Baker Hall 155
Robert Cavalier received his BA from New York University and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Duquesne University. In 1987 he joined the staff at Carnegie Mellon's Center for Design of Educational Computing (CDEC), where he became Executive Director in 1991.
While at CDEC, he was also co-principal in the 1989 EDUCOM award winner for Best Humanities Software (published in 1996 by Routledge as A Right to Die? The Dax Cowart Case). He also co-authored the CD-ROM The Issue of Abortion in America (Rountledge, 1998)
Dr. Cavalier was Director of CMU's Center for the Advancement of Applied Ethics and Political Philosophy from 2005-2007. He is currently co-director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Program for Deliberative Democracy, which received the 2008 Good Government Award from the League of Women Voters.
Co-Editor of Ethics in the History of Western Philosophy (St. Martin's/Macmillan, England, 1990), Editor of The Impact of the Internet on Our Moral Lives (SUNY, 2003) and other works in ethics as well as articles in educational computing, Dr. Cavalier is internationally recognized for his work in education and interactive multimedia. He was President of the "International Association for Computing and Philosophy" (2001 - 2004) and Chair of the APA Committee on Philosophy and Computers (2000-2003). Dr. Cavalier has given numerous addresses and keynote speeches here and abroad.
In 1996 Cavalier was designated "Syllabus Scholar" by Syllabus Magazine in recognition of his life long work with educational technologies. In 1999 he received an award for "Innovation Excellence in Teaching, Learning and Technology" at the 10th International Conference on College Teaching and Learning. In 2002 he was recipient of the H&SS Elliott Dunlap Smith Teaching Award and in 2006 he was awarded a Fulbright Senior Specialist Grant in Education.
Today Dr. Cavalieršs interests focus on the field of deliberative democracy. He is a PI in projects involving deliberative polling and other forms of democratic dialogue at the local, regional and national level. He has two books in this field: Democracy for Beginners (For Beginners LLC, 2009) and anthology entitled Approaching Deliberative Democracy: Theory and Practice, Carnegie Mellon University Press (2010/11).
I have explored and pioneered the use of educational computing in philosophy for almost 20 years. My teaching techniques include the use of interactive multimedia, presentation software, computer-mediated communications, and web-based materials.
I have co-authored multimedia tools (A Right to Die? The Dax Cowart Case and The Issue of Abortion in America) as part of my research and development work at the Center for the Advancement of Applied Ethics. These interactive environments are instances of our long-term work with Project THEORIA. The acronym "THEORIA" stands for : Testing Hypotheses in Ethics/ Esthetics: Observation, Reason, Imagination, and Affect. The term is intended to play off of the origins of both ‘theory’ and ‘theater’ in the ancient Greek verb theorein: to see, to view, to behold.
Throughout much of the 1990s, my research and teaching initiatives continued to grow out of Project THEORIA and the intersection of New Media and Case studies in Applied Ethics. By the year 2000 my interests evolved to take into account to role of conversation and perspective in analyzing hard cases. Books like Jonathan Morenošs Deciding Together and Brendan Minogue's Bioethics: A Committee Approach discuss the social psychology and pedagogical aspects of what Habermas calls Dialogical Reason. I have used these ideas in my courses through student role-play in ersatz ethics committees and, in my Political Philosophy course, student participation in "constitutional conventions." These pedagogical experiments have recently been expanded to include theoretical and empirical interest in the movement of "Deliberative Democracy." And it is within this conversational turn that I have worked on both online and face-to-face applications of deliberative democracy, most specifically through what James Fishkin has called "deliberative polls."
Instantiating Deliberative Democracy
Liberal democracies of the kind we see forming around the world are only the beginning of what Benjamin Barber has called strong democracies. Thin, liberal democracies provide the constitutional essentials of universal suffrage, freedom of press and assembly, etc. but this in no way guarantees that the citizens of these societies will see themselves as any more than isolated individuals who periodically vote (if they choose to do so). Recent work in "Citizenship Theory" has made clear that "the health and stability of a modern democracy depends, not only on the justice of its basic institutions, but also on the qualities and attitudes of its citizens" (Kymlicka). These qualities and attitudes are often highlighted by proponents of Deliberative Democracy and emphasize the role of the citizen in becoming a truly informed and engaged individual, a person willing to listen to all sides and willing to let the force of the better argument (in all its richness) become a guide to opinion formation. In this talk I will discuss my work as Co-Director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Program in Deliberative Democracy and Director of Campus Conversations. Both of these programs utilize the protocols of deliberative polling: the former at the local and regional level, the latter at the college and university level.
Learning, Media, and the Case of Dax Cowart: A Comparison of Text, Film, and Interactive Multimedia
This presentation discusses the results of a three-year investigation into the comparative advantages of using interactive multimedia in the presentation of a case study in Ethics. The study involved undergraduate students in philosophy courses at Carnegie Mellon and the use of the case of Dax Cowart, a burn patient who wished to be allowed to die. In representing the case, we strove for functional equivalence in the content of the media chosen: a literary narrative plus expert commentary (text), a one-hour documentary (film), and the Guided Inquiry/Archive sections of an interactive multimedia program (A Right to Die? The Dax Cowart Case). We also strove for functional equivalence in the use of the material: an evening assignment and a follow-up essay exam. The results of our research demonstrate a statistical difference in learning outcomes based on the medium used. Students in the interactive CD group outperformed students in the text and film groups with regard to (a) understanding the complex perspectives and positions of the principals in the case and (b) analyzing the case with respect to its morally relevant details.
Duquesne University - Ph.D. (Philosophy) 1978, M.A. (Philosophy) 1973 (Honors)
New York University - B.A. (Philosophy) 1971 (Dean's List)
Grants and Awards
2008: Grant from Gill Foundation and Gift from Alumnus Frank Brunkhourst to host a Statewide deliberative poll on the Issue of Marriage in America.
2007: Birmingham Foundation (in support of a Pittsburgh neighborhood "community conversation"); Gill Foundation (in support of a campus deliberative poll on same-sex marriage); Teagle Grant/Phi Beta Kappa (in support of a Handbook for Campus Deliberative Polls)
2006: Fulbright Senior Specialist Grant in Education
2005: CMU Berkman grant to support development of Mobile PICOLA; Benedum Foundation grant to host a regional deliberative poll on Healthcare.
2004: HSS grant to support development of PICOLA; Grant from PBS to host regional deliberative poll on Americašs Role in the World.
2002: PI in NSF Grant "Developing and Testing A High Telepresence Virtual Agora For Broad Citizen Participation: A Multi-Trait, Multi-Method Investigation" (2.1 million); H&SS Elliott Dunlap Smith Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Selected Conferences (from 2000)
During the 1990s, I provided numerous talks and workshops relating to the classroom use of educational computing. Recently, I have directed the Campus Conversations project, holding deliberative polls in issues such as the Student Bill of Rights, Campus Public Art Policy, and the Issue of Marriage in America.