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Joshua Greene on Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them

7:30 p.m., November 12, 2013
Hillside Club
Berkeley, CA

A pathbreaking neuroscientist reveals how our social instincts turn Me into Us, but turn Us against Them—and what we can do about it. Special pricing for GGSC members.

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Presented by Berkeley Arts & Letters

A pathbreaking neuroscientist reveals how our social instincts turn Me into Us, but turn Us against Them—and what we can do about it

Our brains were designed for tribal life, for getting along with a select group of others (Us) and for fighting off everyone else (Them). But modern times have forced the world’s tribes into a shared space, resulting in epic clashes of values along with unprecedented opportunities. As the world shrinks, the moral lines that divide us become more salient and more puzzling. We fight over everything from tax codes to gay marriage to global warming, and we wonder where, if at all, we can find our common ground.

A grand synthesis of neuroscience, psychology, and philosophy, Moral Tribes reveals the underlying causes of modern conflict and lights the way forward. Greene compares the human brain to a dual-mode camera, with point-and-shoot automatic settings (“portrait,” “landscape”) as well as a manual mode. Our point-and-shoot settings are our emotions—efficient, automated programs honed by evolution, culture, and personal experience. The brain’s manual mode is its capacity for deliberate reasoning, which makes our thinking flexible. Point-and-shoot emotions make us social animals, turning Me into Us. But they also make us tribal animals, turning Us against Them. Our tribal emotions make us fight—sometimes with bombs, sometimes with words—often with life-and-death stakes.

An award-winning teacher and pathbreaking neuroscientist, Professor Joshua Greene directs Harvard University’s Moral Cognition Lab, which uses cutting-edge neuroscience and cognitive techniques to understand how people really make moral decisions. Combining insights from the lab with lessons from decades of social science and centuries of philosophy, the great question of Moral Tribes is this: How can we get along with Them when what they want feels so wrong to Us?

Ultimately, Greene offers a set of maxims for navigating the modern moral terrain, a practical road map for solving problems and living better lives. Moral Tribes shows us when to trust our instincts, when to reason, and how the right kind of reasoning can move us forward.

“Joshua Greene is the rarest of birds—a brilliant scientist and equally brilliant philosopher who simultaneously takes on the deepest problems of both disciplines. More than a decade in the making, Moral Tribes is a masterpiece—a landmark work brimming with originality and insight that also happens to be wickedly fun to read. The only disappointing thing about this book is that it ends.” —Daniel Gilbert, professor of psychology, Harvard University; author of Stumbling on Happiness

Special $12 price (down from $15) for GGSC members. Simply click “GGSC Member” when selecting ticket type here.

Register now!

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