10 episodes

Explore the roles of emotion, intuition and reasoning in moral decision making and the implications for moral theology, philosophy and virtue ethics. This popular conference, held in March 2010, features some of the biggest names in brain science, including Michael Gazzaniga, Patrick Haggard, Joshua Greene and James Blair, along with esteemed philosophers and thinkers Robert Kane, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Jeanette Kennett, Stephen Pope and Rachana Kamtekar. Learn more at http://academics.holycross.edu/crec/events/conferences/neuroscience.

Biological Foundations of Morality: Neuroscience, Evolution and Morality College of the Holy Cross

    • Science

Explore the roles of emotion, intuition and reasoning in moral decision making and the implications for moral theology, philosophy and virtue ethics. This popular conference, held in March 2010, features some of the biggest names in brain science, including Michael Gazzaniga, Patrick Haggard, Joshua Greene and James Blair, along with esteemed philosophers and thinkers Robert Kane, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Jeanette Kennett, Stephen Pope and Rachana Kamtekar. Learn more at http://academics.holycross.edu/crec/events/conferences/neuroscience.

    • video
    Michael Gazzaniga "Brains, Beliefs and Beyond"

    Michael Gazzaniga "Brains, Beliefs and Beyond"

    Michael Gazzaniga, director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California Santa Barbara, explores the 24/7 brain. He describes the brain as a parallel distributive system, constantly and unconsciously processing information. Meanwhile, a region in the left hemisphere of the brain collects the information from all systems and interprets some of what's going on. The running narrative gives us the illusion of unity and control.

    • 1 hr 25 min
    • video
    Patrick Haggard "The Neuroscience of Human Will"

    Patrick Haggard "The Neuroscience of Human Will"

    What can neuroscience tell us about our conception of self as moral agents? Do humans really have free will? Patrick Haggard, professor of psychology at the University College of London Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, uses his and others' experiments to illustrate how free will, or conscious intention, can be studied scientifically and identifies its neural correlates in the pre-supplementary motor area of the brain. Haggard concludes that humans do not have free will in the traditional sense, but neither is it an illusion or merely an interpreter of action. He suggests that conscious intention serves a role in predictive learning and veto control.

    • 49 min
    • video
    Robert Kane '60 "Rethinking Free Will: New Perspectives on an Ancient Problem"

    Robert Kane '60 "Rethinking Free Will: New Perspectives on an Ancient Problem"

    Robert Kane'60, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, draws upon the work of Patrick Haggard and other neuroscientists to consider what kind of role conscious intention needs to play in order to ascribe moral responsibility for action. He argues that consciously setting the agenda and consciously endorsing the outcome of an action indicate moral responsibility, even if the agenda is carried out on an unconscious level or the outcome is potentially changed by unconscious factors. Kane suggests that free will also is about self-forming actions, decisions made among competing desires with undetermined outcomes that help shape future actions and values.

    • 1 hr 5 min
    • video
    Marc Hauser "When Our Moral Compass Goes South"

    Marc Hauser "When Our Moral Compass Goes South"

    Marc Hauser, Harvard evolutionary biologist who directed the Cognitive Evolution Lab, asserts that perception of an event triggers unconscious neural systems to evaluate cause and intent and make a moral judgment - prior to conscious reasoning or any emotional response. By focusing on cases of inevitable harm, or Pareto cases, he shows that moral judgments are based on abstract principles that link causal-intentional processes to consequences. Studies rule out the role of demographic and cultural variables and knowledge of the law and specific legal cases in our moral judgments. Based on studies with psychopaths, who show lower levels of activation in the amygdala, the emotional processing center of the brain, Hauser asserts that emotion is not the source of moral judgment.

    • 36 min
    • video
    Joshua Greene "Of Trolleys and Cheaters: Automatic Controlled Processes in Moral Judgment"

    Joshua Greene "Of Trolleys and Cheaters: Automatic Controlled Processes in Moral Judgment"

    Joshua Greene, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Moral Cognition Lab at Harvard University, proposes a dual process theory of moral judgment that combines intuition and emotion with conscious control and reasoning. He argues that emotions play a causal role in moral reasoning and that, without them, humans tend toward utilitarian judgments. To support his claims, he uses empirical data from often-replicated studies such as the trolley, footbridge and crying baby moral dilemmas.

    • 40 min
    • video
    Walter Sinnott-Armstrong "Is Morality Unified?"

    Walter Sinnott-Armstrong "Is Morality Unified?"

    Is morality as a field unified enough to be subjected to scientific experiments or philosophical work? Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chauncey Stillman Professor in Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University, examines morality from several contexts - such as content, form, function and force - and finds no common and peculiar feature to all instances that would allow significant universal generalizations. Thus, he cautions against broad-based studies of moral judgment and suggests those studying morality target smaller classes of judgment for more meaningful results.

    • 1 hr 9 min

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