Speaker urges students to shift focus to internal matters

Azka Khan

The American public does not like to talk about the soul and, therefore, it focuses on the body.

That is the argument Peter Lawler presented last night in the Student Center at a guest lecture, which was sponsored by Libraries and Media Services and the Intercollegiate Studies Institute.

Lawler is a Dana professor and chair of the government and international studies department at Berry College. He is the author of Aliens in America, Stuck in Virtue and Homeless and At Home in America.

His argument was centered on the use of biotechnology by modern society and the virtue surrounding its use.

“The most basic human problems are made harder by biotechnology,” Lawler said. “It’s harder to be virtuous when you know that you don’t have to be.”

He said virtue is being threatened by the concept of longevity and the biotechnologies concerning memory and mood control.

“It is easy to be virtuous when you know you are going to die,” Lawler said. “But people are living longer and are healthy, and so life almost becomes indefinite.”

Lawler then presented his reasoning against memory control.

“To selectively expunge memories, you would have to know a lot more than you really do (in order) to know what you want to forget and what you don’t want to forget,” he said.

Lawler said depression medication and other technologies that control moods will continue to develop and be recommended to people.

“When you start to mess with people’s moods, you really start to mess with their life experiences,” he said. “Mood control doesn’t work because you have a right to your moods.”

He said it would be very difficult to live if people could design their moods because then they would have to stop and think about what they want their mood to be.

“You have to be alienated enough to appreciate Johnny Cash,” Lawler said. “But not enough to be Johnny Cash.”

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