Hardwired Behavior: What Neuroscience Reveals about Morality

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In many areas of modern life rapid developments in science are overwhelming established norms. Brain biology, through DNA testing and advanced brain imaging techniques, has given medical scientists new insights into the functioning of the human mind. This erosion of long-standing beliefs has many implications for understanding and treating what society considers to be aberrant or immoral behavior. What medical science is indicating is that the focus of our emphasis on mental processes—particularly free will and intentionality—is shifting to recognition of the important role the physical brain plays on human thought and behavior. In Hardwired Behavior the author argues that social morality begins in the brain, for without the brain there would be no concept of morality. Individual responsibility, therefore, must be reconsidered in the light of biological brain processes. The question of whether new scientific findings destroy the relevance of free will, placing it in the context of biological forces that may operate outside the conscious control of the actor, is one of intense debate. Hardwired Behavior takes this question and moves it into the open by clearly detailing neuroscience discoveries and explaining how the ancient precepts of "morality" that have guided mankind throughout its history must now be seen through the new lens of brain biology.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"No one writes as well about these topics as Laurence Tancredi-he is versed in history, philosophy and legal thought with a sophisticated background and understanding of the neurosciences. In this book Dr. Tancredi expertly guides the reader through the complex issues of free will and morality and what new insights are gained through discoveries in the science of the brain."
- Myrna Weissman, Professor of Epidemiology and Psychiatry, College of Physician and Surgeons, Columbia University

"I've read Dr. Tancredi's manuscript carefully and found it fascinating. Dr. Tancredi's provocative and challenging thesis is explored lucidly and systematically. He weaves together clinical cases, research findings, and theory into a provocative and wholly original consideration of the entire notion of free-will and the biological bases of moral behavior. He explains how brain structure and function influence the processing and content of our thoughts and the actions that result, creating a highly original and readable syntheses. Dr. Tancredi is able to present complex and wide-ranging material in an accessible and comprehensible fashing, making for a truly fascinating tale."
— Arthur J. Barsky, M.D., Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School, Director of Psyhiatric Research, Brigham & Women's Hospital

"Joining together the forensic skills of a lawyer and a psychiatrist, Tancredi probes the neurological foundations of moral thought in this fascinating new work. If we are indeed 'hardwired' for morality, then we may someday have the power to rehabilitate even those who today seem to stand completely outside the pales of our moral community, such as the serial killer on death row whom Tancredi interviewed for the book. In a speculative and provocative last chapter, he shows that lawyers can imagine the future through 'law fiction,' just as scientists have done for so long through better established genre of science fiction."
— Shelia Jasanoff, Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Techonology Studies, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard

"...a genuine contribution to increasing public understanding of neuroscience and moral behavior...In addition to providing content that is easy to read, the author makes his commitment to communication evident in early chapters of the book with simple illustrations of relevant neuroanatomy...a straightforward glossary of terms, and a lengthy but excellent notes section...the close alignment of neuroscientific findings about hardwired behavior with ethical and intelligent thinking that respects and honors personal and cultural values is vital. The concept of close alignment is one with which this reviewer agress wholeheartedly and one that should be embraced by all neuroscientists."
—Judy Illes, Stanford University School of Medicine, Nature Neuroscience

"The book's strength lies in its accessibility: the author clearly describes neural systems that contribute to moral behavior, and then relates those systems to illustrative clinical cases. The writing style and topics are at exactly the right level to excite and fascinate undergraduates, especially those from a non-neuroscience background. Highly recommended."
— Choice

"Laurence Tancredi writes cogently in this fascinating, easy to read volume of the genetic basis of human behaviors."

"Neuroscience is progressing extremely rapidly, and there is increasing interest in brain activity relevant to social cognition, addiction, gambling and reward. In this
—Kevin J. Black, PsycCritique

"Thinking entails noticing when we have allowed the instinct for binaries to keep us from the complexity of the phenomena at hand. In much of Hardwired Behavior, Tancredi helps us get over that instinct, and for that we should be grateful."
—- Erik Parsons, The Hastings Center

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521127394
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 6/28/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 1,021,152
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Laurence R. Tancredi, a psychiatrist-lawyer, is a Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at New York University School of Medicine and the author or coauthor of numerous articles and several books on topics in law, ethics and psychiatry, including Dangerous Diagnostics: The Social Power of Biological Information (1994) and When Law and Medicine Meet: A Cultural View (2004). Tancredi has a private practice in New York City and works as a forensic psychiatric consultant. He has consulted in dozens of legal cases involving a wide variety of psychiatric issues, from the effects of toxic environmental substances on brain function to criminal cases involving assault, rape and homicide.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Preface; 1. Neuroscience and morality; 2. Morality and the mind; 3. Beyond the mind zone; 4. Morality and the brain; 5. Bad without conscience; 6. Biology of choice; 7. Sex and the single moral code; 8. Brain biology and sex; 9. Deception; 10. The biology of money; 11. The bad and the mad; 12. Creating a moral brain; Glossary; Notes; Index.

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