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Philosophy and Science of Human Nature

Philosophy and Science of Human Nature

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4. Parts of the Soul II

Professor Gendler begins with a demonstration of sampling bias and a discussion of the problems it raises for empirical psychology. The lecture then returns to divisions of the soul, focusing on examples from contemporary research. The first are dual-processing accounts of cognition, which are introduced along with a discussion of the Wason selection task and belief biases. Next, the influential research of Kahneman and Tversky on heuristics and biases is introduced alongside the famous Asian disease experiment. Finally, Professor Gendler introduces her own notion of alief and offers several examples that distinguish it from belief.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Spring 2011.

45mins

27 Mar 2012

Rank #1

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9. Virtue and Habit I

We become virtuous by acting as if we are virtuous. This central insight of Aristotle is explored in this lecture. Professor Gendler begins by explaining how Aristotle’s method can allow us to turn normative laws - which describe how we should act – into descriptive laws – which describe how we do act. But what practical strategies are available to help us turn our reflective behavior (acting as if virtuous) into automatic behavior (being virtuous)? To address this question, Professor Gendler explores a number of surprising parallels between Pavlovian conditioning of animals, successful parenting strategies, and techniques for acquiring virtue by habit.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Spring 2011.

40mins

27 Mar 2012

Rank #2

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11. Weakness of the Will and Procrastination

Professor Gendler begins with a review of the situationist critique of virtue ethics,which claims that character plays only a minimal role in determining behavior. She then presents some countervailing evidence suggesting that certain personality traits appear to be quite stable over time, including work by Walter Mischel showing a strong correlation between an early capacity to delay gratification and subsequent academic and social success. Delayed gratification remains the topic of discussion as Professor Gendler shifts to Aristotle’s account of weakness of will and contemporary behavioral economics work on hyperbolic discounting. In the final segment of the lecture, drawing on work by Aristotle, Walter Mischel, George Ainslie and Robert Nozick, she presents several strategies for self-regulation: preventing yourself from acting on the temptation, manipulating incentive structures, and acting on principles.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Spring 2011.

44mins

27 Mar 2012

Rank #3

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12. Utilitarianism and its Critiques

Professor Gendler begins with a general introduction to moral theories–what are they and what questions do they answer? Three different moral theories are briefly sketched: virtue theories, deontological theories, and consequentialist theories. Professor Gendler introduces at greater length a particular form of consequentialism—utilitarianism—put forward by John Stuart Mill. A dilemma is posed which appears to challenge Mill’s Greatest Happiness Principle: is it morally right for many to live happily at the cost of one person’s suffering? This dilemma is illustrated via a short story by Ursula Le Guin, and parallels are drawn between the story and various contemporary scenarios.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Spring 2011.

47mins

27 Mar 2012

Rank #4

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8. Flourishing and Detachment

Professor Gendler begins with a discussion of the Stoic philosopher Epictetus, who argued that once we recognize that some things are up to us and other things are not up to us, we can see that happiness requires detaching ourselves from our desires and focusing instead on our attitudes and interpretations. Three pieces of advice from Epictetus about how to cultivate such detachment are provided, along with contemporary examples. A similar theme from Boethius is discussed, followed by a practical example of the benefits of detachment from Admiral James Stockdale’s experiences as a prisoner of war.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Spring 2011.

43mins

27 Mar 2012

Rank #5

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16. Philosophical Puzzles

In the first part of the lecture, Professor Gendler finishes up the discussion of non-standard responses to the Trolley Problem by presenting Cass Sunstein’s proposed resolution. This is followed by a general discussion of heuristics and biases in the context of risk regulation. In the remainder of the lecture, she introduces two additional puzzles: the puzzle of ducking vs. shielding (which is due to Christopher Boorse and Roy Sorensen) and the puzzle of moral luck. Whereas the ducking/shielding puzzle seems amenable to a heuristic-style solution, the puzzle of moral luck appears to be more profound. The fact that an action can seem more or less morally blameworthy depending on consequences which were entirely outside of the agent’s control seems to resist a solution in terms of heuristics, and instead leads to deeper problems of free will and moral responsibility.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Spring 2011.

47mins

27 Mar 2012

Rank #6

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15. Empirically-informed Responses

The Trolley Problem, as discussed in the last lecture, is the problem of reconciling an apparent inconsistency in our moral intuitions: that while it is permissible to turn the runaway trolley to a track thus killing one to save five, it is impermissible to push a fat man onto the trolley track, killing him to save the five. In this lecture, Professor Gendler reviews several “non-classic” responses to this problem, each of which aims to bring the two cases, and hence our apparently conflicting judgments about them, together. The three responses considered differ not only in their conclusions, but also in their methodologies, illustrating how different techniques might be brought to bear on philosophical puzzles.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Spring 2011.

49mins

27 Mar 2012

Rank #7

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20. The Prisoner's Dilemma

Two game theoretical problems--the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Problem of the Commons--are explored in detail. Both collective decision-making scenarios are structured such that all parties making rational choices ensures a less desired outcome for each than if each had chosen individually-less-preferred options. To conclude, Professor Gendler discusses various strategies that can be used to address both problems.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Spring 2011.

47mins

27 Mar 2012

Rank #8

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14. The Trolley Problem

The discussion of Kant from last lecture continues with a statement and explication of his first formulation of the categorical imperative: act only in such a way that you can will your maxim to be a universal law. Professor Gendler shows how Kant uses the categorical imperative to argue for particular moral duties, such as the obligation to keep promises. In the second part of the lecture, Philippa Foot’s Trolley Problem is introduced, which poses the problem of reconciling two powerful conflicting moral intuitions. A critique of Foot’s solution to the problem is explored, and the lecture ends with Judith Jarvis Thomson’s proposed alternative.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Spring 2011.

48mins

27 Mar 2012

Rank #9

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23. Social Structures

Professor Gendler begins by recapping the topic of state legitimacy and then offers a way of understanding the disagreement between Rawls and Nozick as one over what states ought to do given the phenomena of moral luck. She then turns to a discussion of how social and cultural structures influence both our characters and our perception of the world. She begins by discussing ways in which this theme plays a role in the work of Aristotle and John Stuart Mill. She then discusses recent empirical work on this question, including a body of anthropological and psychological literature that suggests that individuals raised in societies that are Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic have highly atypical responses in a wide range of cases.Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.eduThis course was recorded in Spring 2011.

49mins

27 Mar 2012

Rank #10