Friday, May 13, 2011

“Understanding Virtue” Cal Tech lectures

Virtue (arete, "excellence") personified as a goddess. The most articulated value in Greek culture is areté. The word means something closer to "being the best you can be" or "reaching your highest human potential" (Wikipedia/Celsus Library, Turkey).

Fuller, Caltech lecture series “Understanding Virtue”
What causes a person to do “good”? To act kindly, generously, heroically? Does special brain activity contribute to virtuous behavior in some people?

Fuller Seminary's Travis Research Institute and CalTech are partnering in a two-day lecture series to better understand the mysteries and nature of virtue through the twin lenses of neuroscience and philosophy.
  • Talk: “Why Habit Matters: The Bodily Character of the Virtues"
  • Prof. Stanley Hauerwas, Duke Divinity School
  • Thursday, May 19, 7:30-9:30 pm
  • Pasadena Presbyterian Church
Dr. Hauerwas holds a joint appointment in Duke's Law School and Divinity School, is a noted ethicist, peacemaker, and writer, and was named "America's Best Theologian" by Time Magazine in 2001.

CalTech Prof. Steven R. Quartz (Philosophy), leader of the Brain, Mind and Society Ph.D. Program will respond, drawing on his research on fundamental problems of the mind -- how the mind emerges from the developing brain and how we make decisions, including those with moral dimensions.
  • Talk: "The Vicarious Brain: The Neural Basis of Empathy, Learning by Observation, and Sociopathy"
  • Prof. Christian Keysers (Social Brain, Univ. of Groningen, Netherlands)
  • Friday, May 20, 7:30-9:30 pm
  • Beckman Auditorium on the CalTech campus
Dr. Keysers will describe how vicarious brain activity is strong in empathic individuals and reduced in sociopaths, suggesting that vicarious brain activity plays a role in the normal development of virtue.

Prof. Nancey Murphy (Christian Philosophy, Fuller Seminary) will respond, speaking from her research on the relationships between theology, neuroscience, and philosophy of the mind.
  • FREE lectures, open to the public, are part of a major conference funded by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The conference brings together scientists, philosophers, ethicists, and theologians for a discussion of interdisciplinary perspectives on the neuroscience of moral action.
Pasadena Presbyterian Church: 585 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 91101
CalTech’s Beckman Auditorium: 332 S. Michigan Ave. (south of Del Mar), Pasadena 91106.
  • INFO: Fred Messick, Associate VP of Public Affairs, Fuller Seminary,, (626) 584-5367
  • Deborah Williams-Hedges, Interim Director of Media Relations, CalTech, (626) 395-3227