Hartford Seminary

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Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 - hARTsem DAYS: Celebrate the Arts and Spirituality at Hartford Seminary

Psychopathy and the New Manichean Challenge to Moral Agency

New evidence recently has emerged in the fields of neurology and psychology which suggests that psychopathic behavior is a predictable and scarcely preventable manifestation of a damaged brain, revealed by callous and unemotional traits detectable in children even at a very young age. These findings have re-awakened age-old discussions about the relationship between free will and the commission of terrible wrongdoing. For example, subscribers to the Manichean model of evil, many of whom are attracted to a theology heavily reliant on the Book of Revelation, are prone to interpret favorably new research which supports the notion that psychopathic behavior results from defective brains, seeing it as further evidence of Satan acting in the world. This talk will present and evaluate this new “Manichean” challenge to standard (e.g. Kantian) accounts of evil that tend to rely, among other things, on a robust sense of personal responsibility.

Andrew M. Flescher is Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University in Stony Brook, N.Y., specializing in religion, ethics, and medical humanities and the co-director for the Masters Program in Compassionate Care, Bioethics, and Medical Humanities. He currently serves on the Stony Brook Hospital Ethics Committee and Organ Donor Council. Dr. Flescher was previously (2000?2009) Associate Professor of Religion, Ethics, and Society at California State University, Chico. He received his B.A. in Medieval and Renaissance Studies and History from Duke University (1991) and his M.A. (1995) and Ph.D. (2000) in Religious Studies from Brown University. He has published articles and book reviews in the Journal of Religion, Journal of Religion and Society, Dialogue and Alliance, Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, among others. He is the author of two books: ?Heroes, Saints, and Ordinary Morality? (2003) and ?The Altruistic Species: Scientific, Philosophical, and Religious Perspectives of Human Benevolence,? co-author (2007). ?The Altruistic Species? earned the Choice award for outstanding academic title (2009) and the course which inspired it, ?What Motivates Altruism?,? taught with co-author Dr. Daniel Worthen, won a national award. Currently Dr. Flescher is finishing his third book, ?Four Models of Moral Evil.? Dr. Flescher spent much of this past summer in Hamburg, Germany and Lisbon, Portugal, delivering papers on the relationship between hope and healing.

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