The Neuroscience of Moral Agency (Or: How I Learned to Love Determinism and Still Respect Myself in the Morning)

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The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics are hosting a lecture on “The Neuroscience of Moral Agency (Or: How I Learned to Love Determinism and Still Respect Myself in the Morning)” with speaker Dr William Casebeer. The findings of neuroscience are often used to undermine traditional assumptions about the nature of human agency. In this talk, I sketch out a compatibilist position which leverages a neo-Aristotelian concept of “critical control distinctions”—rather than talking about whether agents freely will actions, a more consilient vocabulary asks whether agents were in control or out of control when the action was taken. A plausible neurobiological determinism can save what is worth saving about our traditional notions of responsibility and also points toward a twenty-first century research agenda which coevolves legal and moral norms about responsibility with neuroscientific critical control capacities.


About the speaker

Dr William Casebeer is a Research Area Manager in human systems optimization for Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Laboratories, where he leads science and technology development programs to improve human performance. Bill served as a Program Manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency from 2010-14 in the Defense Sciences Office and in the Biological Technologies Office, where he established DARPA’s neuroethics program. Bill is author of Natural Ethical Facts: Evolution, Connectionism, and Moral Cognition (MIT Press), co-author of Warlords Rising: Confronting Violent Non-State Actors (Lexington Books), and has published on topics from the morality of torture interrogation to the rhetoric of evil in international relations in venues such as Nature Reviews Neuroscience, Biology and Philosophy, and International Studies. His research interests include the intersections of cognitive science and national security policy, neuroethics, political violence, philosophy of mind, and human performance.



Please book your place online here.


Medical Humanities

Contact name: Rachel Gaminiratne
Contact email:
Audience: Open to all