John Doris (
Washington University -St. Louis, Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology)
Thursday, Feb 5 at
4:00 at Mergenthaler 366

Doris is a leading figure in empirically informed moral psychology. He is the author of _Lack of Character: Personality and Moral Behavior_ and the forthcoming _A Natural History of the Self_. Much of Doris' work has explored the upshot of results in social psychology for moral philosophy. For more info, visit:

IMPORTANT: Though Doris will kick things off, much of this event will be discussion based on a pre-circulated paper (attached), as per usual with the Seminar on the History of Political and Moral Thought which is co-sponsoring this event.

In lieu of an abstract, here are the paper's opening remarks:

"Suppose you're given a puzzle, and asked to construct grammatical sentences out of randomly ordered words.  The version you get is laced with terms related to stereotypes of the elderly, such as old, grey, wrinkle, and Florida, while other folks get a version where the geriatric vocabulary is replaced with age-neutral words such as thirsty, clean, and private. Afterwards, as you make your way to the elevator, you walk more slowly than your pals in the neutral condition (Bargh et al. 1996: 236-7). Weird, huh?   One thing to walk slowly because your feet are killing you, or the cherry blossoms are blooming, or you want to strike up a conversation with that cute boy from the coffee shop.  But to walk more slowly because you've just read about Florida?  Evidently, your mind -- or pieces of mind does stuff on its own, without your supervision.  What if such shenanigans are common?  Turns out, this may be the case, and if so, there's reason to doubt the prospects for human agency, which means there's reason to fear skepticism about persons.  I think this skepticism can be ameliorated, but I won't undertake this ambitious project here.   At present, I've a relatively humble aspiration: showing that the ambitious project would indeed be ambitious.  In other words, I mean to persuade you that the skeptical challenge needs to be taken seriously.  To conclude, I'll suggest something further: answering the challenge will require substantial departure from entrenched commitments in philosophical ethics and moral psychology."