Courses offered by BeLab members
The Moral Foundations of Globalization (Muldoon)
SEM: TR 1:30-3 PM
Globalization is a cultural, political and economic phenomenon that many believe will dominate the next century. It has already transformed many aspects of our lives, and has the potential to radically change not only our relations with other countries, but also the internal order of our own country. These current and future changes have caused a worldwide debate on globalization that takes place not just in classrooms, but also in protests and riots on the street. In this course we will develop philosophical methods to analyze the moral implications of globalization. The aim of this course is to equip you with the skills needed to reach a deep understanding of these pressing and critical issues. The course is divided into three units.
In the first unit, “Ethics Among Strangers” we will try and determine whether there are moral reasons for limiting who we care about. Should we only worry about our families? Our neighbors? Our country? Should we only concern ourselves with people of similar ancestry? Or is it our moral responsibility to care about all of humanity? This is the first crucial question to ask, but then we must begin to ask ourselves what our moral responsibilities entail. What, then, are our duties to each other?
In the second unit, “Economic Globalization and Development,” we will consider the ramifications of an increasingly globalized system of market capitalism. We will briefly examine early moral justifications of market capitalism, and then turn to contemporary arguments linking economic development to human moral and political development. We will end the unit with a Marxist critique of market capitalism as being antithetical to moral development.
In the third and final unit, “Political Globalization,” we will examine questions regarding the responsibility of our political institutions. Do we have obligations to take military action in countries that are mistreating their own citizens? Do we owe more development aid to third-world countries? Can political institutions prevent future wars? Should the concept of “country” cede to a system of global governance? Answers to these questions will shape not only our relation to our own government, but what we ought to require from the government when it acts on our behalf.
The Role of Cognitive Frames in Societal Rigidity and Change: An Economist’s Perspective (Hoff)
SEM: M 2-4 PM
Traditional economic theory has been confronted with evidence from psychology and experimental economics that challenges its core assumptions. Individuals have systematic biases in perception and interpretation and may behave inconsistently (contra the rationality
assumption). Individuals care about social identity (contra assumptions about individualism) and display spite and altruism (contra assumptions about selfishness). Experiments within and across countries, as well as large-scale observational studies linking history to present-day outcomes, are a point of entry to investigate the logic of a society’s order and the way individuals think. In this seminar, we will undertake units on several phenomena that have only recently attracted attention from economists but are central concerns of non-economic social sciences: endogenous preferences, cognitive frames, norms of cooperation, and social capital. In the process, we will study many experiments in experimental economics and psychology. We will also study particular examples of societal rigidity and change, including the transition from communism to capitalism in Russia, the demise of footbinding in China, and caste and gender roles. Readings will include economics, psychology, sociology, and history, with primary emphasis on economics and experimental studies. There will also be a few short selections from fictional works. Requirements are 2 courses in economics, 1 course in statistics, and 1 course in psychology. Recommended are additional courses in statistics and at least one course in sociology or anthropology or history.
How to study humans (Lindemans)
SEM: TR 3-4:30 PM
How do people think about people, and what is the best way of doing so? Many scientific disciplines are concerned with human behavior, but different disciplines have different conceptions of what it means to be an individual. For instance, an individual is the conscious tip of an unconscious iceberg in psychology, a survival vehicle of selfish genes in biology, an interchangeable node in a preexisting network in sociology, the guardian of Truth, Beauty and the Good in philosophy and, finally, an elegant utility function in economics. On the other
hand, when scholars go home in the evening, they think of an individual as a mind intentionally instructing the movements of its body. Different scholars also have different ideas on how to acquire knowledge about people: read your Aristotle, reflect upon your own experience as a human being, draw a few diagrams on the back of an envelope, ask people, put them in the lab, manipulate this or that, see how they react to monetary incentives, observe people ‘in the
field’, go back to history, look at aggregate data, look at individual differences, etc. In this seminar, we will read and discuss research on human behavior from different disciplines. To focus a bit, we look at the literature on cooperation. Simultaneously, we will read and
discuss texts in philosophy of (social) science that help us evaluate this diverse research.
Economic Experiments on Unethical Behavior (Jiang)
SEM: R 1:30-4:30 PM
Corruption is an age-old problem. Even though we have gained much theoretical insight about the causes and the dynamics of the problem, there is still a long journey to go for fighting corruption in practice. One of the difficulties rests on collecting data for testing these theories. More empirical insights are needed for understanding the relevant factors that contribute to an individual’s unethical behaviour. Focused on the perspective of individual decision-making, this course will expose students to the literature on unethical behaviour and experimental methodology before students make their own attempt to design an experiment on the designated topic. The goal of the class is to empower students with the necessary knowledge and skills in order to design and implement an economic experiment as well as analyze the data. By having hands-on experience on a real experiment, students shall master to a great extent the economic-experimental method for understanding other problems in which they wish to gain insights in the future.
(PSYC 453) Judgment and Decisions (Baron)
SEM: TR 1:30-3:30 PM
This is a seminar course in which students will read articles and lead group discussions about paper topics, including empirical tests, policy implications and theoretical frameworks. The course will count as a capstone for PPE (Philosophy, Politics and Economics) students, and it is open to graduate students as well as undergrads. Some of the topics are flexible, but general themes will be the psychology of judgments and decisions, behavioral law and economics, and experimental philosophy.
Some classes will be devoted to the supposed conflict between intuitive and deliberative judgment, and the related theory that emotions affect intuitive judgment primarily. We will discuss chapters from Kahneman’s new book, “Thinking, Fast and Slow.” Other classes will discuss issues of wealth redistribution, charitable donations, and the fairness and framing of taxation. Finally, we will cover topics of political judgment, overconfidence, predictions of political and economic events, legal judgments such as criminal sentencing and tort penalties, and moral judgment. In the case of moral judgment, we shall focus on the dual-system theory of Joshua Greene and related literature.
A detailed but tentative reading list will be available before the semester begins in http://www.sas.upenn.edu/~jbaron/p453.html.
There are no fixed prerequisites, but students should be able to understand the statistical meaning of inferences commonly found in psychology journal articles, without regarding expressions such as “t(59)=2.96, p=.02” as spots on the page.