At the nexus of learning and innovation
September 6, 11:30 am

Journeying in the foothills: Neuroscience, moral values and education presented by the Neuroscience and Education SIG of the CRLI

In his celebrated book, The Age of Empathy, primatologist Frans De Waal says that if we want to know how we reached the peaks of human civilisation and human morality we need to consider the foothills, starting our thinking from the bottom up, from animal biology and behaviour. This seminar will journey in the foothills in considering a possible interface between neuroscience, moral values and education. Derek Sankey will draw on his jointly written chapter ‘Cultivating moral values in an age of neuroscience’, in Neuroscience and education: A philosophical appraisal (Ed. C. Joldersma, 2016) to argue that neurobiology and the moral behaviour of animals can tell us much about human moral values and how they might be cultivated in education. However, this argument will inevitably raise controversial issues. Does it make any sense to talk about the morality of animals and, if it does, where did these moral values come from and how were they cultivated, without the need for schooling?

Also, philosophical issues such as our sense of conscious free will, scientific determinism and predictability, and reductionism, all of which impact our understanding of the human self and its education


Dr Derek Sankey is an Honorary Associate in the School of Education and Social Work at The University of Sydney, Australia. He combines a career-long commitment to the reform of teacher education with a lifelong teaching and research interest in the interface between the natural sciences and the humanities. His academic background is in philosophy of science, with a particular interest in the interface between science and philosophy of mind and brain. From 1983-86, he directed a national project for the Farmington Institute, Oxford on the teaching of science and the humanities He gained his PhD at London University, Institute of Education, where he was employed from 1986-1995 and played a leading role in developing a school-based partnership model of teacher education. He worked at the Hong Kong Institute of Education from 1995-2006, where he founded a Centre for Learning Study, and at Seoul National University (2008-10), before moving to Australia in 2010.  Over the past 20 years, his research and writing have progressively focused on the application of complexity (dynamic systems) theory and neurobiology to the notion of the human self and its education.