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.
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1 . Watch out! The philosopers are coming
Posted March 30, 2011 by Kathleen McClure , Vancouver, BCIn her book, bRAINTRUST: WHAT NEUROSCIENCE TELLS US ABOUT MORALITY,
Patrica S. Churchland puts philosophies about morality, ancient and current, on the same page as information about brain circurity, the latest in neuroscience, and the mystery yet to be mined in the human pre-frontal cortex. She muses about the role of religon and morality throughout and explains research into animal and bird communities.
This book is a daring venture for a philosopher but one which adds to a reader's general knowledge. Her ideas are backed up by extensive and useful footnotes and this makes the book a platform for lively discussion. The concept of a "motherboard" (as opposed to ironing board) has several dimensions and would even confound moral philosophers of the last century. While Churchland may be challenged in every possible way she has, at the very least, brought "philosophy" into the 21st century .
Princeton University Press
March 20, 2011
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