Moral Sense Colloquium III

deadline for submissions: 
February 15, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY
contact email: 

CALL for papers, posters, or presentations:


Moral Sense Colloquium III at St. Francis College, Brooklyn Heights, N.Y., 2 June 2017   (15 February 2017 Deadline).


Keynote speaker: ROBERT TRIVERS, Ph.D.


This day-long conference is an opportunity to explore and exchange interdisciplinary ideas concerning the notion of moral sense.


Our purpose in organizing this third Moral Sense Colloquium is multifaceted: to mark the 30th anniversary of the publication of Richard Alexander’s The Biology of Moral Systems; to bring together a community of scholars and learners interested in topics related to the moral sense; and to demonstrate how science and other disciplines can work together in a meaningful and productive way.


At the heart of the conference is the notion of moral sense, which has been variously defined by philosophers and scientists (from the seventeenth century, through Darwin, up to the present) as an approval faculty, or conscience, or sympathy, or compassion, or as an instinctual social emotion. While not equivalent, for convenience we will use the terms moral sense and morality interchangeably here.


However one addresses topics suggested below, we are nonetheless looking for papers that accommodate a true Darwinian reading of moral sense; that is, we are not looking for abstract, metaphysical explanations with no grounding in the sciences or social sciences. While philosophy is crucial to this conference, presenters should consider pairing philosophical ideas with parallel readings in the natural or social sciences. It goes without saying that if you are a scientist working in this field you might want to read moral philosophy; if you are a moral philosopher you’d want to read in the sciences and social sciences that cover this area.


Here are some questions that might stimulate ideas and approaches for the conference.

-Do we have an inherited (evolutionary, biologically adapted) moral sense?

-In what degree is our moral sense different from an animal’s feelings?

-How are emotions related to morality?

-Is there a cognitive explanation for morality?

-How is consciousness involved in the moral senses?

-Are emotional moral sensations or cognitive moral sensations different from morality?

-In what way do disciplines outside of biology and philosophy (e.g., anthropology, psychology, sociology, economics) help explain the various loci of moral decision making?

-How do we reconcile humanist values with a mechanistic explanation of the brain?

-What do the arts have to do with any moral sense?

-What is the practical value of talking about moral sensations?

-Does cultural evolution play a role in moral sentiments?

-Are there gender or sex differences in terms of a moral sense?

-What happens to us – biologically – when confronted by a moral dilemma?

-What role does the brain play – in its various parts – in helping us make a moral decision?

-Can other disciplines, notably primatology or neuroscience, help us understand morality?

-How do individual differences – biologically and environmentally – account for moral decisions?


The colloquium will take place on at St. Francis College, 180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, N.Y. This is a one-day conference (9am – 7pm) on 2 June 2017. The program won’t be finalized until we evaluate abstracts, but we envision a number of panels (with papers/presentations of no more than 20 minutes each), a keynote speaker, as well as a plenary address. Presentations can come in the form of papers, posters, or power points. Let us know in advance how you intend on making a presentation. The registration fee of $95 will include a program of abstracts, breakfast, lunch, and an opportunity to meet and mingle with colleagues.


The Colloquium is sponsored by The Office of the Provost, The English Department, and the Evolutionary Studies Collaborative – all at St. Francis College.


Abstracts (300 words) are invited for papers relating any aspect of the moral sense (as defined in a range of disciplines involved with biology, anthropology, philosophy, and consciousness studies) to any feature of the questions outlined above (or others by implication). Panels will be created and organized around incoming abstracts. Abstracts should be sent as Word attachments to Professor Gregory F. Tague, Ph.D. Deadline for submission is 15 February 2017, but early submissions are highly encouraged. You may also query Prof. Tague if you have any questions.