2010 – XX

Altruism and Compassion in Economic Systems
A Dialogue Between Economics, Neuroscience and Contemplative Sciences

April 9-11, 2010

How do the concepts of altruism, egoism, empathy and compassion in Buddhist philosophy relate to similar concepts in the emerging fields of ‘social neuroscience’ and ‘neuroeconomics’ and to recent empirical research on empathy, altruism, fairness, economic decision-making and cooperation? How can compassion and pro-social motivation influence [economic] decision-making? Can an economic system be developed that rewards compassionate motives and altruism and that also focuses on resolving real societal problems related to poverty and the environment?

This is the first interdisciplinary public conference for the Mind & Life Institute in Europe and is co-sponsored by the University of Zurich. The goal of this event is to hold a high leve, interdisciplinary dialogue on Buddhist, neuroscientific, psychological and economic views on empathy, compassion and pro-social motivation, and to discuss the relevance of altruism and compassion for both personal transformation and the transformation of large-scale social systems such as economic systems.
To achieve this goal, the conference will feature leading scholars from Buddhism, Social Neuroscience, Psychology, Philosophy, and for the first time, Economics and Neuroeconomics. This includes the following experts:

  • Economic sciences: Ernst Fehr, University of Zurich; William Harbaugh, University of Oregon; Lord Richard Layard, London School of Economics
  • Psychology: Daniel Batson, University of Kansas
  • Anthropology: Joan Silk, University of California-Los Angeles
  • Neurosciences: Tania Singer, University of Zurich; Richard Davidson, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Philosophy and the Contemplative Sciences: His Holiness the Dalai Lama; Matthieu Ricard, Shechen Monastary, Nepal; Roshi Joan Halifax, Upaya Zen Center; John Dunne, Emory University; Gert Scobel, 3sat
  • Applied economics: Sanjit Bunker Roy, Barefoot College; William George, Harvard Business School; Antoinette Hunziker-Ebneter, Forma Futura; Arthur Vayloyan, Credit Suisse
By inviting (neuro)economic perspectives to the dialogue, we will explore new bridges between disciplines that have not talked to each other in the past and offer a great opportunity for new strands of collaborative projects in the future.