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Publisher's Summary

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.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Douglas on 01-22-14

As The Decade Of The Brain Stretches...

into its fourteenth year, anyone who has done any reading about morality, psychopathy, criminology or religion and their relationship to the brain and its various structures is familiar with mirroring cells, the anterior cingulate cortex, the septal area, the limbic system and its play in emotion, the right temporal lobe and how epilepsy in this area can bring on religious fervor or visions--and one of the people we have to thank for all of this scientific wisdom, along with other such illustrious names as Oliver Sacks, Steven Pinker, V. Ramachandran and Daniel Dennett, is Patricia Churchland. One of my early introductions to this topic was Churchland's TED lecture entitled "This Is Your Brain On Morality," and I have read her work and listened to her debates and speeches on morality and the brain for years. With clear, sharp, scientific insight, Churchland gives us the foundations of the origin of morality in the human species and pierces to the center of its Darwinian purposes in our lives. This book is entertaining, enlightening and insightful and is an absolute must for anyone interested in neurology and its role in the moral realm.

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By Cesar on 06-27-16

Couldn't keep my attention

There are very few audiobooks in my library that allow my attention to wander when I am listening on my commute. This was one of them. I believe it was too technical in its language to keep up with the concepts that were being divulged. On top of that, the editing of the audio recording was spotty. I could here the recording level shift in certain parts which made it more unpleasant.

I believe if you are in the field of brain research or a related science, you might find this text interesting. I really had a hard time following and I could not get through it.

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