Philosophy Professor Hosts New Workshop Series

By Staci Wilson, CHASS Dean’s Office, Student Intern
October 27, 2011 

Over the past twenty years or so there has been a significant increase in neuroscientific research on emotions, due in part to advances in neuroimaging technology which facilitates the success of such research. An early milestone was reached, however, with the studies of Antonio Damasio; currently a professor of neuroscience at USC. Through his studies of brain lesion patients, Damasio showed a link between deficits in emotional response and deficits in decision making abilities. The implications of this link have inspired researchers in a number of disciplines all over the world. Researchers like UCR professor of philosophy, Agnieszka Jaworska.

Jaworska is a co-leader of a planned project called “Love and Human Agency: An Interdisciplinary Investigation.” This project is designed to bring together philosophers, psychologists and neuroscientists to further explore and develop the implications of modern neuroscientific research on emotions, like Damasio’s, with a focus on its implications for the concept of caring and for ethics more generally. Jaworska personally received a grant from the Chancellor’s Strategic Investment Funds on September 16, 2011, which she will use through June 2012 to plan and prepare for the larger, three year project (2012-2015), on which she is collaborating with fellow philosophers Dr. Bennett Heim (from Franklin and Marshall College), and Dr. Jeff Seidman (from Vassar). In her own words, “we believe that the improved understanding of caring that this marriage of philosophical and empirical approaches can afford is, in turn, crucial for progress in ethical theory, in moral psychology, as well as in resolving many practical ethical questions.”

Jaworska is currently working with five philosophy PhD students at UCR to locate the relevance of recent neuroscientific research within philosophical topics of interest. She has already started a reading group with these five students and, beginning in November, will host a series of seven workshops (held once a month) to allow direct interaction with experts in the fields of neuroscience, psychology and philosophy. Through these workshops she hopes to map out topics, questions, and specific directions of investigation for her 2012-2015 project. There is a particular need for neuroscientists at this time, but anyone with relevant background and interest is welcome to join either the reading group or the workshop series by contacting Jaworska at jaworska@ucr.edu

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