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Abstract: In order to understand the human capacity for altruism one requires a proper understanding of how people actually think and feel. This paper addresses the relevance that recent findings in neu-roeconomics may have for the philosophical controversy between altruism and egoism, with par-ticular emphasis on the importance of emotion in understanding altruistic motivation. After briefly contextualising and sketching the philosophical controversy, we survey the results of three interesting studies that provide stimulating clues for the debate. We focus our attention particu-larly on the 2004 study in neuroeconomics by Dominique de Quervain, Urs Fischbacher and col-leagues, which contains an argument in favour of psychological egoism. On the basis of an emo-tional account of decision-making, we show that their analysis of the results – people seek fair-ness – may be questioned; we propose an alternative interpretation of the data – people seek re-venge. Unfortunately, our ‘emotion-directed’ interpretation renders this study far less relevant for the debate over the possibility of psychological altruism than previously expected
Abstract: This article introduces and discusses from a philosophical point of view the nascent field of neuroeconomics, which is the study of neural mechanisms involved in decision-making and their economic significance. Following a survey of the ways in which decision-making is usually construed in philosophy, economics and psychology, I review many important findings in neuroeconomics to show that they suggest a revised picture of decision-making and ourselves as choosing agents. Finally, I outline a neuroeconomic account of irrationality
Abstract: Neuroscience and psychology have recently turned their attention to the study of the subpersonal underpinnings of moral judgment. In this paper we critically examine an influential strand of research originating in Greene’s neuroimaging studies of ‘utilitarian’ and ‘non-utilitarian’ moral judgement. We argue that given that the explananda of this research are specific personal-level states—moral judgments with certain propositional contents—its methodology has to be sensitive to criteria for ascribing states with such contents to subjects. We argue that current research has often failed to meet this constraint by failing to correctly ‘fix’ key aspects of moral judgment, criticism we support by detailed examples from the scientific literature.
Abstract: The dual-track theory of moral reasoning has received considerable attention due to the neuroimaging work of Greene et al. Greene et al. claimed that certain kinds of moral dilemmas activated brain regions specific to emotional responses, while others activated areas specific to cognition. This appears to indicate a dissociation between different types of moral reasoning. I re-evaluate these claims of specificity in light of subsequent empirical work. I argue that none of the cortical areas identified by Greene et al. are functionally specific: each is active in a wide variety of both cognitive and emotional tasks. I further argue that distinct activation across conditions is not strong evidence for dissociation. This undermines support for the dual-track hypothesis. I further argue that moral decision-making appears to activate a common network that underlies self-projection : the ability to imagine oneself from a variety of viewpoints in a variety of situations. I argue that the utilization of self-projection indicates a continuity between moral decision-making and other kinds of complex social deliberation. This may have normative consequences, but teasing them out will require careful attention to both empirical and philosophical concerns
Abstract: Recent work in various branches of philosophy has reinvigorated debate over the psychology behind moral judgment. Using Marc Hauser's categorization of theories as “Kantian,” “Humean,” or “Rawlsian” to frame the discussion, I argue that the existing evidence weighs against the Kantian model and partly in favor of both the Humean and the Rawlsian models. Emotions do play a causal role in the formation of our moral judgments, as the Humean model claims, but there are also unconscious principles shaping our moral judgments, as the Rawlsian model predicts. Thus, Hauser's tripartite division of possible models of moral psychology is inadequate. Drawing on research in cognitive neuroscience, clinical and behavioral psychology, and psychopathology, I sketch a new, developmental sentimentalist model of moral psychology. I call it a “Mencian” model, after the Confucian philosopher Mencius. On this model, moral judgments are caused by emotions, but because of the way emotions are mapped onto particular actions, moral judgments unconsciously reflect certain principled distinctions