Course

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature with Tamar Gendler

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Teacher Tamar Gendler

Yales philosophy of teaching and learning begins with the aim of training a broadly based, highly disciplined intellect without specifying in advance how that intellect will be used. The Yale Courses channel provides entry into the core of the University--its classrooms and academic programs--including complete sets of lectures from the Open Yale Courses initiative.

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Course content

0h42m

1. Introduction

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

Professor Gendler explains the interdisciplinary nature of the course: work from philosophy, psychology, behavioral economics, and literature will be brought to bear on the topic of human nature. The three main topics of the course are introduced--happiness and flourishing, morality, and political philosophy--and examples of some of the course's future topics are discussed.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Introduction and Course Overview
11:30 - Chapter 2. First Example of Course Topics: the Ring of Gyges
16:29 - Chapter 3. Second Example of Course Topics: Trolley problems
23:07 - Chapter 4. Third Example of Course Topics: Procrastination
29:45 - Chapter 5. What Is Distinctive about This Course

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

This course was recorded in Spring 2011.

0h42m

2. The Ring of Gyges: Morality and Hypocrisy

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

After introducing Plato's Republic, Professor Gendler turns to the discussion of Glaucon's challenge in Book II. Glaucon challenges Socrates to defend his claim that acting justly (morally) is valuable in itself, not merely as a means to some other end (in this case, the reputation one gets from seeming just). To bolster the opposing position--that acting justly is only valuable as a means to attaining a good reputation--Glaucon sketches the thought experiment of the Ring of Gyges. In the second half of the lecture, Professor Gendler discusses the experimental results of Daniel Batson, which suggest that, at least in certain controlled laboratory settings, people appear to care more about seeming moral than about actually acting fairly. These experimental results appear to support Glaucon's hypothesis in the Ring of Gyges thought experiment.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Introducing Plato and "The Republic"
11.39 - Chapter 2. Glaucon's

0h45m

3. Parts of the Soul I

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

Professor Gendler reviews four instances of intrapersonal divisions that have appeared in philosophy, literature, psychology, and neuroscience: Plato's division between reason, spirit, and appetite; Hume's division between reason and passion; Freud's division between id, ego, and superego; and four divisions discussed by Jonathan Haidt (mind/body, left brain/right brain, old brain/new brain, and controlled/automatic thought). A discussion of a particularly vivid passage from Plato's Phaedrus concludes the lecture.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Dividing the Soul: Overview
07:57 - Chapter 2. Plato, Hume and Freud
15:28 - Chapter 3: Haidt's Four Divisions
36:12 - Chapter 4. Plato's Division between Reason, Spirit, and Appetite

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

This course was recorded in Spring 2011.

0h45m

4. Parts of the Soul II

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

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.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Sampling Bias
05:58 - Chapter 2: Dual Processing Accounts of Cognition and the Wason Selection Task
23:55 - Chapter 3. Kahneman and Tversky on Framing Effects
32:18 - Chapter 4. Alief

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.

0h44m

5. The Well-Ordered Soul: Happiness and Harmony

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

Professor Gendler begins with a poll of the class about whether students have elected to take a voluntary no-Internet pledge, and distributes stickers to help students who have made the pledge stick to their resolve. She then moves to the substantive part of the lecture, where she introduces Plato's analogy between the city-state and the soul and articulates Plato's response to Glaucon's challenge: justice is a kind of health--the well-ordered working of each of the parts of the individual—and thus is intrinsically valuable. This theme is explored further via psychological research on the 'progress principle' and 'hedonic treadmill,' as well as in an introduction to Aristotle's argument that reflection and reasoning are the function of humanity and thus the highest good.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Chapter 1. Internet Poll and Self-Regulation
05:57 - Chapter 2. Plato's Response to Glaucon's ChallengeChapter
28:57 - Chapter 3. Jonat

0h43m

6. The Disordered Soul: Thémis and PTSD

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

Professor Gendler introduces Aristotle's conception of virtue as a structuring one's life so that one's instinctive responses line up with one's reflective commitments. Becoming virtuous, according to Aristotle, requires that we engage in a process of habituation by acting as if we were virtuous, just as musicians master their instruments by playing them. By contrast, when one's behavior or experience is out of line with one's reflective commitments, dissonance ensues. Exemplifying this dissonance are Vietnam veterans with PTSD, whose experiences author Jonathan Shay relates to those of the Greek soldiers in the Iliad. In both cases, the reflective commitment to "what's right", or themis, is betrayed by some commanding officers; the consequence is a loss of the possibility of social trust.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Aristotle on Happiness and Harmony
18:50 - Chapter 2. The Relationship between Elite Universities and the Military
30

0h37m

7. Flourishing and Attachment

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

The discussion of the disordered soul continues with a reflection on the Stanley Milgram's famous studies, in which participants were directed to perform harmful actions that ran counter to their reflective moral commitments. Interestingly, such demands were more likely followed when the commander was closer to the subject and the victim further away. What is it about proximity to others that has this effect on us? Professor Gendler goes on to discuss the relationship between social attachment and human flourishing, reviewing Harlow's wire mother/cloth mother experiments on non-human primates, studies of attachment styles in infants, and cross-cultural research demonstrating the importance of social relationships for flourishing and health.

00:00 - Chapter 1. The Milgram Studies
10:54 - Chapter 2. Personal Interaction and Moral Behavior
18:26 - Chapter 3. Attachment in Infants and Non-Human Primates
28:53 - Chapter 4. Impor

0h43m

8. Flourishing and Detachment

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

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.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Epictetus: Overview and Main Themes
15:33 - Chapter 2. How to Detach from Things
31:34 - Chapter 3. Boethius and "The Consolation of Philosophy"
34:51 - Chapter 4. Stockdale and the Practical Significance of Detachment

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.

0h40m

9. Virtue and Habit I

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

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.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Norms, Laws, and Habits
12:31 - Chapter 2. Aristotle on Habituation
21:37 - Chapter 3. Classical and Operant Conditioning

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

This course was recorded in Sprin

0h44m

10. Virtue and Habit II

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

Although we become virtuous by acting as the virtuous person does, a close reading of Aristotle's text shows that, on his account, it is not enough to be virtuous that we act in certain ways. What's needed, according to Aristotle, is that you knowingly act virtuously for its own sake from a stable character, and do so with pleasure. Professor Gendler turns to Julia Annas's suggestion that Mihalyi Csikszentmihalyi's idea of flow may be helpful in characterizing the condition that you take pleasure in the virtuous act. Finally, a critique of virtue ethics from John Doris and situationist psychology is raised which offers experimental evidence that casts doubt on the existence of stable character traits.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Chapter 1. Aristotle on the Requirements of Virtue
16:02 - Chapter 2. Julia Annas and Flow
35:27 - Chapter 3. John Doris and the Situationist Critique

Complete course materials are available at the Open

0h45m

11. Weakness of the Will and Procrastination

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

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.

00:00 - Chapter 1

0h47m

12. Utilitarianism and its Critiques

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

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.

00:00 - Chapter 1. What Is a Moral Theory?
15:37 - Chapter 2. Introducing Utilitarianism
37:34 - Chapter 3. The Omelas Story

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

This course was recorded

0h46m

13. Deontology

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

Professor Gendler opens with a final criticism of Utilitarianism from Bernard Williams: in some cases, a good person should feel reluctant to do an act which brings about the greatest happiness, even if it is the right thing to do. The second half of the lecture introduces Kant's deontological moral theory. In contrast to consequentialism, deontology holds that it's not the outcome of actions that matter for their moral valence, but rather the will of the agent performing such actions. The outlines of Kant's deontological theory are presented, to be continued in the next lecture.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Bernard Williams's Objection to Utilitarianism
21:17 - Chapter 2. Immanuel Kant and Deontology

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

This course was recorded in Spring 2011.

0h48m

14. The Trolley Problem

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

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.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Introducing the Categorical Imperative
11:30 - Chapter 2. Applying and Characterizing the Categorical Imperative
20:16 - Chapter 3. The Aim of a Moral Theory
25:02 - Chapter 4. The Trolley Problem?
Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses w

0h49m

15. Empirically-informed Responses

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

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.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Recap of the Trolley Problem and Three Responses
09:19 - Chapter 2. Thomson's New Response to the Trolley Problem
20:28 - Chapter 3. Greene on the Trolley Problem
39:41 - Chapter 4. Sunstein on t

0h47m

16. Philosophical Puzzles

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

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.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Sunstein on the Trolley Problem Continued

0h44m

17. Punishment I

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

Professor Gendler begins with a discussion of differing responses to hypothetical and actual examples, and offers an actual example of a Trolley Problem. Then, the central topic of the lecture, punishment, is presented. After offering a characterization of what civil punishment involves, Professor Gendler discusses various justifications that have been offered of the practice. She distinguishes between justifications that are forward-looking and those that are backward-looking, and between justifications that are primarily victim-directed and those that are primarily offender-directed. These outlooks are then connected to the moral views that have been presented in earlier lectures: Utilitarianism and deontology.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Hypothetical Versus Actual Cases
10:27 - Chapter 2. What Is Punishment?
23:26 - Chapter 3. Justifications for Punishment: Overview
32:05 - Chapter 4. Retributivism

Complete course materials ar

0h48m

18. Punishment II

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

The lecture begins with a consideration of the traditional consequentialist account of punishment---that punishment is justified by its deterrent effect on future crimes. Traditional criticisms of the view are presented, and John Rawls' two-level justification for punishment is offered as one possible way to avoid such criticisms by bringing together consequentialist and deontological justifications of punishment in a single theory. Next, Professor Gendler reviews some empirical research on punishment intuitions, including data on moral outrage and the "Knobe effect". The lecture concludes with a brief discussion of how moral luck interacts with intuitions about punishment.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Consequentialist Justifications of Punishment
15:05 - Chapter 2. Two-Level Theories of Punishment
22:16 - Chapter 3. Empirical Research on Punishment
41:54 - Chapter 4. Luck and Punishment

Complete course materials are available a

0h46m

19. Contract & Commonwealth: Thomas Hobbes

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

In the opening part of the lecture, Professor Gendler concludes her discussion of punishment by exploring how Alan Kazdin's research on effective parenting provides insights about techniques for rehabilitating individuals who violate societal norms. She then moves to the third large unit of the course: the question of the legitimacy and structure of the state. One answer to the question of state legitimacy--that of Thomas Hobbes--is presented. Hobbes argues that life without a government, in a "state of nature," would be "nasty, poor, solitary, brutish, and short" as a result of violent competition for resources. To avoid this situation, Hobbes contends that rational individuals should lay down some of their rights in order to receive the benefits of a centralized state, to the extent that others are also willing to do so.

00:00 - Chapter 1. Punishment Concluded
13:48 - Chapter 2. Hobbes and Social Contract Theory
23:17 - C

0h47m

20. The Prisoner's Dilemma

Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature (PHIL 181)

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.

00:00 - Chapter 1. The Prisoners' Dilemma
20:11 - Chapter 2. The Classroom Dilemma
28:59 - Chapter 3. The Problem of the Commons
36:39 - Chapter 4. Strategies for Escaping the Problems

Complete course materials are available at the Open Yale Courses website: http://oyc.yale.edu

This course was recorded in Spring 2011.