Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality

Princeton University Press
1
Free sample

What is morality? Where does it come from? And why do most of us heed its call most of the time? In Braintrust, neurophilosophy pioneer Patricia Churchland argues that morality originates in the biology of the brain. She describes the "neurobiological platform of bonding" that, modified by evolutionary pressures and cultural values, has led to human styles of moral behavior. The result is a provocative genealogy of morals that asks us to reevaluate the priority given to religion, absolute rules, and pure reason in accounting for the basis of morality.

Moral values, Churchland argues, are rooted in a behavior common to all mammals--the caring for offspring. The evolved structure, processes, and chemistry of the brain incline humans to strive not only for self-preservation but for the well-being of allied selves--first offspring, then mates, kin, and so on, in wider and wider "caring" circles. Separation and exclusion cause pain, and the company of loved ones causes pleasure; responding to feelings of social pain and pleasure, brains adjust their circuitry to local customs. In this way, caring is apportioned, conscience molded, and moral intuitions instilled. A key part of the story is oxytocin, an ancient body-and-brain molecule that, by decreasing the stress response, allows humans to develop the trust in one another necessary for the development of close-knit ties, social institutions, and morality.

A major new account of what really makes us moral, Braintrust challenges us to reconsider the origins of some of our most cherished values.

Read more

About the author

Patricia S. Churchland is professor emerita of philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute. Her books include Brain-Wise and Neurophilosophy. In 1991, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship.
Read more
4.0
1 total
Loading...

Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
Read more
Published on
Feb 1, 2011
Read more
Pages
288
Read more
ISBN
9781400838080
Read more
Language
English
Read more
Genres
Medical / Neuroscience
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Psychology / Applied Psychology
Psychology / Neuropsychology
Psychology / Physiological Psychology
Science / General
Read more
Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
Read more
Read Aloud
Available on Android devices
Read more
Eligible for Family Library

Reading information

Smartphones and Tablets

Install the Google Play Books app for Android and iPad/iPhone. It syncs automatically with your account and allows you to read online or offline wherever you are.

Laptops and Computers

You can read books purchased on Google Play using your computer's web browser.

eReaders and other devices

To read on e-ink devices like the Sony eReader or Barnes & Noble Nook, you'll need to download a file and transfer it to your device. Please follow the detailed Help center instructions to transfer the files to supported eReaders.
A trailblazing philosopher’s exploration of the latest brain science—and its ethical and practical implications. What happens when we accept that everything we feel and think stems not from an immaterial spirit but from electrical and chemical activity in our brains? In this thought-provoking narrative—drawn from professional expertise as well as personal life experiences—trailblazing neurophilosopher Patricia S. Churchland grounds the philosophy of mind in the essential ingredients of biology. She reflects with humor on how she came to harmonize science and philosophy, the mind and the brain, abstract ideals and daily life.

Offering lucid explanations of the neural workings that underlie identity, she reveals how the latest research into consciousness, memory, and free will can help us reexamine enduring philosophical, ethical, and spiritual questions: What shapes our personalities? How do we account for near-death experiences? How do we make decisions? And why do we feel empathy for others? Recent scientific discoveries also provide insights into a fascinating range of real-world dilemmas—for example, whether an adolescent can be held responsible for his actions and whether a patient in a coma can be considered a self.

Churchland appreciates that the brain-based understanding of the mind can unnerve even our greatest thinkers. At a conference she attended, a prominent philosopher cried out, “I hate the brain; I hate the brain!” But as Churchland shows, he need not feel this way. Accepting that our brains are the basis of who we are liberates us from the shackles of superstition. It allows us to take ourselves seriously as a product of evolved mechanisms, past experiences, and social influences. And it gives us hope that we can fix some grievous conditions, and when we cannot, we can at least understand them with compassion.

The Computational Brain, das außergewöhnliche Buch über vergleichende Forschung in den Bereichen von menschlichem Gehirn und neuesten Möglichkeiten der Computertechnologie, liegt hiermit erstmals in deutscher Sprache vor. Geschrieben von einem führenden Forscherteam in den USA, ist es eine Fundgrube für alle, die wissen wollen, was der Stand der Wissenschaft auf diesem Gebiet ist. Die Autoren führen die Bereiche der Neuroinformatik und Neurobiologie mit gut ausgesuchten Beispielen und der gebotenen Hintergrundinformation gekonnt zusammen. Das Buch wird somit nicht nur dem Fachwissenschaftler sondern auch dem interdisziplinären Interesse des Informatikers und des Biologen auf eine hervorragende Weise gerecht.
Übersetzt wurde das Buch von Prof. Dr. Steffen Hölldobler und Dipl.-Biol. Claudia Hölldobler, einem Informatiker und einer Biologin.

Rezension in Spektrum der Wissenschaft
nr. 10, S. 122 f. im Oktober 1997
(...) Die 1992 erschienene amerikanische Originalausgabe des vorliegenden Werkes ist so erfolgreich, daß man bereits von einem Klassiker reden kann. (...)
(...) ....ist das Buch sehr zu empfehlen. In Verbindung von Neurobiologie und Neuroinformatik
konkurrenzlos, vermittelt es einiges von der Faszination theoretischer Hirnforschung, die auch in Deutschland zunehmend mehr Wissenschaftler in ihren Bann schlägt.


Rezension erschienen in: Computer Spektrum 3/1997, S. 2
(...)Das Buch wird somit nicht nur dem Fachwissenschaftler, sondern auch den interdisziplinären Interesse des Informatikers und des Biologen auf eine hervorragende Weise gerecht(...)
What is morality? Where does it come from? And why do most of us heed its call most of the time? In Braintrust, neurophilosophy pioneer Patricia Churchland argues that morality originates in the biology of the brain. She describes the "neurobiological platform of bonding" that, modified by evolutionary pressures and cultural values, has led to human styles of moral behavior. The result is a provocative genealogy of morals that asks us to reevaluate the priority given to religion, absolute rules, and pure reason in accounting for the basis of morality.

Moral values, Churchland argues, are rooted in a behavior common to all mammals--the caring for offspring. The evolved structure, processes, and chemistry of the brain incline humans to strive not only for self-preservation but for the well-being of allied selves--first offspring, then mates, kin, and so on, in wider and wider "caring" circles. Separation and exclusion cause pain, and the company of loved ones causes pleasure; responding to feelings of social pain and pleasure, brains adjust their circuitry to local customs. In this way, caring is apportioned, conscience molded, and moral intuitions instilled. A key part of the story is oxytocin, an ancient body-and-brain molecule that, by decreasing the stress response, allows humans to develop the trust in one another necessary for the development of close-knit ties, social institutions, and morality.

A major new account of what really makes us moral, Braintrust challenges us to reconsider the origins of some of our most cherished values.

©2018 GoogleSite Terms of ServicePrivacyDevelopersArtistsAbout Google
By purchasing this item, you are transacting with Google Payments and agreeing to the Google Payments Terms of Service and Privacy Notice.