John M. Doris F'08

John M. Doris
Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology Program
Washington University in St. Louis

ACLS Fellowship Program 2008
Associate Professor
Washington University in St. Louis
A Natural History of the Self

In much moral philosophy, persons are characterized by reflective activity—a conscious and concerted mentation effecting control of behavioral outcomes. In social and cognitive psychology, quantities of work on automatic processing suggest that this philosophical conception of persons is empirically inadequate; much human behavior is the outcome of processes that are not conscious, not controlled, and very often evaluatively incongruent with the deliverances of reflective deliberation. An empirically adequate conception of persons will therefore de-emphasize reflection; instead, the human ethical distinctiveness marked with honorifics such as “rational” and “person” is to be found in the collaborative social cognition and behavior of humans living in groups.