More programs, more candles, more light.

Get the Flash Player to see this player.

Loading the player ...

Getting Mad About the Bad: Emotion and the Moral Brain

Jesse Prinz, Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, City University of New York, Graduate Center

March 20, 2011
58 minutes
Jesse Prinz


According to a long-standing tradition in philosophy, moral judgments are based on emotions; we decide whether something is wrong by seeing how it makes us feel. Recent research in psychology offers a wide range of evidence supporting this view, and extending our understanding of which emotions contribute. Neuroimaging studies add further support by confirming that moral judgments recruit brain structures associated with emotion. But some findings from neuroscience have been interpreted as providing evidence for a mixed view, which states that some moral judgments are emotionally based while others principally involve reason. An alternative interpretation of these findings in offered, according to which all moral judgments are rooted in emotions, but the emotions involved vary from case to case, and reason can play an important, though subsidiary, role.

Jesse Prinz studies the cognitive and neurological foundations of the mind, focusing particularly on emotional, experiential, and cultural contributions to thought and morality.