MIND

A New Science of Morality, Part 6

[9.17.10]

BACK TO EVENT PAGE: THE NEW SCIENCE OF MORALITY


What I want to talk about is piggybacking off of the end of Paul's talk, where he started to speak a little bit about the debate that we've had in moral psychology and in philosophy, on the role of reason and emotion in moral judgment. I'm going to keep my claim simple, but I want to argue against a view that probably nobody here has, (because we're all very sophisticated), but it's often spoken of emotion and reason as being at odds with each other — in a sense that to the extent that emotion is active, reason is not active, and to the extent that reason is active, emotion is not active. (By emotion here, I mean, broadly speaking, affective influences).

I think that this view is mistaken (although it is certainly the case sometimes). The interaction between these two is much more interesting.  So I'm going to talk a bit about some studies that we've done. Some of them have been published, and a couple of them haven't (because they're probably too inappropriate to publish anywhere, but not too inappropriate to speak to this audience). They are on the role of emotive forces in shaping our moral judgment. I use the term "emotive," because they are about motivation and how motivation affects the reasoning process when it comes to moral judgment.


IT SEEMS BIOLOGY (NOT RELIGION) EQUALS MORALITY

[12.9.09]

 

Where I intend to be divisive is with respect to the argument that religion, and moral education more generally, represent the only — or perhaps even the ultimate — source of moral reasoning. If anything, moral education is often motivated by self-interest, to do what's best for those within a moral community, preaching singularity, not plurality. Blame nurture, not nature, for our moral atrocities against humanity. And blame educated partiality more generally, as this allows us to lump into one category all those who fail to acknowledge our shared humanity and fail to use secular reasoning to practise compassion.

MARC D. HAUSER an evolutionary psychologist and biologist, is Harvard College Professor, Professor of Psychology and Program in Neurosciences, and Director of Primate Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory. He is the author of The Evolution of Communication, Wild Minds: What Animals Think, and Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong.

Marc Hauser's Edge Bio Page

SIGNATURES OF CONSCIOUSNESS

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/80907434

"For the past twelve years my research team has been using all the brain research tools at its disposal, from functional MRI to electro- and magneto-encephalography and even electrodes inserted deep in the human brain, to shed  light on the brain mechanisms of consciousness."

SIGNATURES OF CONSCIOUSNESS

[11.24.09]

 

 

For the past twelve years my research team has been using all the brain research tools at its disposal, from functional MRI to electro- and magneto-encephalography and even electrodes inserted deep in the human brain, to shed  light on the brain mechanisms of consciousness.

I am now happy to report that we have acquired a  good working hypothesis. In experiment after experiment, we have seen the same signatures of consciousness: physiological markers that all, simultaneously, show a massive change when a person reports becoming aware of a piece of information (say a word, a digit or a sound).

 

THE REALITY CLUB: On "Signatures of Consciousness: A Talk by Stanislas Dehaene": Daniel Kahneman, Sam Harris, George Dyson, Steven Pinker, Donald Hoffman, Arnold Trehub


Intoduction

By John Brockman

On October 17, Edge organized a Reality Club meeting at The Hotel Ritz in Paris to allow neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene to present his new theory on how consciousness arises in the brain to a group of Parisian scientists and thinkers. The theory, based on Dehaene's past twelve years of brain-imaging research  is called the global neuronal workspace. It promises to offer new tools for diagnosing consciousness disorders  in patients.

"For the past twelve years",  says Dehaene, "my research team has been using every available brain research tool, from functional MRI to electro- and magneto-encephalography and even electrodes inserted deep in the human brain, to shed  light on the brain mechanisms of consciousness. I am now happy to report that we have acquired a  good working hypothesis. In experiment after experiment, we have seen the same signatures of consciousness: physiological markers that all, simultaneously, show a massive change when a person reports becoming aware of a piece of information (say a word, a digit or a sound). 

"Furthermore, when we render the same information non-conscious or "subliminal", all  the signatures disappear. We have a theory about why these signatures occur, called the global neuronal workspace theory. Realistic computer simulations of neurons reproduce our main experimental findings: when the information processed exceeds a threshold for large-scale communication across many brain areas, the network ignites into a large-scale synchronous state, and all  our signatures suddenly appear. 

But this is already more than a theory. We are now applying our ideas to non-communicating patients in coma, vegetative state, or locked-in syndromes. The test that we have designed with Tristan Bekinschtein, Lionel Naccache, and Laurent Cohen, based on our past experiments and theory, seems to reliably sort out which patients retain some residual conscious life and which do not. 

"My laboratory is now pursuing this research intensively on patients, animals, human adults and young children, with the hope of turning our brain-imaging measurements into a real-time monitor of conscious experience. The time thus seems ripe to share this work with a broader audience of readers interested in cutting-edge science and technology, but also those concerned with the philosophical, personal and ethical implications of these findings."

edgenews

Participating in the event and joining the Edge dinner that followed were:

Noga Arikha, Historian of ideas; Author, Passions and Tempers: A History of the Humours 
Patrick Cavanagh, University of Paris researcher on visual perception and its implications 
Laurent Cohen, Neurologist, Hôpital de la Salpêtrière (Paris); Author, L'homme thermomètre (Thermometer Man), a science-based single-case study  similar to the work of Oliver Sachs
Emmanuel Dupoux, Director of Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique (LSCP)
Ghislaine Dehaene-Lambertz, CNRS,  Neuro-paediatrician and researcher studying  infant brain development
Janine di Giovanni, Journalist; Vanity Fair and The New York Times
Juan Enriquez, Life Sciences investor and Academic; Author, As the Future Catches Us
Etienne Klein, Physicist; Author of many books on epistemology and history of science
Katinka Matson, Cofounder, Edge
Lionel Naccache, Neurologist; Author, Le Nouvel Inconscient, (The New Unconscious), which establishes  a new science-based dialog between research on non-conscious processing and Freudian view
Gloria Origgi, Philosopher and Researcher, Centre Nationale de la Recherche Scientifique
Sharon Pepperkamp, Linguist, University of Paris; Researcher, Laboratoire de Sciences Cognitives et Psycholinguistique
Philip Pettit, Philosopher, Professor of Politics and Human Values at Princeton; Author, Made with Words: Hobbes on Mind, Society and Politics
Jaqui Safra, Investor, (Encyclopædia Britannica, Spring Mountain Vineyards); Movie Producer
Dan Sperber, Directeur de Recherche au CNRS, Paris, Social and Cognitive scientist; Author,Rethinking Symbolism; On Anthropological Knowledge; Explaining Culture
Aalam Wassef, Digital Artist, Music Composer, Network Designer

— JB

STANISLAS DEHAENE is a Professor at the Collège de France and Chair of Experimental Cognitive Psychology. His research focuses on the cerebral bases of specifically human cognitive functions such as language, calculation, and reasoning. His work centers on the cognitive neuropsychology of language and reading, and his main scientific contributions include the study of the organization of the cerebral system for number processing.

He is the author of The Number Sense: How Mathematical Knowledge Is Embedded In Our Brains; and Reading in the Brain the Science and Evolution of a Cultural Invention.

Stanislas Dehaene's Edge Bio Page

[1hr 20 minutes]

The Evolutionary Approach to the Social Sciences

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/80907851

"The modern social sciences are built on an Aristotlean blank slate foundation. On the Aristotlean view the mind is like a tape recorder or video recorder assumes: the mechanisms of recording (learning) do not impart any content of their own to the signal that it absorbs our mental content is therefore wholly supplied by the senses, especially from social sources (culture). Basing the social sciences on the mistaken theory that the mind is like a blank slate was a fundamental error that has kept the social sciences from being as fully successful as the natural sciences."

Evolutionary Psychology

Cognitive instincts for cooperation, institutions & society
[9.30.09]

http://www.edge.org/events/darwin-in-chileThere's a mismatch between the modern versus ancestral world. Our minds are equipped with programs that were evolved to navigate a small world of relatives, friends, and neighbors, not for cities and nation states of thousands or millions of anonymous people. Certain laws and institutions satisfy the moral intuitions these programs generate. But because these programs are now operating outside the envelope of environments for which they were designed, laws that satisfy the moral intuitions they generate may regularly fail to produce the outcomes we desire and anticipate that have the consequences we wish. ...

Evolutionary Psychology

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/80905650

"There's a mismatch between the modern versus ancestral world. Our minds are equipped with programs that were evolved to navigate a small world of relatives, friends, and neighbors, not for cities and nation states of thousands or millions of anonymous people. Certain laws and institutions satisfy the moral intuitions these programs generate.

Language and Human Nature

Topic: 

  • MIND
http://vimeo.com/80905898

"Language is an adaptation to the "cognitive niche". It facilitates exchange of information, negotiating of cooperation. But indirect speech (polite requests, veiled threats & bribes, sexual overtures) are a puzzle for the theory that language is an adaptation for efficient communication. Language is an adaptation to the "cognitive niche". ..."

The Evolutionary Approach to the Social Sciences

[9.30.09]

The modern social sciences are built on an Aristotlean blank slate foundation. On the Aristotlean view the mind is like a tape recorder or video recorder assumes: the mechanisms of recording (learning) do not impart any content of their own to the signal that it absorbs our mental content is therefore wholly supplied by the senses, especially from social sources (culture). Basing the social sciences on the mistaken theory that the mind is like a blank slate was a fundamental error that has kept the social sciences from being as fully successful as the natural sciences.

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