At the Moral Brain conference at NYU.
Currently listening to James Blair's talk on care-based morality problems and its relation to psychopathic traits
Three lectures in and it's clear that the burgeoning field of moral neuroscience is being driven by fMRI data.
Blair: Psychopaths have a busted amygdala causing them to respond in a less averse way to fear, sadness, and pain
Hell of a turnout at the #moralbrain conference, btw. An organizer told me that over 100 people had to be turned away.
Blair: There is nothing related to psychopathy and IQ
Someone needs to do a study into why philosophers and neuroscientists are universally clueless when it comes to the use of the microphone.
Up next: Walter Sinott-Armstrong: "Is There One Moral Brain?"
Sinnott-Armstrong: We need to study the various components of morality separately; not a united thing
Sinnott-Armstrong: Morality, as broken down into different components, is more properly understood as a diadic relationship
Sinnett-Armstrong: No brain mechanism is both common to all moral judgments of wrongs and also distinctive of moral judgments of wrongs.
Sinnett-Armstrong's argument strengthens the case for consequentialist ethics
Day One of #moralbrain is complete. Tomorrow's talks will also focus on the parts of the brain involved in moral sentiment and cognition.
Jonathan Haidt currently talking about intuition and reasoning
Haidt: Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second
Haidt: "Can" is more persuasive on reasoning than "must"
Haidt: It's not that we like equality, it's that we hate alpha males and bullying
Haidt: Our evolved trick: ability to forge a team and circle around things we value
Haidt: Moral foundations: Loyalty, authority, and sanctity
Haidt: Moral capital = social capital plus institutions and norms that preserve it
Haidt: Law works to the extent that it is a quasi-religious practice
Haidt: Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, practices, identities, institutions, technologies...
...and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate self-interest and make cooperative societies possible.
Happening now: Panel discussion on applying the neuroscience of morality
Bloom: Serial rapists have the highest sense of self-esteem of any group
Sinnott-Armstrong: Behavioral therapy for psychopaths actually makes their condition *worse*
The hardest working people at the #moralbrain conference: the 2 people conveying the entire thing in sign language.
Greene: Oxytocin could be used to improve social bonding and interaction
Sinnott-Armstrong: "I'm not so sure that lots of empathy is a good thing." Says it can lead to poor decisions and conclusions
Bloom: Paradoxically, heightened levels of oxytocin can *increase* tribalistic tendencies due to tighter lock-in of the in-group
Bloom: Hugs and back rubs can increase oxytocin production
Here's what the panel looks like #moralbrain http://ow.ly/i/xzQa
Washington Square Park last night http://ow.ly/i/xzQs
On the #moralbrain panel: Wendell Wallach (mod), Paul Bloom, Joshua Knobe, Molly Crockett, Joshua Green, and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong.
Bloom: "People think steroids are bad...because they're bad."
Book: Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu: Unfit for the Future: The need for moral enhancement.
And now presenting: Ingmar Persson
Persson: It is easier for us to harm each other than to benefit each other
Persson: Tech increases our powers of action and ability to cause ultimate harm, making life forever impossible on Earth
Persson: Terrorists are more likely to use nuclear weapons than states, no fear of reprisal
Persson: Our moral psychology has evolved to make us fit for life in small, close-nit societies with limited tech
Persson: We have a bias for the near future; and exhibit parochial altruism.
Persson: We have an incapacity to feel proportionate sympathy with large number of sufferers
Persson: The act-omission doctrine: harming is harder to justify than failing to benefit #moralbrain #trolly
Man, the Trolly Problem has come up time and time again at #moralbrain http://ow.ly/1JEcJZ #neuroethics
Persson: We need moral enhancement to counteract all these problems and prevent us from causing ultimate harm
Day 3 of #moralbrain conference; James Hughes now presenting on benefits and risks of virtue enhancement.
Hughes: Supressing vice is enhancing virtue. Moral enhancement makes us more responsible.
Hughes: Supressing immoral sentiments, reinforcing reasonable sentiments
Hughes: We need to retain capacity for "discriminating wisdom."
Hughes: Moral enhancement could cause risks to cognitive liberty: lack of privacy, overt control, ownership, norms, addiction, inequality.
Erik Parens now presenting: the 2nd wave: talking ABOUT moral enhancement
Parens: 1st wave of enhancement debate: Enthusiasts & Critics.
Parens: 2nd wave debate: what enhancements are worthy of the name?
Parens: No one wants Soma, it would diminish options, negatively impact on our freedom
Parens: We should reject a pill that creates love as it would separate us from how the world really works
Parens: We should approve a pill that creates love as it would facilitate meaningful activities
Now presenting: Joshua Knobe: Seeing a person as a body.
Knobe is a pioneer in experimental philosophy
Knobe: A body contains a mind which is capable of both intentional and phenomenal states
Knobe: Do corporations exhibit both intentional and phenomenal states? At best, just the former
Knobe: The more we think of an entity as having a body (higher salience) the more we think of them as having phenomenal states
Knobe: The higher bodily salience, decrease in attribution of intentional states
Knobe: This is a kind of animalization of people based on degree of bodily salience
Anna Pacholczyk presenting: What is moral enhancement? Shades of 'moral'
Pacholczyk: Anger and outrage can be very useful things
Anna Pacholczyk: Determing pro-social traits can be tricky
John Shook: Is ethical theory relevant to neuroethical evaluations of moral enhancement?
Shook: Neuroethics will always be on its way to some newer ethics
Shook: For every moral person there is a specific moral brain in action
Now presenting: Bill Kabasenche
Kabasenche: Virtue is a state that decides; Aristotelian
Kabasenche: emotions are not just causes of actions they also determine the identity of actions - Bob Roberts
Kabasenche: taking a pill for moral enhancement is no less authentic than the other things we do to achieve same ends
Kabasenche: Moral enhancements as aids for moral formation
Molly Crockett: Moral enhancement? Evidence and challenges
Crockett: Oxytocin: a moral molecule?
Crockett: Oxytocin can be administered through nasal spray, increases sense of trust
Crockett: BUT, oxytocin has a way of illiciting feelings of envy and schadenfreude in certain contexts
Crockett: Oxytocin also increases sense of ethnocentrism, in-group preference
Crockett: Bartz et al "social effects of oxytocin on humans"
Crockett: Now on to serotonin: illicits sense of wanting to avoid harming of others
Crockett: Humans are conditionally cooperative (you scratch my back...)
Crockett: Unconditional cooperation = "sucker!"
Crockett: Oxytocin and serotonin do a lot more than just these things, so we can't use them for this kind of specificity
Crockett: oxytocin and serotonin are too blunt and untargeted as a means for moral enhancement
Crockett: Good thing about them, though, is their impermanent nature
Crockett: Non-pharma interventions for moral enhancement: changing beliefs, brain (incl meditation)
Now presenting: Wendell Wallach
Wallach: We risk pathologizing human nature
Wallach: Moral enhancement is in many ways just cognitive enhancement
Wallach: Propranolol: can reduce racial bias, sense of guilt, helps encode memory
Wallach: The is no moral compass in the brain to be modified
Wallach: The entire human organism is a moral instructional mechanism
Self-control is increasingly being seen as a moral enhancement
Conversation now about religion as moral enhancement
I'm so loving the #moralbrain conference. A total headsplosion of ideas.
Now presenting: Patrick Hopkins
Hopkins: Hypermorality could cause crippling, debilitating effects on agency
Hopkins: Moral disease: cluster characteristics, personal health, public health, paradigmatic, prospect for moral disease
Hopkins: Concern: by pathologizing immorality we strip the individual of responsibility.
Now speaking: Geoffrey Miller: Modifying childhood behaviors
Now up Matthew Liao: Parental love pills
Liao: Can we induce parental love? Oxytocin?
Liao: Oxytocin can be found in mother's milk
Liao: Oxytocin impacts on empathy, closeness, and trust
Liao: One of the mechanisms of oxytocin's effects is its ability to reduce anxiety
Liao: why a parental love pill? estrangement, resentment, step-children, adopted children
Liao: Issue of authenticity: spontaneity, experiential, ownership, induced parental love as self-alienation
Liao: Pugmire: "emotion becomes narcissistic when the focus shifts from its object to its subjective experience"
Liao: We treat ourselves as mere means when we bypass our beliefs; self-instrumentalization
Liao: The scope of our duties to children may be even more extensive than common sense morality supposes
Up next: William Casebeer of DARPA: Neuroethics and national security
Casebeer: Wants to immunize soldiers from acquiring PTSD
Up next: Fabrice Jotterand: Enhancing criminal brains?
Jotterand: Psychopathy affects 1-2% of general population (3-5% of businessmen)
Jotterand: Not all psychopaths are criminals
Jotterand: Difficult to detect psychopaths, many of them are charming
Jotterand: Psychpathy defined as severe emotional dysfunction esp. Lack of empathy
Jotterand: Psychopathhs completely unable to recognize anger and fear in individuals
Jotterand: Psychopathy also defined by anti-social behaviors
Jotterand: Neuroscience is helping to identify parts of the brain that are deficient leading to psychopathy
Jotterand: Sertraline considered as anti-psychotic, including other SSRI's
Jotterand: This is not moral enhancement, it's about altering behavior
Maxwell Mehlman now presenting on #moralenhancement and the law
Mehlman: If a "morality pill" could be developed, would people (esp. criminals) be compelled to take it?
Mehlman: if it's deemed a public health and safety issue, could be pushed by gov't
Mehlman: Could a morality pill be seen as a kind of vaccination and given to kids?
Mehlman: Would we discriminate against people who do not take morality pills?
Mehlman: If you're on the morality pill, are you held to a higher standard of care? More accountable?
Mehlman: If you're not taking morality pill, could you be deemed criminally negligent if something bad happens?
James Giordano now up on neuromorality: implications for human ecology, global relations, and national security policy
Giordano: Neuro-ecology: studies and interventions of cognitions, emotions, and behaviors engaged in decisions and actions
Giordano: The brain is an opportunistic target for multiple level assessment and manipulative actions #moralbrain
The #moralbrain conference is now over, one of the best conferences I've ever attended, very strong cast of speakers
April 4, 2012
My twitter round-up for the Moral Brain conference
Here's the complete list of my tweets from the recently concluded Moral Brain conference at New York University: