In contemporary philosophy of mind, moral issues are typically either ignored or treated as an afterthought. But what if a moral dynamics lies at the very heart of our discussions of the human mind? What if our analyses of consciousness get their meaning, standards of evaluation and sense of urgency from moral valuations and aspirations? What if the basic relationship we need to understand is not that between ‘mind’ and ‘body’ or ‘mind’ and ‘world’, but that between ‘I’ and ‘you’? And what, finally, if the forms taken by philosophical debates about the mind, their deadlocks and their apparently interminable back-and-forth between opposing positions, is bound up with a wish to keep moral understanding away, whereby things become hard to understand and agree on because we don’t want to understand them?
The conference “A Science of the Soul?” aims to investigate these and other fundamental issues in the philosophy of mind. Among the specific topics that will be addressed are the massive attraction exerted today by the idea that neuroscience and evolutionary psychology, provide support for naturalism in the philosophical understanding of human being, and, on the other hand, the constant reassertions of dualism and of the subjectivist idea that no one can really know ‘what it’s like to be me’. Wittgenstein’s and Freud’s contributions to these debates will also be discussed.
Throughout, the focus will be on looking for connections between apparently ‘purely theoretical’ ideas, and pervasive moral difficulties and temptations from which the ideas might arise – ‘moral’ taken in a broad sense which includes the difficulties arising in the relationship between ‘I’ and ‘you’, the shifts and the pathologies in our social imagination as well as the connection of these with political, economic and technological developments.