The intended purpose of this Topics Seminar is for the participating student (1) to become familiar with positions taken in the current debates over the specific topic area of the course; (2) to appreciate the arguments for and against the positions; and (3) to develop an independent judgment about the most promising approach in this area.
This “Topics Seminar” explores in depth issues and texts in the area of moral psychology, understood to include issues in philosophical psychology, action theory, philosophical anthropology, theories of the emotion, subjectivity, and motivation. The specific topic will be different each time, so as to tailor it to current research developments in the field.|
The topic for this year is “Evolutionary Psychology, Institutional Design, and Ethical Behavior"
In this course we will study the complex relationship between the psychological tendencies of human beings, as they have emerged through evolution, the demands of morality and justice, and the institutional, social, or cultural contexts in which humans make ethical choices.
We will examine accounts from evolutionary sociobiology regarding the way in which various human tendencies have emerged in tandem with "niches" (including social practices, cultural traditions, and institutional structures) that facilitate behavior that may be no longer be adaptive in view of current demands on ethical behavior. Cases to be discussed will likely include in-group/out-group discrimination, procrastination, and tragedy of commons (e.g., climate change).
We will look at theorists who draw on evolutionary biology, cognitive neuroscience, anthropology and psychology to argue that psychological altruism, mutualism, and a capacity for normative guidance have enabled and are involved in the process of moral niche-construction. We will also discuss the biases that can undermine cooperative behavior, as well as the meta-ethical questions raised by ethical claims based on evolutionary theory.
Guiding question for the seminar discussions include the following: Under what conditions do ethically problematic biases manifest themselves? What sorts of situations, processes and mechanisms foster stable cooperation? Can we take any lessons from the way these problems have been ‘solved’, and apply them to our own institutions? Does a better understanding of the origins of our moral loyalties, provide reason to rethink them in our present day and age?
This course is for Students History and Philosophy of Science, RMA Philosophy. Students of other MA-programmes, please contact the Course Coordinator.
Interested M.A. exchange students with a strong background in philosophy may qualify to take the course; however, they should first contact the RMA Philosophy coordinator: firstname.lastname@example.org