The Science of Generosity Initiative – University of Notre Dame

The Science of Generosity Initiative – University of Notre Dame


Research initiatives like Notre Dame
Science of Generosity Project are important because they bring together
researchers from different disciplines all of whom are working on generosity. When you bring together people from different disciplines one of the things
that happens is they start to ask questions that they didn’t think of
before and, of course, for researchers answers to questions are very important. We focus appropriately so on the answers to well-defined questions but
real creativity and real innovation often comes when somebody asks for the
first time a brand new question. The Notre Dame Science and Generosity
Project is making that happen more often. It’s catalyzing that by bringing
together researchers from different disciplines all to ask questions about
generosity. I think initiatives like the Science of Generosity are
important for two reasons. First, they’re intrinsically
interdisciplinary. I mean they call forth a set of interactions between scientists
that span the natural and the social sciences and that’s always, at least for
me, the most exciting place to be when it comes to science and scientific
discovery. Second, they are a kind of cross-cutting initiative when you focus
on something like generosity which spans so many disciplines it not only provides
integrative opportunities for different disciplines, but it also
provides a kind of a kind of synthetic access to the scientific frontier where
by asking a big question like that it moves a whole group of scientists from
different disciplines simultaneously to the same point. It’s a very exciting
place to be. It’s a very exciting and important topic. These initiatives are important both because of the social problems that depend on
a better understanding of cultivating caring concern for others and these
initiatives are important because this one in particular is not
constrained or biased against views of generosity that allow for the
possibility that humans are intrinsically motivated to be generous
towards others. Traditionally other mechanisms would
reduce even something like generosity to the self-serving benefits that one gets
by being generous to another person and this initiative is taking a broad enough
perspective to cast a wide enough net to ensure that we’ll actually get
closer to understanding really what’s going on behind generous behavior and
perhaps we can learn about the answers to these questions more
efficiently.