Filmed during Mind & Life Institute’s “Mind & Life XIV: The Universe in a Single Atom” on April 9-13, 2007.
Evolution, Altruism and the Fundamental Nature of Human Emotion
Is evolution driven by random mutation and natural selection? How can the adaptations of species best be understood? Can basic evolutionary principles be used to understand the fundamental origins of basic, human cognitive and emotional competences? Is the fundamental nature of emotion positive, compassionate and altruistic? How might evolutionary accounts of emotion accommodate these virtuous emotional qualities? To what extent is any particular emotion (e.g., anger) destructive or constructive, or can any emotion be enacted constructively or destructively? What is the role of subjective experience of emotion in the overall function of emotion? Buddhism places great emphasis on the role of experience while modern psychological and neurobiological accounts of emotion place less emphasis on the experiential component. Buddhism underscores the importance of suffering. Is there some teleological significance to suffering? Are there neurobiological parallels? Buddhist accounts emphasize training the mind as a strategy for improving emotional qualities. What are the scientific bases of these practices and what do these practices imply for the stability and plasticity of emotional traits?
INTERPRETER: Thupten Jinpa
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
R. Adam Engle
Mind & Life Chief Scientific Advisor, Center for Healthy Minds at University of Wisconsin-Madison