A Philosophy Lesson That's Most Enlightening
Thynne, Jane, The Independent (London, England)
The Week in Radio
Eerie though it was that the killing of Bin Laden should coincide with a Start the Week devoted to the problem of evil, I don't imagine its message would go down too well with the headline writers. Because instead of talking about "Evil", according to the neuroscientist Simon Baron-Cohen, we should be referring to "a radical lack of empathy". According to his theory, which has prompted widespread interest already, around 10 sites in the brain are responsible for our empathy circuit, which affects our ability to commit callous acts, and this circuit depends on an interplay of genes and environment. Those with zero empathy need treatment. "Rather than putting them in prison we should be treating them in the health service. Empathy deficit is a disability no different from being in a wheelchair," he said.
Start the Week is often a bit of a bland porridge, but this debate was far more controversial. Along with Gwen Adshead who treats psychotic criminals, and Val McDermid, who writes novels about them, the seriousness of the subject meant no one even bothered to tweet Andrew Marr about injunctions the way they did on TV. Probably only a third of empathy deficit can be explained genetically, it emerges, and more disruptions to empathy come from the way we treat young children, not that any parent wanted to dwell on that after the Bank Holiday weekend. When Julian Baggini took the argument on its logical path by questioning the notion of self, and referring to David Hume's Bundle theory, we were into Melvyn Bragg territory and simply didn't want the conversation to end.
By chance there was a Bank Holiday special on David Hume, which seemed a very Radio 4ish type of treat and not quite the enticement you might need to stay in. Yet despite its dry flavour, Allan Little's exploration of the great empiricist was well worth it. Hume is a rather apt hero for a journalist. As well …
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Publication information: Article title: A Philosophy Lesson That's Most Enlightening. Contributors: Thynne, Jane - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: May 5, 2011. Page number: 20. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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