Philosophy Lecture Brings Controversial Discussion to the College

16 October 2013 | 11:05 am By:

Is bad biology partly to blame for some kids growing up to be cold-blooded killers? And if so, should parents find out if their children are predisposed? What should they do with the information? Adrian Raine, author of The Anatomy of Violence, will bring this controversial discussion to the College of Charleston on November 14, 2013 at 6 p.m. in the auditorium of the School of Sciences and Mathematics Building (202 Calhoun St.). The event is free and open to the public.

Adrian Raine

Adrian Raine

“Discussions on this issue can get very heated,” says Thomas Nadelhoffer, a College of Charleston philosophy professor specializing in neuroethics. “Adrian Raine is really challenging the theory that has been held for the past 50 years. He’s saying that environmental factors – like being abused as a child – are partly to blame for people becoming criminals, but that biology – like a low resting heart rate – is also to blame. He goes even further in asking what policymakers are going to do about it.”

[Related: Read Nadelhoffer’s review of the book.]

For more than three decades, Raine has been researching the biological roots of violence and establishing neurocriminology, a new field that applies neuroscience techniques to investigate the causes and cures of crime. In The Anatomy of Violence, Raine argues that violent behavior has a biological basis just like depression or schizophrenia. This raises questions about treatment, accountability and punishment, including the death penalty.

Nadelhoffer says, “My hope is that Raine’s lecture opens the door for discussion on these big issues. I want philosophy students to pay attention to the science and think through what that could mean for policy and the law. Many disciplines will have to work together to tackle these big issues.”

Neurocriminology at College of Charleston

This lecture is part of Nadelhoffer’s Neuroethics First Year Experience Seminar, and Raine’s visit is funded by a FYE Campus Event Grant. In addition to reading chapters of the book, students are writing book reviews and op-eds. Next semester, he will be teaching a senior seminar on the same topic and plans to bring Patricia Churchland to speak. Churchland pioneered the neurophilosophy field.

Nadelhoffer has also coordinated a neuroscience reading group, which meets weekly to discuss The Anatomy of Violence.

For more information, contact Thomas Nadelhoffer at

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