NPR Segment on Moral Psychology

posted Mar 29, 2010, 6:23 PM by Andrew Roche   [ updated Mar 29, 2010, 6:30 PM ]
One can find it here.

This part of the segment struck me as a good example of philosophical confusion (I'm not sure whether the confusion lies in Greene or in the reporting):

The fact that scientists can adjust morality with a magnet may be disconcerting to people who view morality as a lofty and immutable human trait, says Joshua Greene, psychologist at Harvard University. But that view isn't accurate, he says.

"Moral judgment is just a brain process," he says. "That's precisely why it's possible for these researchers to influence it using electromagnetic pulses on the surface of the brain."

The new study is really part of a much larger effort by scientists to explain how the brain creates moral judgments, Greene says. The scientists are trying to take concepts such as morality, which philosophers once attributed to the human soul, and "break it down in mechanical terms."

If something as complex as morality has a mechanical explanation, Green says, it will be hard to argue that people have, or need, a soul.

Or perhaps I am being unfair?