Conversations on Altruism and Compassion, Between Scientists, Economists, and the Dalai Lama
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Proceedings from the 2010 Mind & Life Institute conference, featuring dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama and two collaborators founded the Mind & Life Institute to create “collaboration between modern sciences, the world's living contemplative traditions, philosophy, humanities and social sciences.” The conference brought scientists, economists and philosophers together with the Dalai Lama to discuss how best Western science and humanities might work with Eastern philosophies like Buddhism to organize new secular ethics based on altruism and compassion. Participants included experimental social psychologist Donald Batson, editor Singer, the director of the Department of Neuroscience at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, and Lord Richard Layard, the founding director of the Center for Economic Performance, among others. The Dalai Lama, who participated in all of the sessions of the two-day conference, made clear his view “that the entirety of humanity needs altruism or empathy, not necessarily as part of their religious faith but to reduce certain problems we are facing today due to their absence.” The proceedings were organized into three sections: scientific and related research (Singer's work on current neuroscience and empathy, and psychiatrist Richard Davidson's research into compassion); Buddhist and economic perspectives on compassion (Layard's research into the economics of happiness); and examples of altruism in practical work (former Credit Suisse executive Arthur Vayloyan’s discussion of microfinance and how smart investments can generate social, environmental and financial profits at the same time). The Dalai Lama contributed his thoughts on the need for “more research…on how to introduce secular ethics into the modern educational system,” as well as on the research reported. He argues that science and secular ethics provide a more universal basis than even all major religions acting together could.

An intriguing report on unusual objectives pursued through outreach and debate.

Pub Date: April 7th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-250-06412-7
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Picador
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2015


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