Friday, 26 April 2013

An interview with Alan Cornes, author of Moral Me

Moral Me: Making good decisions in an intercultural world (Empathy, prejudice and practical ethics in an age of neuroscience)

Q. Why did you write your latest book Moral Me?
A. I wanted to write a practical and useful book that wasn’t like anything else already out there.

Q. What’s it about (in tweetable length?)
A. It’s about what neuroscience and moral philosophy can tell us about empathy, prejudice, moral ethics, and making good decisions abroad and at home.
Q. Who has most inspired your thinking on these questions?
A. I have had an interest in different cultures, moral philosophy and neuroscience for many years and try to keep abreast of current developments. Those who work at the cutting edge of those fields inspire me.

Q. Your book is partly about making the right choices, but also avoiding embarrassing misunderstandings. Have you any experiences of these you’d dare to share?
A. Too many to mention and many too embarrassing to share.

Q. Can you say a little about what intercultural communication?
A.Intercultural communication in its most basic form refers to an academic field of study and research that seeks to understand how people from different countries and cultures behave, communicate and perceive the world around them. As an academic field it also includes contributions from anthropology, social and cultural studies, psychology and communication.

Q. Did you, whilst researching empathy and prejudice in neuroscience and moral philosophy, or whilst writing the book, change your mind about any of the issues?
A. Neuroscience has tended to confirm what I already thought about empathy and prejudice, moral philosophy however, has really helped to expand and clarify my thinking on the options open to you when you face a difficult moral dilemma.

Q. Do we need to, or can we ‘learn’ common-sense. How is it acquired and is it universal?
A. To use a sports analogy, many people can learn to run longer and faster with a bit of training but only a few have the innate capability to be an Olympian. We can all make improvements in the areas of empathy, in our awareness of our biases, and in how we meet the moral dilemmas that confront us, but some people are more empathetic than others, some are more open to the idea that they may harbour implicit bias and have the desire to over ride it and, not everyone has the courage to stand up for what they believe is right.

Q. If you weren’t an intercultural trainer and author, what would you do?
A. If I had no other commitments I’d like to do volunteer work again, probably with a development agency like Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) or Oxfam.

Q. Name a favourite book.
A. I feel I should name a heavyweight, something like Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment but actually, I like adventure, thillers, and pure escapism.

Q. What’s your next book going to be about?
A. I do have an idea for another book that would focus on language and empathy with again links to neuroscience but I’m keeping it under my hat for the moment. In the meantime I fancy a change. Perhaps I’ll revisit a novel, a thriller, I wrote a year or so ago but never got published. I need to decide how to rework it, more plot, sunshine and character development or more bullets and mayhem.

Read Moral Me here:

For a review copy please write to Erik Empson

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