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The Brain and the Meaning of Life 9: Ethical Brains


Ethical Decisions

Hume was undoubtedly right that there are no sound deductive arguments that can take you from empirical facts about the world to the acceptance of particular or general moral judgments (2363).

Note: Undoubtedly? I certainly have my own doubts.

Rather, I will move toward a moral theory that is highly coherent with what is known about how brains make moral decisions, and with other psychological and social facts (2364).

the existence of substantial amounts of moral agreement can be explained by the similarities of people with respect to physiology and social goals (2403).

Conscience and Moral Intuitions

Mirror Neurons
Mirror Neurons are supposedly one reason that human beings have an interest in other human beings’ well being.

Moral Motivation
Why be moral?

Ethical Theory

I don’t think that evidence about the brain is by itself sufficient to direct us to any one ethical theory that we ought to adopt, but I will try to show that such evidence puts some constraints on the evaluation of ethical theories(2508).

We need a moral theory that fits better with the empirical findings described earlier, including the following: 1. people have vital biological and psychological needs without whose satisfaction they are harmed; 2. moral intuitions are the result of neural processes that combine cognitive appraisal and bodily perception; and 3. mirror neurons are a major source of empathic appreciation of harm done to others, motivating people to care about others (2522).

Consequentialism is the philosophical view that whether an act is right or wrong depends only on the effects it has on all people concerned (2525).

The argument in chapter 7 that people aim for multiple goals and not just happiness suggests that pluralistic consequentialism is more plausible than hedonistic utilitarianism

Moral Objectivity

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