The role of neuroscience in The Moral Landscape

Total Posts:  7
Joined  25-04-2011
10 May 2011 02:23

I’m quite new around here and I haven’t been able to find a section on the Moral Landscape.  So here goes and apologies if it should go somewhere else.

I only have an audiobook copy so far.  I’ll probably get a Kindle copy so that I can work more closely with it.  I listened through three times.

All round I found the general thrust of the book convincing and compelling, but I have some reservations.

As a professional writer putting together “think pieces” for clients, there are rather too many points at which I got the sense of logical links being a little fudged - a temptation that is all too familiar to me.  When I get the Kindle version I’ll mark them up and see whether they are as jarring in print as they are when read out.

What concerns me more is that way that Sam’s drive for a science of moral reasoning ends up predicated on neuroimaging.

My long-term (4-5 year) plan is for a research-based PhD involving neuroscience (via an MSc), so I’m far from being a sceptic, let alone an enemy.  However, to my understanding, with the current imaging tools available, the most that can be investigated is correlation between neural activity and tasks being undertaken.  The role of specific areas of the brain must therefore be inferred, which is difficult because individual areas are involved in more than just one function.  This doesn’t stretch things too much for an activity such as jazz improvisation (Charles Limb), where there is a physical output.  On the other hand a complex process such as moral reasoning seems to me to be much less tractable with current brain imaging technology.

To my mind Sam builds a very strong case for a science of moral reasoning even without neuroimaging.  My hope is that neuroscience fulfills all its promise and more.My concern is that this “new rock and roll” may prove to be a overplayed distraction at best and perhaps even an Achilles heel.

Total Posts:  2821
Joined  29-04-2005
11 May 2011 05:06

I agree completely. Overconfident opinion is not only annoying, but potentially destructive in currently unknown ways.

Best luck in the field you end up choosing, Stuarte.

Total Posts:  2
Joined  03-06-2011
03 June 2011 00:45

yeah i agree with you Stuarte, thanks for posting about The Role of Neuroscience in The Moral Landscape smile