Utilitarian judgments and an intuitive moral system: Can John Mikhail's model accommodate autism and social emotion?


Abstract
In the attempt to understand moral knowledge, a framework of “universal moral grammar” (“UMG”) has gained traction. Instead of relying on justifications provided after moral judgments, or claiming that our moral judgments are determined by reason, emotion, or some combination of the two, UMG seeks to explain moral cognition by modeling our intuitive judgments in moral scenarios. John Mikhail proposes a model of how our mind computes structural descriptions. In this paper, I will outline the justifications for his system, and then review how his system would work in practice. I will then focus on how Mikhail’s model can account for the discrepancy between autistic and non-autistic individuals’ performance in the same types of experiments. Finally, after considering the similarity between the moral judgments of autistics and the judgments of people with damage to their prefrontal cortex, I will investigate possible deficiencies in Mikhail’s model, and briefly conclude with suggestions for further research.
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