Conscience: The Origins of Moral Intuition

Conscience: The Origins of Moral Intuition

by Patricia S. Churchland


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How do we determine right from wrong? Conscience illuminates the answer through science and philosophy.

In her brilliant work Touching a Nerve, Patricia S. Churchland, the distinguished founder of neurophilosophy, drew from scientific research on the brain to understand its philosophical and ethical implications for identity, consciousness, free will, and memory. In Conscience, she explores how moral systems arise from our physical selves in combination with environmental demands.

All social groups have ideals for behavior, even though ethics vary among different cultures and among individuals within each culture. In trying to understand why, Churchland brings together an understanding of the influences of nature and nurture. She looks to evolution to elucidate how, from birth, our brains are configured to form bonds, to cooperate, and to care. She shows how children grow up in society to learn, through repetition and rewards, the norms, values, and behavior that their parents embrace.

Conscience delves into scientific studies, particularly the fascinating work on twins, to deepen our understanding of whether people have a predisposition to embrace specific ethical stands. Research on psychopaths illuminates the knowledge about those who abide by no moral system and the explanations science gives for these disturbing individuals.

Churchland then turns to philosophy—that of Socrates, Aquinas, and contemporary thinkers like Owen Flanagan—to explore why morality is central to all societies, how it is transmitted through the generations, and why different cultures live by different morals. Her unparalleled ability to join ideas rarely put into dialogue brings light to a subject that speaks to the meaning of being human.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781324000891
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 06/04/2019
Pages: 272
Sales rank: 416,771
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Patricia Churchland is the author of Touching a Nerve: Our Brains, Our Selves. She is professor emerita of philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, and the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Wired to Care 1

Chapter 1 The Snuggle for Survival 19

Chapter 2 Getting Attached 44

Chapter 3 Learning and Getting Along 70

Chapter 4 Norms and Values 96

Chapter 5 I'm Just That Way 110

Chapter 6 Conscience and Its Anomalies 126

Chapter 7 What's Love Got to Do with It? 148

Chapter 8 The Practical Side 180

Acknowledgments 193

Notes 195

Index 215

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