A Paradox of Morality: Using Games to Understand Group Moral Responsibility

Thursday, August 20, 2020
10:00 am – 11:30 am EDT

This event is co-sponsored by the Elliott School, the Leadership, Ethics, and Practice (LEAP) Initiative, the GW Economics Department‘s Microeconomics Workshop, and the GW Philosophy Department.

The challenge of distributing moral responsibility when a group behaves badly occurs in many walks of life, from war and politics to corporate behavior. This has been discussed at length in economics, philosophy and law. This lecture will draw on moral philosophy and game theory to shed light on this topic, and demonstrate how we often make mistakes when attributing responsibility for collective behavior to individuals. The lecture will present real-life contexts where this problem arises and develop some new games which help us deal with the challenge. It will also present some open-ended questions for further research.

Event Schedule:

Welcome Remarks by IIEP Director James Foster and LEAP Director Christopher Kojm
Address by Prof. Kaushik Basu
Discussant Remarks by James Foster
Q&A moderated by James Foster

About the Speaker:

Kaushik Basu is Professor of Economics and Carl Marks Professor of International Studies at Cornell University. He is currently the President of the International Economic Association and a nonresident senior fellow in the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution. He recently served as Chief Economist at the World Bank and before that was Chief Economic Adviser to the Government of India. During his four years at the Bank he co-taught a popular course in the Elliott School with James Foster, entitled Introduction to Game Theory and Strategic Thinking, which every week brought 150 GW students and many visitors from the Bank and other neighboring institutions to the Harry Harding Auditorium of the Elliott School. One class per term was held in Preston Auditorium of the World Bank. As one student commented “Being taught by Prof. Basu was definitely an only at GW moment!” He has now returned to Cornell but fondly remembers his time in DC – especially his weekly chats with GW students and his daily strolls across the GW campus from home to work in the Bank, and back again.

Professor Basu has research interests that span across development economics, welfare economics, game theory, industrial organization, and law. As a professor at the Delhi School of Economics, he founded the Centre for Development Economics in 1992 and served as its first Executive Director. Kaushik Basu holds a B.A. in Economics from St. Stephen’s College, Delhi University, and M.Sc. and PhD in Economics from the London School of Economics, and several honorary degrees, including doctorates from IIT Bombay, Fordham University New York, Bath University, England, and the University of Florence. His recent books are “An Economist in the Real World” and “The Republic of Beliefs.”

In this presentation, Professor Basu will be recounting his latest research which shows how simple insights from game theory can shed light on problems in moral philosophy. After the presentation, Professor Foster will provide a short commentary and then will moderate an extended session for Q&A from the audience.

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