Thursday, June 25, 2020

In denial of life as felt …

… Conscience by Patricia Churchland book review - The TLS. (Hat tip, Dave Lull.)

To argue that we are “wired to care” tells us nothing about how our sense of good and evil, of right and wrong, is expressed in our daily lives not only as individual agents, but also as members of complex societies, or as citizens of nations. Churchland’s neuro-ethics seems steadfastly to ignore the entirety of human history and prehistory in which the moral codes with which we do and do not comply have been forged. It does not strike her as improbable that all the various views, historical and contemporary, espoused by disparate prophets, clerics, ideologues, teachers, legislators, role models, parents and moral philosophers are determined solely by asocial, ahistorical, tenseless nano-squirts of dopamine and oxytocin. Our moral intuitions are expressed through incurring, and delivering, or not delivering, on complex webs of obligations, on contracts and covenants. Bioscience has even less to say about the cauldron of arguments, precedents, agonizing decisions and indecisions, where moral expectations are forged, respected and knowingly breached. For those not blinded by neurophilosophy, the “moral intuition” of her subtitle is something that is developed, and argued over, in the extracranial spaces of the communal human world.

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