Course: The Psychology, Philosophy and Neuroscience of Morality

HC 441H

Professor: Christina Karns

“No man is an island entire of itself; […] any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.“

- John Donne, 1572--‐1631

In this time of economic uncertainty and global struggles, education should be directed toward a place of meaning and purpose. In keeping with the interdisciplinary tradition and mission of the Clark Honors College, this course focuses on the psychology, philosophy and neuroscience of virtues and emotions.

My aim will be to integrate the longstanding philosophical traditions that explore the nature of virtue and its benefits for society and the self with the growing science from psychology and neuroscience on the potential mechanisms (neurological, personological, and situational) that undergird these virtues. This course will include readings and exercises that bridge the gap between the normative discipline of virtue theory in philosophy and the descriptive and explanatory models of prosocial traits and emotions in positive psychology and neuroscience.

Journaling helps students to learn in a more curious, exploratory mode, where they aren’t faced with the immediate pressure of finding and demonstrating their knowledge of the “right” answer. We will use journaling exercises as tools to facilitate insight, analysis, and discussion, and we will use hands-on demonstrations of research methodology to engage students in the intellectual and scholarly material we will explore.

Importantly, this course will incorporate content and pedagogical aims by aiming to cultivate the intellectual counterparts of moral virtues such as open-mindedness, curiosity, intellectual courage, and intellectual humility through understanding what research in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience has to say.