The Normative Insignificance of Neuroscience

Philosophy and Public Affairs 37 (4):293-329 (2009)
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Abstract

It has been claimed that the recent wave of neuroscientific research into the physiological underpinnings of our moral intuitions has normative implications. In particular, it has been claimed that this research discredits our deontological intuitions about cases, without discrediting our consequentialist intuitions about cases. In this paper I demur. I argue that such attempts to extract normative conclusions from neuroscientific research face a fundamental dilemma: either they focus on the emotional or evolved nature of the psychological processes underlying deontological intuitions, in which case the arguments rely on a blatantly fallacious inference, or they appeal to the (alleged) moral irrelevance of the factors to which deontological intuitions respond, in which case the neuroscientific results end up playing no role in the overall argument.

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Selim Berker
Harvard University

Citations of this work

The Neuroscience of Moral Judgment: Empirical and Philosophical Developments.Joshua May, Clifford I. Workman, Julia Haas & Hyemin Han - 2022 - In Felipe De Brigard & Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (eds.), Neuroscience and Philosophy. Cambridge, USA: MIT Press. pp. 17-47.
Evolutionary Debunking Arguments Meet Evolutionary Science.Arnon Levy & Yair Levy - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (3):491-509.
Intuition.Joel Pust - 2017 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Experimental moral philosophy.Mark Alfano, Don Loeb & Alex Plakias - 2018 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:1-32.
Experimental Attacks on Intuitions and Answers.John Bengson - 2013 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 86 (3):495-532.

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