Filmed during Mind & Life Institute’s “Mind & Life XXX: Perception, Concepts, and Self” on December 17, 2015.


Self & Ethics: The Science of Altruism
SPEAKER: Matthieu Ricard

As we consider the views of both Buddhist philosophy and Western science on the nature of the self, what are the implications about our interactions with others, and our behavior in the world? What can we make of the idea that the self is constructed, and that all phenomena, including “selves,” are interdependent and mutually co-arising? In this presentation, Ricard discusses how the way we conceive of the self has deep repercussions on our relation to ourselves, to others, and to the world. He also distinguishes the notions of altruism, empathy, and compassion, and present a way to enact both individual change and societal change by adopting a more compassionate, selfless attitude. Specifically, Ricard explores the concept of altruism and attempt to show that it is a natural predisposition among human beings. Although some philosophers and psychologists have believed that we are irredeemably selfish, there are no scientific studies supporting such theory; indeed, a significant number of people do behave altruistically. Ricard also argues that altruism seems to be the only concept allowing us to reconcile the needs pertaining to the short term of the economy, the midterm of the quality of life, and the long term of the environment. Applications are considered, including enhanced cooperative learning in schools and stronger cooperation within corporations, as well as the notion of sustainable harmony, which aims at reducing inequalities and preserving our environment and the other 8.7 million species who are our co-citizens on this planet.

Commentary from the perspective of contemplative science
SPEAKER: Richard J. Davidson

MODERATOR: Roshi Joan Halifax

INTERPRETER: Thupten Jinpa

PANELISTS:
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Lera Boroditsky
John Dunne
Jay Garfield
Wendy Hasenkamp
Bryce Johnson
Catharine Kerr
Tenzin Lhadron
Geshe Lhakdor
Thabkhe Lodroe
Geshe Dadul Namgyal
Werner Nater
Geshe Lobsang Tenzin Negi
Vasudevi Reddy
Yangsi Rinpoche
Pawan Sinha
Professor Geshe Yeshe Thabke
Khenpo Sonam Tsewang
David Vago
Christy Wilson-Mendenhall
Carol Worthman

Participants

Matthieu Ricard, PhD

Karuna-shechen

Convening Faculty, Fellow

Richard J. Davidson, PhD

Mind & Life Chief Scientific Advisor, Center for Healthy Minds at University of Wisconsin-Madison

Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD

Upaya Zen Center

Convening Faculty, Fellow

Thupten Jinpa, PhD

McGill University


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