Author:Millard, Elizabeth
Position:Book review

Patricia S. Churchland (author); BRAINTRUST; Princeton University Press (Nonfiction: Science) $24.95 ISBN: 9780691137032

Byline: Elizabeth Millard

Philosophers and theologians are well acquainted with navigating the murky waters of good and evil, and with trying to create definition around what's "right" and "wrong." Into this much-traveled sea comes a different type of sailor with a fresh perspective: Patricia Churchland, a well-known philosopher with an interest in neuroscience, tackles the issue of morality not from a religious or purely philosophical framework, but from one that takes the brain's circuitry into account.

Author of Brain-Wise and Neurophilosophy, Churchland is professor emerita of philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, and an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute. Throughout her academic career, she's focused on the intersection of philosophy and neuroscience, and has argued that as the nature of brain function becomes more known, psychology and philosophy will have to adjust to new information about the mind.

In this compelling work on morality, she brings those threads together with passion and elegance, using neuroscience research as a basis to explore the types of evolutionary pressures and cultural values that have formed approaches to moral behavior.

She notes that moral values tend to be rooted in family values and are common to all mammals, but that human brain chemistry involves unique processes that...

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