Why do we care for others? Why did morality evolve? Is unselfish behaviour possible in a Darwinian world?
Patricia Churchland joins us to discuss these topics with your host, Ilari Mäkelä.
Author of Conscience: Origins of Moral Intuition, Patricia Churchland is an emerita professor of Philosophy at UC San Diego.
Ilari and Professor Churchland discuss topics such as:
- Warm-bloodedness and morality
- Psychological egoism vs unselfish behaviour
- Neurobiology of care: Oxytocin, cannabinoids, opioids
- Elements of morality: How much of morality is about care, vs problem-solving, cooperation, and social learning?
- Churchland’s criticism of Western moral philosophy
- Neurophilosophy: is studying the brain all that useful?
- Free will: does studying the brain show that free will does not exist?
Technical terms mentioned:
- Endothermy (i.e. warm-bloodedness)
- Oxytocin, vasopressin
- Endogenous opioids and cannabinoids
- Utilitarian ethics
- Kantian ethics (i.e. deontology)
- Metta meditation
- Christophe Boesch (chimpanzee adoption)
- Peggy Mason (helping behaviour in rats)
- Sue Carter (oxytocin and stress)
- David Hume & Adam Smith
- Mencius (early Confucian philosopher) [For Ilari’s article on Mencius, see An Empirical Argument for Mencius' Theory of Human Nature]
- The Dalai Lama (H.H. the 14th)
- Simon Blackburn (contemporary Cambridge philosopher)
- Dan Bowling (placebo and oxytocin)
- Olivia Goldhill (review of Conscience for the New York Times)
- Lidija Haas (review of Conscience for the Harper Magazine)
Other scholars to follow (Churchland’s recommendations)
Topics in this interview
- Frans de Waal
- Owen Flanagan
Philosophy & neuroscience more generally
- Nick Lane (genetics and evolution)
- Ann-Sophie Barwich (neurophilosophy of smell)
- Gregory Berns (soon to appear on the podcast)
- Ned Block (philosophy of cognition)