Philosophy and Science of Human Nature
By Tamar Gendler
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Philosophy and the Science of Human Nature pairs central texts from Western philosophical tradition (including works by Plato, Aristotle, Epictetus, Hobbes, Kant, Mill, Rawls and Nozick) with recent findings in cognitive science and related fields. The course is structured around three intertwined sets of topics: Happiness and Flourishing; Morality and Justice; and Political Legitimacy and Social Structures.
||1. Course Introduction||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.||1/17/2014||Free||View in iTunes|
||2. The Ring of Gyges: Morality and Hypocrisy||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.||1/17/2014||Free||View in iTunes|
||3. Parts of the Soul I||Professor Gendler reviews four instances of intrapersonal divisions that have appeared in philosophy, literature, psychology, and neuroscience.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||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.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||5. The Well-Ordered Soul: Happiness and Harmony||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.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||6. The Disordered Soul: Thémis and PTSD||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.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||7. Flourishing and Attachment||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.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||8. Flourishing and Detachment||Prof. Gendler begins with a discussion of Epictetus, who argued that once we recognize that some things are up to us and other things are not, we realize happiness requires detaching ourselves from our desires.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||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 into descriptive laws.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||10. Virtue and Habit II||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.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||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.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||12. Utilitarianism and its Critiques||Professor Gendler begins with a general introduction to moral theories–what are they and what questions do they answer?||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||13. Deontology||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.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||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.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||15. Empirically-informed Responses||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.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||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.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||17. Punishment I||Professor Gendler begins with a discussion of differing responses to hypothetical and actual examples, and offers an actual example of a Trolley Problem.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||18. Punishment II||The lecture begins with a consideration of the traditional consequentialist account of punishment–-that punishment is justified by its deterrent effect on future crimes.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||19. Contract & Commonwealth: Thomas Hobbes||In the opening part of the lecture, Professor Gendler concludes her discussion of punishment by exploring how Alan Kazdin’s research...||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||20. The Prisoner's Dilemma||Two game theoretical problems--the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Problem of the Commons--are explored in detail.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||21. Equality||The discussion of the legitimacy of government is continued with an introduction to a major 20th century work of political philosophy, John Rawls’ A Theory of Justice.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||22. Equality II||Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia is presented as a counterpoint to Rawls’ A Theory of Justice.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||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.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||24. Censorship||Professor Gendler explores some aspects of the question of what sorts of non-rational persuasion are legitimate for a government to engage in.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
||25. Tying up Loose Ends||Professor Gendler begins with brief introductory remarks about the course’s methodology, explaining the approach that was taken to reading and presenting various articles. She continues with a discussion of Cass Sunstein’s work on social norms, looking particularly at his account of the willingness to pay/willingness to accept distinction. The lecture continues with a consideration of how this distinction-–and the heuristic reasoning that gives rise to it–-might be used to explain our responses to the trolley problem. In the final segment of the lecture, Professor Gendler offers a way of thinking systematically about relations among the political philosophical views of Thomas Hobbes, John Rawls and Robert Nozick.||1/24/2014||Free||View in iTunes|
||26. Concluding Lecture||In this concluding lecture, Professor Gendler charts four paths through the course.||3/27/2012||Free||View in iTunes|
interesting course marred by frequent audio problems and missing/duplicated lectures
Tamar Gendler is a great lecturer, but the audio files for this course have been sloppily handled. The audio for Lecture 1 skips and has parts of Lecture 2 spliced into it by mistake. More than once a lecture is missing because of accidental duplication of files. The audio files for Lectures 8 and 9 are exactly the same, and I know they are not supposed to be because as a result references in later lectures back to Epictetus and Boethius are confusing. The files for Lectures 13 and 14 are also exactly the same, so that the difference between utilitarianism and deontology isn't fully explained. I haven't finished listening yet, so there may be more such problems.
Edifying as well as fascinating
Everytime I listen to another lecture I find myself disposed to act on my better judgement for the rest of the day. The material is so engaging and grounded in logic that the effect is much stronger than going to Church. It is great how many connections are made between philosophy and psychology. Sometimes it is a bit tedious when points are repeated multiple times, but maybe that helps with the overall didactic effect. Also very humourous and nice slides.
Video format is available from the Yale web site and is great.