26 episodes

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature pairs central texts from Western philosophical tradition (including works by Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Hobbes, Kant, Mill, Rawls and Nozick) with recent findings in cognitive science and related fields. The course is structured around three intertwined sets of topics: Happiness and Flourishing; Morality and Justice; and Political Legitimacy and Social Structures.

Philosophy and Science of Human Nature Yale University

    • Philosophy

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature pairs central texts from Western philosophical tradition (including works by Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Hobbes, Kant, Mill, Rawls and Nozick) with recent findings in cognitive science and related fields. The course is structured around three intertwined sets of topics: Happiness and Flourishing; Morality and Justice; and Political Legitimacy and Social Structures.

    1. Course Introduction

    1. Course Introduction

    Professor Gendler explains the interdisciplinary nature of the course: work from philosophy, psychology, behavioral economics, and literature will be brought to bear on the topic of human nature. The three main topics of the course are introduced--happiness and flourishing, morality, and political philosophy--and examples of some of the course’s future topics are discussed.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Spring 2011.

    • 42 min
    2. The Ring of Gyges: Morality and Hypocrisy

    2. The Ring of Gyges: Morality and Hypocrisy

    After introducing Plato's Republic, Professor Gendler turns to the discussion of Glaucon's challenge in Book II. Glaucon challenges Socrates to defend his claim that acting justly (morally) is valuable in itself, not merely as a means to some other end (in this case, the reputation one gets from seeming just). To bolster the opposing position--that acting justly is only valuable as a means to attaining a good reputation--Glaucon sketches the thought experiment of the Ring of Gyges. In the second half of the lecture, Professor Gendler discusses the experimental results of Daniel Batson, which suggest that, at least in certain controlled laboratory settings, people appear to care more about seeming moral than about actually acting fairly. These experimental results appear to support Glaucon's hypothesis in the Ring of Gyges thought experiment.

    • 42 min
    3. Parts of the Soul I

    3. Parts of the Soul I

    Professor Gendler reviews four instances of intrapersonal divisions that have appeared in philosophy, literature, psychology, and neuroscience: Plato's division between reason, spirit, and appetite; Hume's division between reason and passion; Freud's division between id, ego, and superego; and four divisions discussed by Jonathan Haidt (mind/body, left brain/right brain, old brain/new brain, and controlled/automatic thought). A discussion of a particularly vivid passage from Plato's Phaedrus concludes the lecture.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Spring 2011.

    • 45 min
    4. Parts of the Soul II

    4. Parts of the Soul II

    Professor Gendler begins with a demonstration of sampling bias and a discussion of the problems it raises for empirical psychology. The lecture then returns to divisions of the soul, focusing on examples from contemporary research. The first are dual-processing accounts of cognition, which are introduced along with a discussion of the Wason selection task and belief biases. Next, the influential research of Kahneman and Tversky on heuristics and biases is introduced alongside the famous Asian disease experiment. Finally, Professor Gendler introduces her own notion of alief and offers several examples that distinguish it from belief.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Spring 2011.

    • 45 min
    5. The Well-Ordered Soul: Happiness and Harmony

    5. The Well-Ordered Soul: Happiness and Harmony

    Professor Gendler begins with a poll of the class about whether students have elected to take a voluntary no-Internet pledge, and distributes stickers to help students who have made the pledge stick to their resolve. She then moves to the substantive part of the lecture, where she introduces Plato’s analogy between the city-state and the soul and articulates Plato’s response to Glaucon’s challenge: justice is a kind of health--the well-ordered working of each of the parts of the individual—and thus is intrinsically valuable. This theme is explored further via psychological research on the ‘progress principle’ and ‘hedonic treadmill,’ as well as in an introduction to Aristotle’s argument that reflection and reasoning are the function of humanity and thus the highest good.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Spring 2011.

    • 44 min
    6. The Disordered Soul: Thémis and PTSD

    6. The Disordered Soul: Thémis and PTSD

    Professor Gendler introduces Aristotle’s conception of virtue as a structuring one’s life so that one’s instinctive responses line up with one’s reflective commitments. Becoming virtuous, according to Aristotle, requires that we engage in a process of habituation by acting as if we were virtuous, just as musicians master their instruments by playing them. By contrast, when one’s behavior or experience is out of line with one’s reflective commitments, dissonance ensues. Exemplifying this dissonance are Vietnam veterans with PTSD, whose experiences author Jonathan Shay relates to those of the Greek soldiers in the Iliad. In both cases, the reflective commitment to “what’s right”, or themis, is betrayed by some commanding officers; the consequence is a loss of the possibility of social trust.

    Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

    This course was recorded in Spring 2011.

    • 43 min

Customer Reviews

Orbit308 ,

Great class

The audio is only messed up in the intro. Skip to the next lecture. She has a unique voice, it kinda sticks in your head..easy to follow and entertaining class.

erikj09 ,

interesting course marred by frequent audio problems and missing/duplicated lectures

Tamar Gendler is a great lecturer, but the audio files for this course have been sloppily handled. The audio for Lecture 1 skips and has parts of Lecture 2 spliced into it by mistake. More than once a lecture is missing because of accidental duplication of files. The audio files for Lectures 8 and 9 are exactly the same, and I know they are not supposed to be because as a result references in later lectures back to Epictetus and Boethius are confusing. The files for Lectures 13 and 14 are also exactly the same, so that the difference between utilitarianism and deontology isn't fully explained. I haven't finished listening yet, so there may be more such problems.

Jordan the younger ,

Edifying as well as fascinating

Everytime I listen to another lecture I find myself disposed to act on my better judgement for the rest of the day. The material is so engaging and grounded in logic that the effect is much stronger than going to Church. It is great how many connections are made between philosophy and psychology. Sometimes it is a bit tedious when points are repeated multiple times, but maybe that helps with the overall didactic effect. Also very humourous and nice slides.

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