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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

IAS Fellows' Seminar - Thinking fast, slow and better with the Greeks

29th February 2016, 13:00 to 14:00, IAS Seminar Room, Palace Green, Dr Jon Hesk (University of St Andrews, UK)

In this paper Dr Hesk will set Greek writing about deliberative and intellectual virtue into a dialogue with very recent social-scientific and philosophical research on cognition and decision-making. Dr Hesk's preliminary reading around behavioural economics, cognitive science and political theory suggests that Greek texts are urgently salient when critiquing the current academic emphasis on the inevitability of human biases, heuristics, errors and preferences. For the Greeks were fascinated by the pathologies of human decision-making and the difficulty of interpreting evidence too. Through a series case studies from Homer, Greek drama, Greek historiography and the orators, Dr Hesk will show how these texts document, highlight, moralize upon and manipulate, various intellectual ‘vices’. For example, Homer and Greek tragedy debate the effects of what scientists now label as ‘availability bias’, ‘polarization’, ‘groupthink’ and many other categories of epistemic-deliberative error. By recognizing this, we improve our readings of these epics and plays. And while we might assume that Greek texts offered a pessimistic vision in which we are doomed to err, Dr Hesk's examples offer a more complex picture. The Greeks help us to learn from our mistakes.

Fellows' seminars take place on Monday lunchtimes in the seminar room at Cosin's Hall.

Places are limited and so any academic colleagues interested in attending a seminar should contact the Institute in advance to reserve a place.

The aim of these seminars is to develop new thinking on the big issues that are of current concern/interest for the Fellows . Each Fellow is asked to present a core idea that informs their current work, or a problem that they are tackling, that could benefit from cross-disciplinary thinking. These seminars are informal and designed to encourage discussion.

Contact for more information about this event.