Paul Bloom Gives Devane Lectures on the Science that Makes Us Tick

Paul Bloom, professor of psychology and author of “How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like,” will explore the science of our moral behavior in this term’s Devane lectures series, titled “Moralities of Everyday Life.”

Bloom will give the introductory lecture today (Thursday, Sept. 1) at 4 –5:15 p.m. in Battell Chapel, corner of Elm and College streets. The series is free and open to the public. A complete schedule of the lectures, which will take place at 4 p.m. on Tuesdays, is forthcoming.

Drawing on disciplines such as cognitive science, social and developmental psychology, neuroscience, behavioral economics and analytic philosophy, Bloom will examine the modern science of moral thought and moral action, covering such topics as empathy and compassion in babies and young children; emotional reactions to family, friends, and strangers; the origins of prejudice and bigotry; sexuality, disgust and purity; punishment, revenge and forgiveness; the relationship between morality and religion.

Among the questions, he will consider are “How is it that people are capable of transcendent kindness-and unspeakable cruelty?” “How do we explain our strongly held opinions about issues such as abortion, gay marriage, affirmative action, eating meat, and torture?” “How do the forces of evolution, culture, and religion shape our moral natures?”

“We will look at research from the lab, from the community, and from the battlefield; we will discuss babies, monkeys, and psychopaths; we will debate claims about moral differences between men and women, liberals and conservatives, Christians and Muslims,” says Bloom.

Bloom’s research explores how children and adults understand the physical and social world, with special focus on morality, religion, fiction and art. He has won numerous awards for his research and teaching. He is past-president of the Society for Philosophy and Psychology, and co-editor of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, one of the major journals in the field.

He has written for scientific journals such as Nature and Science, and for popular outlets such as The New York Times, the Guardian, and the Atlantic. He is the author or editor of five books, including “How Children Learn the Meanings of Words,” and “Descartes’ Baby: How the Science of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human.”

The DeVane Professorship was established in 1969 with a grant from the Old Dominion Foundation. It is named for a former dean of Yale College and honors his memory by addressing his concern that undergraduate education not become excessively narrow and departmentalized. An invitation to deliver the DeVane Lectures is considered a major honor for Yale faculty.

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