Stony Brook Mind/Brain Lecture Series


12th Annual Lecture:


Decisions, Responsiblity and the Brain 


Guest Lecturer:

Patricia Smith Churchland,

B. Phil.

Philosophy Department

University of California at San Diego

La Jolla, California


Monday, March 10, 2008

4:30 PM


Staller Center for the Arts, Main Stage

Stony Brook University (Main Campus), Stony Brook, NY

(Free presentation, intended for a general audience.)


Event overview:

As we come to understand the role of genes in neuronal wiring, and neuronal wiring in the production of behavior, we are newly confronted with questions about choice and responsibility. Although questions concerning what free choice really amounts to have long been at the center of philosophical reflection, new discoveries, especially  from neuropharmacology and neuropsychology, have lent them a special and very practical urgency.  In the courts, in the education of children, and in general in daily life, we assume that some decisions are freely made and that agents should be held accountable for those decisions. On the other hand, we see the range of allowable excuses from responsibility broadening as we begin to understand the role of certain neuropathologies in aberrant behavior. These developments take place against the public policy debate concerning the right balance between considerations of public safety, justice, fairness, and individual freedom. From the perspective of neurophilosophy, I shall address some of the broad questions in this arena, including the theological and metaphysical contention that free choice is uncaused choice, and the proposal that pragmatic and scientific considerations can yield the best working basis for assignment of responsibility.


Additional Information


The Swartz Foundation – Mind/Brain Lecture Series Home Page


Stony Brook University Mind/Brain Lecture Series Home Page



Directions to Stony Brook University



Related resources on the Internet:


Patricia Smith Churchland’s Home Page

Books by Patricia Smith Churchland

Patricia Churchland – Wikipedia page


Mind Hacks: Patricia Churchland - mind, body and brain


Onegoodmove - Patricia Churchland presentation at Beyond Belief 2006


Australian Broadcasting Corporation – Pat Churchland, 1 March 2007


Can Neurobiology Teach us Anything about Consciousness? - Pat Churchland,



UCSD's Patricia Churchland in an insightful discussion with scientist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winning author Edward O.Wilson


Naturalism.Org – Soul & Free Will Roundup - Pat Churchland


University of California Television – Pat Churchland: Philosophy in the Age of Neuroscience


University of California Television – Pat Churchland: Decisions, Responsibility and the Brain


Pufendorf lectures – Patricia Churchland, June 2007


This interview with Patricia Churchland is an excerpt from a documentary film entitled "Mastermind" that was done by Sophie Besandoun and Pierre Faye.


Closer to Truth – public television program


Duke University – Provost’s Lecture Series 2007/08, Patricia Smith Churchland: Decisions, Morality and the Brain, Feb. 5, 2008



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