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Renowned Brain Researchers to Present at 2006 U of U Philosophy Colloquium

Feb. 3, 2006 – The University of Utah’s College of Humanities and The Brain Institute will present the U’s 12th Annual Philosophy Department Colloquium, “Neuroscience and Moral Psychology,” Feb. 9 through 11 at the U’s new Health Sciences Education Building, 50 North Medical Drive; in Orson Spencer Hall, 260 S. Central Campus Drive; and in the Language and Communication Building, 255 S. Central Campus Drive. Philosophers and scientists will gather to discuss the neurological roots of moral psychology. The colloquium is free and open to the public. For a full schedule of the events, locations and for more information, visit

Conference organizer and U Associate Professor of Philosophy Stephen Downes writes, “Some neuroscientists have argued that our capacity for moral judgments can be accounted for in terms of the structure of our brains. Such claims are supported by neural imaging work and clinical work with patients whose deficiencies in moral judgment correlate with specific brain damage. Philosophers do not agree on the role that the neurosciences should play in explaining our capacities for moral judgment. This conference brings together those who strongly support the appeal to neuroscience and those who are skeptical about the contribution that neuroscience can make.”

The colloquium will feature two early evening keynote presentations as well as daytime sessions. Confirmed participants and bios are included below. Support for the event is provided by the U’s Department of Philosophy, The Brain Institute, the Office of the Vice President for Research and the College of Humanities.


John Bickle, Philosophy, University of Cincinnati
John Bickle works in philosophy of neuroscience, philosophy of science and cellular mechanisms of cognition and consciousness. He is noted for his “new wave reductionism,” presented in his 1998 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Press book Psychoneural Reduction: The New Wave.

James Blair (keynote speaker), Cognitive Neuroscience, National Institutes of Health
James Blair is chief of the unit on affective cognitive neuroscience in the Mood and Anxiety Disorders Program at the National Institute of Mental Health. He is studies disorders that reflect disturbances in anxiety, whether the dysfunction is characterized by reduced levels of anxiety, such as in psychopathy, or in elevated levels of anxiety, such as in social phobia.

Joshua Greene, Psychology, Princeton University
Joshua Green studies moral decision-making using behavioral methods coupled with neuroimaging (fMRI). His research focuses on the interplay between emotional and “cognitive” processes in moral judgment.

Jesse Prinz (keynote speaker), Philosophy, University of North Carolina
Jesse Prinz’ research interests are in the philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy of language and moral psychology. His books include Furnishing the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002) and Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004).

Stephen Quartz, Humanities and Social Sciences, Cal Tech
Stephen Quartz is an associate professor in the division of Humanities and Social Sciences, director of the Social Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory and a member of the Computation and Neural Systems program.

Adina Roskies, Philosophy, Dartmouth College
After completing master’s degrees in philosophy and neuroscience at the University of California, San Diego, Roskies received a Ph.D. in neuroscience and cognitive science in 1995. Her doctoral work was in neural development at the Salk Institute, specifically on the molecular processes underlying the formation of visual topographic maps.

Richard Samuels, Philosophy, King College London
Richard Samuels studied philosophy at Leeds and received a master of science degree in artificial intelligence at Sussex before being awarded a Fulbright Scholarship in 1992 and moving to the United States where he undertook doctoral research in philosophy at Rutgers University. His research centers primarily on issues in the philosophy of psychology and the foundations of cognitive science.

Tim Schroeder, Philosophy, University of Manitoba
Tim Schroeder’s interests lie in the nature of norms (evaluative standards, or “oughts”) and philosophical/moral psychology. His current research has three primary strands: first, saving teleosemantics from its dependency upon evolutionary norms; second, the nature of desire; and third, the origins of practical rationality.

Liane Young, Psychology, Harvard University
Liane Young studied moral philosophy as an undergraduate. As a graduate student, Young now aims to investigate the psychology of moral decision-making. She is primarily interested in the cognitive mechanism underlying our moral judgments or moral intuitions.

For more information on the colloquium, visit or, or call Heidi Camp at 801-581-6214 or Steve Downes at 801-581-6094.