- Ethics & Cognition.
Wednesday, 12 September 2007. 4-5pm. 618 Crawford Hall.
Presenters include Sara Waller, Anthony Jack, William Deal, and
Per Aage Brandt.
- William Deal. "Ethics in Mind"
Traditions of moral philosophy and religious ethics have generally
failed to incorporate insights derived from research on cognition.
Such research, inter alia, challenges moral perspectives founded
on the assumption that rationality is key to moral knowledge, as
well as bedrock moral concepts like free will, rights, and moral
agency. How, then, to negotiate comparative ethics in light of the
cogency of recent cognitive scientific critiques of moral philosophy?
Current scholarship on morality and cognition has been written primarily
by cognitive scientists, while moral philosophers remain on the
periphery. I suspect that human ethical sensibilities are located
at intersections between the cultural and the biological—between
the ought and the is. My presentation will suggest how moral philosophy
and comparative ethics might further illuminate insights into the
nexus between ethics and cognition advanced by cognitive science.
- Per Aage Brandt. "Evil, Unjust, Irresponsible –
Three Ethical Values in the Light of Cognitive Semantics."
Negative values are regularly clearer than their positive
counterparts; it is easier to exemplify the negative, since it has
a more salient narrative structure; the positive counterparts are
often their simple dual, inverse, or neutral versions. The immediate
cognitive task is to isolate and study the schematic-conceptual
structure of values and value paradigms; second: to identify other
cognitive, possibly conceptual structures, to which they may be
evolutionarily or developmentally connected, and third: to invstigate
the neural correlates of such clusters. Here, I will only present
an outline of the diagrams that may be primary models of each of
the three values above.
- Sara Waller. "Neuroethics and the Naturalization
of Moral Judgments." Neuroethics is a field that
asks questions about the power of new discoveries in the neurosciences
to change human lives. As such, it is a field that investigates
our moral experiences. By what standard do we determine that we
measure moral experience well, neatly, and unequivocally? Experiments
purporting to measure human moral responses presuppose that we have
a well-honed definition of ‘moral response’. I will
review recent studies in an attempt to coalesce a workable notion
of ‘moral response’ for discussion. I will discuss the
potentially problematic nature of the divide between subjective
worlds and objective measures, and examine the strengths and weaknesses
possible bridges (shared venues of information gathering, such as
language) across the divide. The talk will reveal our philosophical
standards for creating standard empirical measures of human consciousness,
rationality, and response to moral quandaries.
- Anthony Jack. "Moral concern and consciousness."
A common thought about the link between morality and consciousness
runs as follows: We should do our best to determine the biological
basis of consciousness, so that we can be sure that we act responsibly
towards all conscious entities. I want to suggest an alternative,
and somewhat subversive, point of view: Perhaps there is no biological
basis of (phenomenal) consciousness. Perhaps, instead, the only
thing that determines whether or not we are willing to label a creature
as (phenomenally) conscious is whether or not we are willing to
treat it as belonging in our sphere of moral concern.
In putting forward this radical proposal, I hope to point to some
interesting potential connections between social psychology, social
cognitive neuroscience, consciousness studies and moral thinking.
Furthermore, it appears that some simple empirical methods may allow
us to further explore these issues.