24 24
Jan Jan
2019 2019
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Brain and Mind: Criminality and the Brain

17:00 to 19:15

What happened at the event

This term's topic of the popular St Hilda's 'Brain and Mind - from Concrete to Abstract' series of workshops was 'Criminality and the Brain'.

Professor Peter Hacker (University of Oxford), Professor Daniel Whiting (University of Oxford), and Professor Lucy Bowes (University of Oxford) addressed this topic from the point of views of psychiatry, psychology, and philosophy, respectively. Val McDermid, the crime writer, was a guest speaker. 

Dr Anita Avramides, St Hilda's Fellow in Philosophy, welcomed the audience of undergraduate and graduate students, A-level students, and members of the public, before introducing the first speaker, Professor Peter Hacker, who gave a talk entitled 'On the Nature of Evil'. 


The concept of evil is subjected to connective analysis. The varieties of badness are briefly surveyed and evil is distinguished from badness and wickedness. The reality of evil is defended against those who think the concept to be obsolete. Neuroscience reduction of evil is repudiated. The relationship between evil and motivation is examined and what counts as understanding evil is adumbrated. The connection between evil doing and the death of the soul is clarified.

The second speaker was Professor Daniel Whiting, who spoke on 'Forensic psychiatry - what, why and how?'


The talk will give a brief overview of the history and contemporary role, structure and practice of forensic psychiatry and secure hospital services in England, the complex relationship between mental illness and violence, and the challenges of risk assessment.

Next, Professor Lucy Bowes spoke on 'Designing interventions for bullying for use in low and middle income countries'


Bullying is a major risk factor for poor educational, health and social outcomes. Despite evidence from high-income countries that whole-school interventions are effective at reducing prevalence rates of bullying, there is a lack of evidence-based, sustainable programs for low-resource settings. Whole-school interventions are often expensive to implement, involve substantial staff training, and have only been trialled in high-income settings, where student-staff ratios are relatively low and school resources are relatively high. Recent systematic reviews of school-based interventions targeting peer violence have not identified a single successful RCT conducted in either a lower or a middle-income country The Indonesian school system is both diverse and vast. With over 50 million students and 2.6 million teachers in more than 250,000 schools, it is the third largest education system in the Asia region and the fourth largest in the world. Nationally representative data on bullying from the Global School Health Survey (GSHS) in 2015 suggests that over 20% of Indonesian children in grades 7-9 reported experiencing bullying in the last month. Whilst bullying is recognised as a serious issue in Indonesia, there ia a lack of evidence-based interventions implemented in the country, with no randomized controlled trials identified. This talk describes the development and implementation of a novel peer-led intervention for reducing peer violence and bullying among adolescents in Indonesia.

Finally, the audience heard from our guest speaker, best-selling author and St Hilda's alumna, ValMcDermid, on 'Making Murders-How motivations have changed in crime fiction'.


From the earliest days of crime fiction, writers have been as interested in whydunit as whodunit. But our understanding of what motivates people to break taboos and commit terrible acts has changed and developed over the years. I'll be exploring how and why these changes have come about and how the genre has come to embrace greater depth and breadth.