CULTURE

The Paradox of Wu-Wei

Topic: 

  • CULTURE
http://vimeo.com/87993592

One way to look at the trajectory of Chinese thought is that it's driven by this tension I call "the paradox of wu-wei." Wu-wei is effortless action or spontaneity. They all want you to be wu-wei, but none of them think you are right now. You've got to try to be wu-wei, but how do you try not to try? How do you try to be spontaneous? I call it the paradox of wu-wei, and I argue it's at the center of all their theorizing about other things. There are theories about human nature, there are theories about self-cultivation, there are theories about government.

Daniel C. Dennett: The De-Darwinizing of Cultural Change (HeadCon '13 Part X)

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[3.4.14]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

Think for a moment about a termite colony or an ant colony—amazingly competent in many ways, we can do all sorts of things, treat the whole entity as a sort of cognitive agent and it accomplishes all sorts of quite impressive behavior. But if I ask you, "What is it like to be a termite colony?" most people would say, "It's not like anything." Well, now let's look at a brain, let's look at a human brain—100 billion neurons, roughly speaking, and each one of them is dumber than a termite and they're all sort of semi-independent.

David Pizarro: The Failure of Social and Moral Intuitions (HeadCon '13 Part IX)

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Date: 

[2.25.14]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

Today I want to talk a little about our social and moral intuitions and I want to present a case that they're rapidly failing, more so than ever. Let me start with an example. Recently, I collaborated with economist Rob Frank, roboticist Cynthia Breazeal, and social psychologist David DeSteno. The experiment that we did was interested in looking at how we detect trustworthiness in others.

Laurie Santos: What Makes Humans Unique (HeadCon '13 Part VII)

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[1.23.14]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

I'm going to talk about some new findings in my field, comparative cognition. I'm interested in what makes humans unique. There are findings that I think are fantastically cool, in that they might be redefining how we think about human nature, but first they're going to pose for us some really interesting new problems.

Joshua Greene: The Role of Brain Imaging in Social Science (HeadCon '13 Part VI)

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[12.16.13]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

We're here in early September 2013 and the topic that's on everybody's minds, (not just here but everywhere) is Syria. Will the U.S. bomb Syria? Should the U.S. bomb Syria? Why do some people think that the U.S. should? Why do other people think that the U.S. shouldn't? These are the kinds of questions that occupy us every day. This is a big national and global issue, sometimes it's personal issues, and these are the kinds of questions that social science tries to answer.

Nicholas Christakis: The Science of Social Connections (HeadCon '13 Part V)

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Date: 

[12.9.13]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

The part of human nature that I'd like to talk about today is that part of our human nature that is relevant to our interactions with others. There's been a phenomenal amount of work taking place in the last ten years, certainly, and even in the last year or two that seeks to understand how we interact with each other and how we assemble ourselves into social networks.

Robert Kurzban: P-Hacking and the Replication Crisis (HeadCon '13 Part IV)

Topic/Category: 

Date: 

[12.2.13]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

P Hacking and the Replication Crisis

The first three talks this morning have been optimistic. We've heard about the promise of big data, we've heard about advances in emotions, and we've just heard from Fiery, who very cleverly managed to find a way to leave before I gave my remarks about how we're understanding something deep about human nature. There's a risk that my remarks are going to be understood as pessimistic but they're really not. My optimism is embodied in the notion that what we're doing here is important and we can do it better.

I really wanted to take this opportunity to have a chance to speak to the people here about what's been going on in some corners of psychology, mostly in areas like social psychology and decision-making. In fact, Danny Kahneman has chimed in on this discussion, which is really what some people thought about as a crisis in certain parts of psychology, which is that insofar as replication is a hallmark of what science is about, there's not a lot of it and what there is shows that things we thought were true maybe aren't; that's really bad. This is a great setting in which to talk about these things, and I want to talk about it in part from my experience in this because I started to come into contact with this in a way that I'll describe right now. 

Robert Kurzban is an Associate Professor, University of Pennsylvania specializing in evolutionary psychology: Author, Why Everyone (Else) Is A Hypocrite.

June Gruber: The Scientific Study of Positive Emotion (HeadCon '13 Part II)

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Date: 

[11.18.13]

Event Date: 

[ Mon. Nov. 11. 2013 ]

The Scientific Study of Positive Emotion

What I'm really interested in is the science of human emotion. In particular, what's captivated my field and my interest the most is trying to understand positive emotions. Not only the ways in which perhaps we think they're beneficial for us or confer some sort of adaptive value, but actually the ways in which they may signal dysfunction and may not actually, in all circumstances and in all intensities, be good for us.

I thought I'd first start briefly with a tale of positive emotion. It's a really interesting state because in many ways it's one of the most powerful things that evolution has built for us. If we look at early writings of Charles Darwin, he prominently features these feelings of love, admiration, laughter. So early on we see observations of them, and have some sense that they're really critical for our survival, but when you look at the subsequent scientific study of emotion, it lagged far behind. Indeed, most of the research in human emotion really began with studying negative emotions, trying to build taxonomies, understand cognitive appraisals, physiological signatures, and things like anger, and fear, and disgust. For good reason, we wanted to understand human suffering and hopefully try to ameliorate it.
 
June Gruber is Assistant Professor of Psychology, Director, Positive Emotion & Psychopatology Lab, Yale University. 

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