Moral Sense Colloquium

Drawing credit, Wolfgang Köhler

Under the auspices of the department of Literature, Writing and Publishing at St. Francis College, there have been so far four Moral Sense Colloquia. At least one more is anticipated. Details about some past colloquia are below.

For information, contact Professor Gregory F. Tague

PAST COLLOQUIA___________________________________
The Moral Sense Colloquium IV - Cross-cultural Morality: Human and Animal, took place on Saturday, 28 September, 2019, 12:00pm - 6:00pm at St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY, USA. This Colloquium featured, at the end, a special performance by actors, singers and musicians Vaneshran Arumugam and Emmanuel Castis.

What is cross-cultural morality? What principles and standards of behavior are shared among cultures? How do values, beliefs, and practices differ among cultures? What is altruism? How do non-human animals, especially primates, and particularly great apes express what humans might call altruism, morality, and culture? Considering the extensive anthropogenic stressors now being forced upon delicate ecosystems and animal habitats, why is it important for humans to view animals as cultural and moral? Why is it important to emphasize the difference between cultures, including the somewhat false division of human-animal, as much as considering similarities?

PROGRAM for Moral Sense Colloquium IV

You can find the program HERE.

Some images from the Moral Sense Colloquium IV can be found HERE.

A one-day Moral Sense Colloquium took place at St. Francis College, Brooklyn, N.Y. on 2 June 2017. This was the third such colloquium and included a keynote speaker, a plenary address, and a series of break-out panels on various topics.  

Keynote speaker: Robert Trivers, Ph.D. (Bio below). Reports on colloquium used #moralsense2017. 

Colloquium Photos HERE  

Full Program HERE

ASEBL Journal with selected, revised papers HERE

For many of you, Trivers needs no introduction. Here is some information from his website

“I have been an evolutionary biologist since the fall of 1965 when I first learned that natural selection is the key to understanding life and that it favors traits that give individuals an advantage (in producing surviving offspring). Spring of 1966 I learned Hamilton’s kinship theory, which extended one’s self-interest to include not only one’s own offspring but also those of relatives, each devalued by the appropriate degree of relatedness. I was eager to contribute to building social theory based on natural selection, because a scientific system of social theory must, by logic be based on natural selection, and getting the foundations correct would have important implications for understanding our own psyches and social systems. A general system of logic that applies to all creatures also vastly extends the range of relevant evidence. I then published a series of papers on social topics: reciprocal altruism (1971), parental investment and sexual selection (1972), the sex ratio (1973), parent-offspring conflict (1974), kinship and sex ratio in the social insects (1976), summarized in my book Social Evolution (1985).  [....] I devoted 1990 to 2005 to mastering genetics, in particular Selfish Genetic Elements, which typically are harmful to the organism as a whole but spread through within-individual genetic conflict. They infect all known organisms, including ourselves, come in a zoo of forms but can be understood by a logic of genetic conflict continuous with the kind that operates at the individual level (with no internal conflict). [....] Finally, I have recently attempted to master the scientific literature on self-deception and to sketch out some of the many applications of the resulting view.”

Early, Initial Colloquia____________________
I, April 2012, to mark opening of new science labs; II, 7 March 2014, on animal cognition featuring Dr. Diana Reiss and Julie Hecht as well as student panels. 

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION Regarding Moral Sense Colloquia

In Darwin’s century, while Herbert Spencer and T.H. Huxley famously defended Darwin’s ideas, they also confounded his notion of morality by pitting it against nature (i.e., the flawed ideas of social Darwinism). After Darwin, prominent biologists of the twentieth century have tackled the question of why cooperation extends beyond kin: R. Haldane (in 1932) uses the term altruism; in the 1960s W.D Hamilton addresses the evolution of social behavior, and George C. Williams writes of social donors; by 1971 R.L. Trivers pens his famous article on the evolution of reciprocal altruism. Since then there has been a steady flow of articles and books (popular and academic) on what it means to be moral (and from whence such behavior arose). In his 1990 book Created from Animals, James Rachels argues that the notion of dignity is a human creation devised only to elevate us above animals.

Philosophers (mostly British) of primarily the eighteenth century, in reaction to a number of complex events – religious, social, and scientific – of the seventeenth century, developed a notion of the moral sense. These philosophers, working in an increasingly secular age, argue very strongly that any human goodness was not bestowed from a divinity but was driven by innate human feelings of benevolence or sympathy. Some have written extensively about this very issue: from an evolutionary and biological perspective, we do in fact have a so-called moral sense. Taking the lead from the British Moralists, Darwin, in The Descent of Man, has a chapter on moral faculties and employs the term moral sense. There is a rich history of philosophy that focuses on morality and ethics; now, science is helping us understand much better those concerns and the connection of ancestral human caring to morality. Some psychologists help us understand social-moral decision making in terms of our individual biological construction. Some neuroscientists and biologists have written on these controversial topics – i.e., the connection between the biology of the brain and moral decisions or moral behavior.