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Moralities of everyday life from Yale University

This course explores the psychological foundations of our moral lives.  Over 6 weeks it looks to explain kindness and cruelty, questions  around where our sense of right and wrong comes from and why there is so much disagreement about moral issues.

Beginning with some of the big debates in the field of moral psychology we looked at philosophical approaches eg the roles of reason versus emotion and whether or not disgust influences us.  The middle weeks covered the historical origins of morality  and where there is diversity and unity.  We were given an inside look into some recent human laboratory studies.  These  were outlined to help us understand how quickly babies began to develop a moral prospect.  It was amazing to see how instinctively a toddler went to offer help to an adult struggling with a task.  This led us into differences between how societies formed their morals and what roles politics and religion played in morality.

Going a little deeper and on a more personal note we studied how powerfully our groups eg family and friends affected us as apposed to how we treated strangers.  What is the correlation between empathy and compassion?  Here we looked at stereotypes and considered the accuracy of making moral decisions based on stereotype.  This of course included ethnicity, race, bias and strangers.  We considered if it was easy to show kindness to strangers.  At times the course put us into situations to see how we responded to moral scenarios.

The course finished with an attempt to answer some of the big questions.  Here we discussed some clever studies that showed how our moral  behaviour is powerfully influenced at an unconscious level by situations we find ourselves in.  These findings raised questions about free will and moral responsibility.  If our moral actions are determined by our brains, our genes and our situations then in what sense are we moral agents?

This is the 9th course I have completed via Coursera and I have enjoyed every one of them.  Firstly because you have access to the brain bank of top international Professors and Researchers.  The presenters are all specialists in their field.  Secondly because there is always new knowledge to learn and it is only a mouse click and some time away.

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