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Neuroscience and History: The Science of Pain and Pleasure: What Can We Learn from its History?

Past Series, SOF/Heyman Workshops

dateMay 7, 2014 timeWednesday, 7:00pm EDT location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University

Hedonistic psychology – the attribution of human motivation to aversion to pain and attraction to pleasure – has a long history, stretching from Thomas Hobbes to B. F. Skinner, and beyond. Starting from contemporary investigations of the psychology of appetite, addiction, and reward, this talk will ask what we might learn from the history of the science of pain and pleasure. Questions about human well-being are ineluctably saturated with political and moral significance, and over the last three centuries hedonistic theories of human motivation have grounded a range of social projects, from welfare reform to medical ethics. The talk will argue that the cultural aspects of hedonistic psychology do not distort or deform neuroscience, so much as amplify and refine it. The story of the science of pain and pleasure is a narrative of social as well as scientific experimentation, and a good understanding of this history has the potential to be a source of information about human moral psychology as well as normative ethics.

E. Tory Higgins, Stanley Schater Professor of Psychology at Columbia, will serve as the commentator for the talk.

ID is required for entrance.

Attendance to the workshop is by invitation only