Saturday, May 05, 2012

2012 Bioethics Conference: The Moral Brain - More Videos

Here are a few more videos from the 2012 Bioethics Conference - The Moral Brain, from NYU. The Paul Bloom lecture on the moral life of babies is especially good - we are born with a moral sense, which should have some impact on how we view ourselves of moral beings.

When we act against those seemingly innate morals, the question should be what went wrong that caused that behavior, rather the current model of thinking in terms of punishment and deterrence. What if, instead, we asked why people are in so much pain or fear that they do these things?

Part I: The Significance of Neuroscience for Morality: Lessons from a Decade of Research
It has been a decade since the first brain imaging studies of moral judgments by Joshua Greene, Jorge Moll and their colleagues were reported. During this time, there have been rich philosophical and scientific discussions regarding a) whether brain imaging data can tell us anything about moral judgments, and b) what they do tell us if they can tell us something about moral judgments.  In this workshop, we aim to bring leading philosophers, neuroscientists, and psychologists in this area together to examine these issues and to explore the future directions of this research.


Session VI: The Moral Life of Babies and Why It Matters

Session Chair: Joshua Knobe, Associate Professor, Program in Cognitive Science & Department of Philosophy, Yale University
Speaker: Paul Bloom, Brooks & Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology & Cognitive Science, Yale University

Abstract: This talk will explore three case-studies of moral psychology: (1) Physical contact, such as helping, hindering, and hitting; (2) Fair and unfair distribution of resources; and (3) Violations of purity, with special focus on sexual behavior. I will review some ongoing experimental work with babies and young children that bears on the emergence of moral intuitions and motivations in these domains, and I will argue that these domains show strikingly different patterns of development. I end with an argument that developmental moral psychology is relevant to problems of normative ethics, though in a rather indirect way.

Session VII: Feeling Good About Feeling Bad: Moral Aliefs and Moral Dilemmas

Session Chair: Jesse Prinz, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, City University of New York
Speaker: Tamar Gendler, Professor of Philosophy, Yale University

Abstract: In some cases, moral behavior seem to be fully commendable (only) when the subject performs it wholeheartedly, without conflict between or among counter- or pro-moral beliefs and counter- or pro-moral aliefs. But in others, (perhaps those where moral demands at different levels pull in different directions) moral behavior seems to be fully commendable (only) when the subject experiences a conflict between pro-moral beliefs and pro-moral aliefs where the latter -- generally pro-social -- response is morally overridden in this (exceptional) circumstance. In still others, moral behavior seems to be fully commendable when it occurs as a result of the agent's overcoming certain counter-moral aliefs or beliefs. What sorts of systematic patterns do these cases exhibit, and how do they connect to Tetlock's work on tragic and taboo tradeoffs, Williams' work on "one thought too many" and "residues", Kant and Arpaly on enkratia and (reverse) akrasia, and recent work in neuroscience?

Session VIII: Morphing Morals: Neurochemical Modulation of Moral Judgment and Behavior

Session Chair: Andre Fenton, Professor of Neural Science, Center for Neural Science, New York University
Speaker: Molly Crockett, Sir Henry Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow, Laboratory of Social & Neural Systems Research, Department of Economics, University of Zurich

Abstract: Neuroscientists are now discovering how hormones and brain chemicals shape social behavior, opening potential avenues for pharmacological manipulation of ethical values. In this talk, I will present an overview of recent studies showing how altering brain chemistry can change moral judgment and behavior. These findings raise new questions about the anatomy of the moral mind, and suggest directions for future research in both neurobiology and practical ethics.

Session IX: Are Intuitions Heuristics?

Session Chair: Laura Franklin-Hall, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, New York University
Speaker: S. Matthew Liao, Director of Graduate Studies, Center for Bioethics; Clinical Associate Professor of Bioethics; Affiliated Professor of Philosophy, New York University

Abstract: Many psychologists and philosophers are attracted to the idea that intuitions are heuristics, a kind of mental short-cut or rule of thumb. As a result, many think that the issue of whether intuitions are reliable is just the issue of whether heuristics are reliable. In this paper, I argue that there are reasons to suspect that intuitions are heuristics. I consider the implication of this point for the debate concerning the reliability of intuitions and for those who hold some kind of dual-process model of moral judgment.

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