What is morality? Where does it come from? And why do most of us heed its call most of the time? In Braintrust, neurophilosophy pioneer Patricia Churchland argues that morality originates in the biology of the brain. She describes the "neurobiological platform of bonding" that, modified by evolutionary pressures and cultural values, has led to human styles of moral behavior. The result is a provocative genealogy of morals that asks us to reevaluate the priority given to religion, absolute rules, and pure reason in accounting for the basis of morality.
Moral values, Churchland argues, are rooted in a behavior common to all mammals: the caring for offspring. The evolved structure, processes, and chemistry of the brain incline humans to strive not only for self-preservation but for the well-being of allied selves - first offspring, then mates, kin, and so on, in wider and wider "caring" circles. Separation and exclusion cause pain, and the company of loved ones causes pleasure; responding to feelings of social pain and pleasure, brains adjust their circuitry to local customs. In this way, caring is apportioned, conscience molded, and moral intuitions instilled. A key part of the story is oxytocin, an ancient body-and-brain molecule that, by decreasing the stress response, allows humans to develop the trust in one another necessary for the development of close-knit ties, social institutions, and morality.
A major new account of what really makes us moral, Braintrust challenges us to reconsider the origins of some of our most cherished values.
©2011 Princeton University Press (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
Churchland has contributed to a 21st century philosophy grounded in contemporary science -- her insights have been good and influential. And, this book may be a useful extension. I should have just read it, but saw the audio book and thought I'd give it a listen.
While the reader's voice is pleasant, with a good pace and cadence, the producer/director seems to have been absent. There are extensive mispronunciations of technical terms, things you would not expect a general reader to know, but you would expect a technically minded director to catch. As distracting as these technical errors are, a number of misunderstood conceptual terms make it almost impossilbe to actually comprehend the book -- for example, the word "causal" is pronounced throughout as "casual" ... so we have "casual relationships" and "casual links" and the like when the author meant there was a "causal" principle at play, almost opposite meanings. Or for another, in a number of places Churchland used the word "internalize" to reference the character of a neural or psychological process. This is pronounced "internationalize" ... really. There are many others ...
Perhaps others can overlook such distractions ... but I'm thinking that if Chrchland listened to this audiobook, she would cringe.
Avid audiobook addict!
Sounds like a good premise, but this book is extremely dry--it reads like a biology textbook. The narrator even refers to diagrams in the book, which is of course non-sensical for an audio book. Not recommended at all.
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