Friday, September 06, 2013

On Moral Progress: Is the Human Conscience Led by the Head or the Heart?

From the Santa Fe Institute (August 14, 2013), Steven Pinker and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein held a public conversation on the topic: On Moral Progress: Is the Human Conscience Led by the Head or the Heart?

Clearly, Pinker believes in moral progress, it was the topic of his recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2012). As America's best-known evolutionary psychologist, he is also author of Language, Cognition, and Human Nature: Selected Articles (2013), Learnability and Cognition: The Acquisition of Argument Structure (Learning, Development, and Conceptual Change) (2013), and popular titles such as How the Mind Works (1997) and The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002).

Goldstein, while having published many works of fiction (including 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, 2011), is also a professor of philosophy. She has published some nonfiction as well, including Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity (Jewish Encounters) (2006) and Incompleteness: The Proof and Paradox of Kurt Gödel (2004).

Oh, did I mention these two are husband and wife?

Enjoy the conversation! And thanks to the SFI for bringing it to us for free via their YouTube channel.

On Moral Progress: Is the Human Conscience Led by the Head or the Heart?

Published on Sep 5, 2013

Steven Pinker and Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
August 14, 2013

Is the human conscience led by the head or the heart? Is the moral progress we have enjoyed – religious freedom, the abolition of slavery, anti-war movements, civil, women’s, and gay rights – a gift of empathy and emotion, or of reason and logic? Psychologist and author Steven Pinker and philosopher and novelist Rebecca Newberger Goldstein survey the history of moral progress in human society, a history, they say, suggesting that reason and logic have had a surprisingly powerful role in shaping the human condition.

Steven Pinker is a Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor in the Department of Psychology at Harvard University. He conducts research on language and cognition and is the author of seven books, including The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature.

Rebecca Newberger Goldstein is an American novelist and professor of philosophy. She has written five novels, a number of short stories and essays, and biographical studies of mathematician Kurt Gödel and philosopher Baruch Spinoza. Goldstein was a 2011 Santa Fe Institute Miller Scholar.
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