Apes, Brains, and Philosophers

Spring 2012 – Eugene Lang College, New York

LANT 3040 – Fri, 9-11:40 am

Course description

Since two or three decades, new naturalisms have mushroomed in both philosophy and the popular realm. Empirically oriented philosophers of mind have argued that the mind is the brain. Primatologists have given evolutionary explanations of both human and nonhuman moral behavior. This course explores this ongoing development from an anthropological and historical perspective. What is new about these new naturalisms? How are they changing our image of the human? What moral and political consequences do they have? The course examines the construction of new and not so new biologically oriented conceptions of ourselves without critical intent. Students will learn how scientific facts and their philosophical interpretations are fabricated—and that this is no reason for epistemic irony.