The neurological basis of morality concluded

We will conclude our discussion of the book Braintrust by Patricia Churchland and her views on the neurological basis of morality. I expect everyone to be on their best behavior no matter what morality their neurology supports.

Join or login to comment.

  • Richard M.

    Here is a link to a 17 minute portion of a TED talk by Dan Ariely on "Our Buggy Moral Code":

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gomg-PrQUTk

    He talks about cheating and what things influence the likelihood of cheating.

    February 19, 2013

    • Rick W.

      While I realize this is very difficult for any person to accept comfortably, the thought that Mankind is important is just an intuition, and I have not seen any demonstrated evidence that this intuition has been tested. In fact, the more you believe things like "humans are the sole direct cause of global warming," the more one should drift towards an intuition that Mankind "could be" the worst thing that ever happened to the planet, which might makes us inportant to Mother Earth, just not in the way we think ourselves so important.

      February 23, 2013

    • Steve A.

      Well, our language is (or at least can be) very imprecise. To me, an "intuitive" person is one who relies a lot on their intuition (which I view as unconscious processing of experience and information) to make decisions. For me, they don't need to be right a lot to be intuitive. In fact, I don't know how any of us could witness enough of anyone else's "intuitive decisions" to determine a % correct.

      February 23, 2013

  • Rick W.

    I guess what I am asking is: Which of these is a "Good snowflake?" http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/class/class.htm. For me, they all are - all of the "Bad snowflakes" are not observable (can't be formed in human observable ways - yet).

    I understand people want to treat humanity differently than snowflakes, but both seem within the realm of Nature to me - we are just really complicated snowflakes.

    February 22, 2013

  • Rick W.

    (righteous indignation :: overt racism) may not be related the same way (broke :: wealthy) are. The first may be more of a inverted bell curve with "the most beneficial spot" being at the bottom/center (or very little of each), the second is more of a tangent curve where "the most beneficial spot" many consider to be 'one end over the other'. Now, I am not saying I know this, as that might be hypocritical - just that if one found themselves in an overactive state of RI, they would not correct it by swinging to the same amount of OR (or visa verse). That is, one does not fix/cure/solve the other, they are both equally problematic in their extreme. (Not to exclude that some would argure weath does this too in some ways)

    I don't like "Good" because "what is Good to one's self" seems to be entirely an emotional derived element, disguised as logically deduced (Man is a rationalizing animal <-- Something several authors we have read seem to agree with).

    February 21, 2013

  • Curt H.

    I don't know how moral codes get started, but I would guess that it starts with informal agreements between people that become formally established. I would also guess that it was some priests who got together to write the Ten Commandments and credited it to God to get people to obey. It's also possible, I suppose, that they went into some kind of trance. For most of us, though, we don't get to design from scratch. We start with something already there and only get to modify it if we have enough influence. When it becomes clear to most people that a moral rule is not working, then there is pressure to change it (e.g., abortion prohibitions). One could throw out the whole traditional idea of "Good" and substitute "desirable," and that would perhaps be a better word to use. But I like "Good" because there is an emotional element and sometimes righteous indignation is the correct response (e.g., overt racism).

    February 21, 2013

  • Rick W.

    Oh, I can defend myself just fine, but there would have been no value in trying. It's not wise to cast spells at a witch hunt.

    "They are designed to solve social problems" - it really depends on what you mean by 'designed' here, and that term would seem to be incongruent with you paraphrasing her as being "... very clear that she did not think there was any natural or supernatural basis for a moral code..."

    It is either by design or it is by happenstance. If it is by design, than "Good" is always in alignment with the design, and "Bad" is everything out-of-alignment. If it is by happenstance, than all we have is what "most" people agree to, and then, it is only contextually good (lower case intentional).

    If you believe you are in line with "the design," then you will have no problem championing a righteous cause. I hope I would always oppose it, even if I like and agree with the cause - but I am human, so likely flawed in intention and execution.

    February 19, 2013

    • Steve A.

      Seems to me, in the context of the paraphrasing, "they are designed..." means something other than what Intelligent Design folks mean when they say designed. Namely, we (humans) are the designers of the specific morals of our culture. I mean who else is there to design anything?

      February 20, 2013

  • Curt H.

    I am sorry that you felt that you were part of the out-group, Rick. You are usually not so reticent as to not state your objections. I am very curious to know what they are. I certainly did not draw the same conclusions that you did. I thought Churchland was saying that morality is for the well-being and smooth functioning of a society and it is up to the society to determine the rules it lives by. This does not mean that the grounding is "whatever one says it should be." They are designed to solve social problems, and each society has their own take on it. In our society, each is free to offer their own opinion in order to try to influence what these rules should be and do. She was very clear that she did not think there was any natural or supernatural basis for a moral code, except for how our own brains work.

    February 19, 2013

  • Curt H.

    Once again these meetings -- between the reading and listening to people's ideas related to the reading -- have helped to coalesce my own ideas about morality, epistemology, metaphysics, or whatever it is that we might be examining.

    February 19, 2013

  • Corrinne B

    Hmmm. It didn't seem as if we took up that issue or that Churchland really addressed it either and it is interesting: does her neurobased discussion of morality provide moral protection for those individuals which society does not support? This is a critical moral issue and one which Mill and Kant address better than does Aristotle-who (whom) Churchand prefers. But, if I understood Churchland, I think she is building a neurobased theory of morality which considers the many ways in which our brains/selves prefer social attachment and the ways in which it problem-solves re: social issues. And she believes that any moral rule or law has exceptions and must be evidenced backed to have any credibility. So I guess, we could say that protecting the individual from the tyranny of the majority (Mill's term) has evolutionary and social advantages, which I think it does. BUT Churchland's analysis does not include attention or speculation about this vexing problem.

    February 19, 2013

  • Rick W.

    Least favorite meeting I ever attended. The grounding of morality, at least based from last night's meeting, is "whatever one says it should be," reinforced by "whenever that is acceptable to near-proximity groups that person desires to belong to." I learned that morality can be highly social, with in-grouping playing a huge factor. Unfortunately for me, I was in the out-group, which seemed to make me "one of the bad people," at least for the night.

    Approximately 2.5 million people die each year from alcohol related causes, the WHO said in its "Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health."

    Maybe we should ban alcohol!

    "Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it," Santayana

    Yea, it's the tools, not the craftsman that invents, creates, and builds - I keep forgetting that.

    Rick

    February 19, 2013

    • Jon A.

      Rick, I don't understand. I wasn't there (sorry) so might you briefly describe what you think put you on the "outs"?

      February 19, 2013

  • Bill H.

    Great meeting. Warm friendly discussion. But conclusive still elusive. Like most folks, I know right from wrong - but still don't know how I know it. Bill

    February 19, 2013

  • Jon A.

    Whatever is going around got me! Hope the conversation goes well. :-)

    February 18, 2013

    • Andrea

      You were missed, feel better :)

      February 19, 2013

  • Andrea

    Twas a Good night! Thanks everyone for sharing your spiffy conversations and careful listening, Cheers! (Get it? Good--'cause we're talking about morality? hehe.)

    February 19, 2013

  • Bill H.

    'Sounds interesting! See you there.

    February 13, 2013

  • Corrinne B

    Enjoyed the meeting discussing the first half of the book. Look forward to discussing Churchland's conclusions.

    February 3, 2013

10 went

People in this
Meetup are also in:

Create your own Meetup Group

Get started Learn more
Henry

I decided to start Reno Motorcycle Riders Group because I wanted to be part of a group of people who enjoyed my passion... I was excited and nervous. Our group has grown by leaps and bounds. I never thought it would be this big.

Henry, started Reno Motorcycle Riders

Sign up

Meetup members, Log in

By clicking "Sign up" or "Sign up using Facebook", you confirm that you accept our Terms of Service & Privacy Policy