrowing from frameworks developed for modality in linguistics, I then propose a general account of how people psychologically represent possibilities, which I refer to as the psychological representation of modality. I go on to demonstrate that this single account provides a unified way of explaining the impact of physics, probability and morality in each of the various research projects where these factors are found to play a role.