Stephen Stich Leverhulme Lectures on Moral Psychology Videos

Stephen Stich

Professor Stephen Stich (Philosophy, Rutgers University) gave a series of four Leverhulme Lectures on moral psychology as Leverhulme Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield in May, 2009.

The titles of these lectures were (in order) "The Definition of Morality", "The Persistence of Moral Disagreement", "The Evolution of Morality" & "Egoism vs. Altruism: Deconstructing the Debate".

We recorded these lectures and are very pleased to present them here. Each lecture is approximately 1 hour long, divided into 3 parts. Please follow the links below to view the lectures.

1. The Definition of Morality (6 May 2009)

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Lecture Abstract: According to the eminent psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, “the psychological study of morality has been dominated by politically liberal researchers”, and “the lack of moral and political diversity among researchers has led to an inappropriate narrowing of the moral domain”. Is he right? This talk will explore some of the issues that underlie Haidt's provocative claim.

This is the first of four Leverhulme Lectures on Moral Psychology by Professor Stephen Stich (Philosophy, Rutgers University), who was Leverhulme Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield from March to May 2009. View the lecture

2. The Persistence of Moral Disagreement (11 May 2009)

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Lecture Abstract: Moral disagreement is widespread. But would that disagreement persist even under idealized conditions in which all parties to a moral debate are rational, impartial and fully informed about the relevant non-moral facts? For many moral theorists, a positive answer would entail moral relativism or moral nihilism. In this talk I’ll review recent empirical findings suggesting that the answer may indeed be positive. I’ll also sketch a theory about the psychological processes underlying human norms that points in the same direction.

This is the second of four Leverhulme Lectures on Moral Psychology by Professor Stephen Stich (Philosophy, Rutgers University), who was Leverhulme Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield from March to May 2009. View the lecture

3. The Evolution of Morality (18 May 2009)

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Lecture Abstract: The theory of norm psychology sketched in the previous lecture suggests that people will often internalize norms that reduce their own biological fitness. It might be thought that no such psychological mechanism could possibly evolve. But that would be a mistake. In this talk I’ll explain why it was all but inevitable that natural selection would lead to norm psychology in our species, once we had acquired the ability to learn from one another. The account I’ll offer explains why many human norms foster cooperative or pro-social behavior. It also explains why many human norms lead to ethnic hatred and morally repugnant behavior. If the account is correct, these norms will be very difficult to dislodge.

This is the third of four Leverhulme Lectures on Moral Psychology by Professor Stephen Stich (Philosophy, Rutgers University), who was Leverhulme Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield from March to May 2009. View the lecture

4. Egoism vs Altruism: Deconstructing the Debate (27 May 2009)

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Lecture Abstract: Psychological egoism maintains that all human motivation is ultimately selfish. Philosophers from Hobbes to the present have worried that if egoism is true, moral behavior may be threatened, and drastic steps have been proposed to counter this threat. Recently both psychologists and evolutionary biologists lavished a great deal of attention on the egoism vs. altruism debate. However, neither the psychologists nor the biologists have taken adequate account of the range of cognitive states and processes invoked in contemporary cognitive science. In this talk, I’ll argue that when these options are made explicit, they undermine the best psychological and evolutionary arguments for altruism. But they also undermine most of the reasons philosophers have offered for thinking that egoism would be morally problematic.

This is the last of four Leverhulme Lectures on Moral Psychology by Professor Stephen Stich (Philosophy, Rutgers University), who was Leverhulme Visiting Professor of Philosophy at the University of Sheffield from March to May 2009. View the lecture


Leverhulme Trust: Stich Lectures These lectures are made possible through the generous support of the Leverhulme Trust.