Reading Assignment Comprehensive Study Guide 2
∙ Paper begins with a moral scenario that explores the reasoning behind a woman giving a homeless man money. Takeaway is that every action has many possible motivations ∙ Begin with a discussion of motivation itself and use that discussion to sketch four possible theories of distinctively moral motivation: caricature versions of familiar instrumentalist, cognitivist, sentimentalist, and personalist theories about morally worthy motivation. If you want to learn more check out What are the 3 clusters of pds?
∙ Conclusions are that (1) although the scientific evidence does not at present mandate a unique philosophical conclusion, it does present formidable obstacles to a number of popular philosophical approaches, and (2) theories of morally worthy motivation that best fit the current scientific picture are ones that owe much more to Hume or Aristotle than to Kant.
∙ We postulate that motivation is not merely an abstraction, and that it plays a causal role in the production of action.
∙ Some apparent features of motivation:
o (I) Motivation is closely related to action, yet distinct from it.
o (II) Motivation is a causally efficacious kind of state. It might well be that there exist factors that can block motivation from bringing about action (e.g. motivation not to do what one is also motivated to do, habits, phobias, lassitude, etc.) but motivation makes a causal contribution that promotes the production of action.
o (III) Motivation is occurrent. If someone has a standing desire for global peace, one might say she is motivated to bring about world peace. But we understand this to mean that, in appropriate circumstances, she would display an occurrent motivation—motivation properly so called—to bring about world peace. Because motivation is occurrent, it is distinct from standing—that is, dispositional and causally inert—desires. And since any desire can be a standing desire (if only briefly), there is something to motivation that is distinct from desire as such. This is obvious with desires such as a desire to create philosophical ideas, for it is often the case that a person with such a desire has it without being motivated at that moment to carry it out.
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o (IV) Motivation is commonly associated with certain feelings. We have no strong claims to make about these feelings, and nothing hangs on this in what follows, but it seems helpful to acknowledge the potential range of feelings that go with motivation. These feelings cluster around two sorts of cases. In the first sort, one is motivated to achieve some larger goal, and feels ‘‘up to the challenge,’’ ‘‘bursting with energy,’’ or otherwise inspired. This first sort of feeling—feeling motivated in general—is nonspecific and feels the same regardless of what one is motivated to do. In the second sort of case, one is motivated to perform some specific action by means of some specific bodily movement. In such cases, one
might feel muscular tension preparing one for the action, or have an image of oneself performing it, or experience anticipatory pleasure at the thought of the action or suffer from one’s current nonperformance of the action. These feelings are, obviously, much more closely tied to the specific end one is motivated to bring about.
∙ An investigation of moral motivation, then, is first an investigation of motivation: an investigation of an occurrent state, capable of causing actions, and associated with certain feelings. But it is also an investigation of something specifically moral.
2. Philosophical Approaches to Moral Motivation
∙ Our instrumentalist holds that people are motivated when they form beliefs about how to satisfy preexisting desires. Motivation, says the instrumentalist, begins with intrinsic desires. And desires are intrinsic just in the sense that what is desired is desired for its own sake. Don't forget about the age old question of Enumerate the types of intermolecular forces.
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∙ Having intrinsic desires is necessary for motivation, holds the instrumentalist, but not sufficient. The right conditions are conditions of occurrent belief.
∙ The instrumentalist’s view is sometimes labeled ‘Humean’ by philosophers, though many have pointed out that the view is only loosely related to that of Hume himself ∙ On the instrumental view, the story of Jen is straightforward. She desires to do what is right, and forms the belief that by giving the homeless man before her a dollar, she will be doing the right thing. If you want to learn more check out What are the strong acids?
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∙ The cognitivist holds the view that moral motivation begins with occurrent belief. In particular, it begins with beliefs about what actions would be right. The cognitivist holds that, at least in cases of morally worthy action, such beliefs lead to motivation to perform those actions, quite independently of any antecedent desires. The cognitivist is happy to call this motivational state ‘‘a desire,’’ but thinks of it as entirely dependent upon the moral belief that created it
∙ On the cognitivist’s view, Jen’s desires are not irrelevant to her action, but they are not the initiating engines of her action either. Instead, her desires are mere data that she considers (perhaps) in coming to be motivated.
∙ According to all sentimentalists, the emotions typically play a key causal role in motivating moral behavior. Our sentimentalist maintains that an action can’t count as being morally motivated unless it is driven by certain emotions.
∙ The sentimentalist story about Jen is easy to tell. When Jen sees the homeless man, she feels compassion toward him. This feeling of compassion provides the motivation that leads her to treat him kindly. Since sentimentalists typically acknowledge that compassion is a type of emotion that can provide moral motivation, Jen’s action was morally worthy.
∙ The personalist holds that morally worthy action stems from good character. Good character involves knowledge of the good, wanting what is good for its own sake, long standing emotional dispositions that favor good action, and longstanding habits of responding to one’s knowledge, desires, and emotions with good actions.
∙ Jen’s story begins with her moral cognitive capacities, on the personalist’s account. Although she holds no explicit belief about what is right in every case, her sensitivity to moral patterns and her explicit (if generally unconscious) heuristics lead her to the view that it would be good to give the homeless man a dollar. Because of her character, Jen’s moral thoughts engage her standing desires, lead her to feel relevant emotions, and— because of her habits as well—lead her to take the right action, and so she gives the homeless man a dollar. This amounts to the exercise of at least a partial virtue on Jen’s part: compassion, as it might be. She thus does what is right for the right reason and is morally worthy
3. The Neurophysiology of Moral Motivation
∙ We focus on the neural realization of voluntary movement. The basic fact with which we begin is that, as complex as the brain is, all activity in the brain that eventuates in voluntary movement must eventually stimulate the spinal cord, and to do so must stimulate the parts of the brain that have exclusive control over the spinal cord: the motor cortex and premotor cortical areas.
∙ Moreover, because the premotor cortical areas have control over the motor cortex (except for some minor reflexes), any activity in the brain that eventuates in voluntary behavior must eventually stimulate premotor cortex. The premotor cortex will thus be the first focus of our interest.
∙ Almost every part of the brain contributes to controlling the premotor cortex. There is no uniquely behavioral higherlevel control system; instead, a whole host of factors simultaneously bears down upon the premotor cortex. These factors can usefully be divided into two categories based on their origins: cortical and subcortical.
o Cortical inputs to the premotor cortex come from perceptual structures in the brain and from higherlevel cognitive structures. Perceptual input can be quite simple (input carrying information about touch to the pad of one finger, for instance) or quite complex (input carrying information about whether or not one is looking at something that looks like one’s father, for example).
o Subcortical input to the premotor cortex comes largely from the motor output structures of the basal ganglia, in the form of global suppression of all activation in the premotor cortex, and selective release of that suppression that permits the production of action.
∙ On what basis do the motor basal ganglia selectively release actions? The answer is that four sources of influence combine.
o First, all the cortical regions that send input to the premotor cortex also send input to the motor basal ganglia.
o Second, the active portions of motor and premotor cortex send signals down to the motor basal ganglia.
o Third, there is input from the brain’s reward system.
o And fourth, there is the internal organization of the motor basal ganglia themselves.
∙ The first source of influence over action selection is simply perception and cognition. ∙ The second source of influence is a little more interesting. Why should active parts of motor and premotor cortex send signals down to the brain’s action selection system? The answer seems to be that the brain’s action selection system responds differentially based upon information about what actions it has released, and what actions are more or less prepared to be performed (what motor commands are even partly activated) in order to select new appropriate actions. Seen in this light, this input is no more surprising than input from perception and cognition.
∙ The third source of influence is input from the brain’s reward system. The reward system is identified as such by neuroscientists because it possesses several properties: it is selectively activated by what are, intuitively, rewards (food, cooperation from partners in a game of prisoner’s dilemma, and so on, its signaling properties carry exactly the information required of a reward signal by the mathematical theory of reward, it is responsible for rewardbased learning but not for other forms of learning, its activity causes pleasure, and if allowed to electrically stimulate it, rats have been known to do so to the exclusion of all other activities
∙ There are two main influences upon reward signals. There are connections from select perceptual and higher cognitive representational capacities that make certain contents into rewards (that I get money, or food, for instance), and other possible contents into punishments (that I get pinched, or that I smell rotting meat, for instance).
∙ Finally, the fourth influence upon the selection of action by the motor basal ganglia is the internal structure of the motor basal ganglia themselves. This internal structure is the locus of our habits and related behavioral inclinations. Scientific research on habit learning and habit retention in human and nonhuman animals has shown that the internal structure of the basal ganglia is where our unconscious behavioral habits get stored, while consciously retrievable memory (for instance) is localized elsewhere
4. Initial Implications of Neurophysiology
∙ Implications for Instrumentalism:
o The instrumentalist needs there to be intrinsic desires realized somewhere in the neural architecture. But where? The brain’s reward system makes an excellent candidate
o The instrumentalist holds that intrinsic desires combine with beliefs: beliefs about what actions would be instrumental to satisfying intrinsic desires (or would realize the satisfaction of intrinsic desires). Where will these beliefs be realized? Presumably, in the higher cognitive centers of the brain, for what is a belief if not a higher cognitive state? So the instrumentalist hopes to find brain structures by which the reward system (intrinsic desire) can interact with certain higher cognitions (beliefs about instrumental actions).
o Fortunately for the instrumentalist, such a structure exists: it is the motor basal ganglia. In the motor basal ganglia, information from higher cognitive centers combines with reward information, and also with information from perception and from current motor commands. Thus the instrumentalist should tentatively accept that the beliefs relevant to motivation are found in higher cognitive centers, for if they are, then they are capable of playing something much like the role he requires, and no other candidates present themselves.
o Furthermore, the instrumentalist holds that intrinsic desires, when combined with relevant beliefs, produce motivational states. Intrinsic desires (realized by the reward system) combine with beliefs (in higher cognitive centers) to produce
activity in the motor basal ganglia that releases motor commands and ultimately, if all is working normally, produces behavior.
∙ Implications for Cognitivism:
o The cognitivist needs for beliefs to have the power to produce motivational states independently of antecedent desires.
o There are direct anatomical connections between the neural realization of higher cognitions and motivational systems, connections that might conceivably by pass the influences of desires. Because of this, the cognitivist and the instrumentalist ought to be ready to agree on the interpretation of the neurophysiology, and simply disagree over how moral action production will proceed in human beings (which is, after all, an empirical question).
∙ Implications for Sentimentalism;
o Emotions are at the center of our sentimentalist’s picture of motivation, rather than desires. But there is room in our neuroscientific picture for this, because the reward system gets inputs from brain regions making up the limbic system, thought to be critical neural structures for emotion.
∙ Implications for Personalism:
o Like the instrumentalist and cognitivist, the personalist has a particular idea of what sorts of cognitive inputs drive morally worthy motivation. But once again, because higher cognitive centers in the brain are diverse, there is no reason to doubt that the personalist can find what is needed in this domain. Implicit knowledge of the good, explicit knowledge of heuristics, perceptually driven judgments of the differences between apparently similar situations—all of these can be expected to be realized in perceptual and higher cognitive centers, and all of them can be expected to feed into motivational systems.
o The personalist holds that moral perceptions and thoughts combine with morally decent desires and emotions to create moral motivation only in the presence of appropriate habits: that is, only when one has a good character.
5. Some Pressing Questions
∙ We shall take up seven:
o (1) Does neuroscience really bear on the truth of theories of moral motivation? We think so. Any theory of moral motivation should include a theory of how moral motivation is instantiated—or at least approximated—in
human beings, or provide a compelling argument as to why a theory of moral motivation need not undertake this burden. We know of no such argument, so we shall continue to assume that such theories need to
provide an account of psychological phenomena such as moral
perceptions, moral beliefs, instrumental beliefs, moral desires,
instrumental desires, intentions, moral emotions, and habits. Any plausible theory of moral motivation will thus have to be consistent with what we know about such things as they are instantiated in human beings, and
neuroscience has something to say about this.
o (2) What problems does neuroscience pose for the instrumentalist? Candidate belief structures send output to the same place as candidate desire structures, these converging streams of information then generate candidate immediate intentions to act, and these lead to bodily movement. What more could the instrumentalist want? One lurking problem for the instrumentalist is the incompleteness of this account. There are more
influences on the production of action than recognized by the
instrumentalist, and this might prove troublesome.
What should the instrumentalist make of all this? The instrumentalist might hold that these constant (in the case of habits) or sporadic (in the case of emotions) causal contributors to moral motivation make no
contribution to the moral worth of moral motivation. If so, then they can be safely ignored, as much as the details of the neurotransmitters involved can be safely ignored
o (3) What problems does neuroscience pose for the cognitivist?
Of our four caricature theorists, it is obviously our cognitivist who is most likely to have difficulties accommodating the neuroscientific evidence. Although it was pointed out earlier that the theoretical possibility exists
that moral cognition can lead directly to moral motivation independently of the reward system (and so independently of desire), this theoretical possibility proves to be problematic upon closer inspection.
o (4) What problems does neuroscience pose for the sentimentalist?
Evidence from psychology and neuroscience indicates that emotions are involved in normal moral behavior, and this is good news for the
sentimentalist. Results from brain imaging suggest that at least some
moral judgments involve operation of the emotional system
One response available to the sentimentalist here is to claim that while motivation simpliciter might be intact in absence of emotions, moral motivation will be absent. Sentimentalists who hold that moral judgment depends on the emotions (e.g. Nichols, 2004) might defend sentimentalism about moral motivation by maintaining that moral motivation depends on moral judgment. Alternatively, the sentimentalist might maintain that motivation only counts as moral when it is generated by moral emotions.
o (5) What problems does neuroscience pose for the personalist? Our personalist might seem the best off of all the theorists we have considered, for our personalist holds that a complex combination of factors jointly produces moral motivation, and this might seem to fit the neuroscientific picture better than any more restricted view. Invoking both desires and emotions, the personalist would seem to have the virtues of the instrumentalist and the sentimentalist combined, while lacking the problems of the cognitivist.
If this is borne out by future research, then the personalist should contract her list from three items to two: it might well be that morally worthy motivation requires only desires and habits as inputs, along with appropriate perceptions and beliefs.
o (6) What does neuroscience reveal about weakness of will? and It is an old worry in philosophy that it is impossible to act voluntarily in a way that flouts one’s considered judgment about the best thing to do. The worry goes as follows. If Andrea says that she thinks it best to skip dessert, but then plunges into the creme brulee, then either she didn’t really think it best to skip dessert or her action wasn’t voluntary.
We think that a more promising approach is to consider again the role of the basal ganglia. It strikes us as a plausible sufficient condition that when an action is selected from among other possible actions (represented in the premotor cortex or motor PFC) by the basal ganglia, then that action is voluntary.
o (7) What does neuroscience reveal about altruism?
Hedonism is perhaps the most prominent view that denies the existence of altruistic motivation. According to hedonism, all ultimate desires are desires to get pleasure for oneself and avoid one’s own pain. If hedonism is true, then an individual’s actions will always be ultimately motivated by narrow selfinterest—the motivation to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Hence, if hedonism were true, there would be no ultimate desires for the welfare of others.
If I am motivated to help a neighbor child with a skinned knee, this motivation ultimately gets traced back to my pursuit of pleasure and flight from pain
How Formal Models Can Illuminate Mechanisms of Moral Judgment and Decision Making
∙ The cognitive and affective processes that give rise to moral judgments and decisions have long been the focus of intense study. Here, I review recent work that has used mathematical models to formally describe how features of moral dilemmas are transformed into decisions.
∙ Using examples from recent studies, I show how formal models can provide novel and counterintuitive insights into human morality by revealing latent subcomponents of moral decisions, improving prediction of moral behavior, and bridging moral psychology and moral neuroscience.
∙ Some of the many questions moral psychologists and neuroscientists have explored over the past decade include:
o How do we resolve conflicts between profit and harm?
o How do we judge others faced with similar dilemmas?
o And how are these processes implemented in the brain?
∙ The author suggests we can accelerate progress in moral psychology and neuroscience by applying formal algorithmic frameworks typically used to study perceptual and value based learning and decision making
∙ This approach involves specifying mathematical models that describe in a precise, quantitative way how features of a choice problem are transformed into a decision. Recent studies have used this approach to describe moral algorithms—that is, how features of moral dilemmas (e.g. costs to the self, benefits to another) are transformed
into moral judgments and decisions.)
∙ Formal models can reveal latent subcomponents of moral decisions that would not otherwise be apparent from behavioral observation alone, and thereby advance ∙ psychological theories of morality.
∙ Second, by assigning numerical values (called parameters) to different subcomponents of decisions, formal models can improve prediction of behavior, which has clear value for applied settings.
∙ Finally, formal models bridge moral psychology and moral neuroscience by addressing specific mechanistic questions about neural activity and predicting how changes in the brain should affect behavior. In this way, moral neuroscience can tackle the longstanding question of whether moral decisions are different from other kinds of decisions. ∙ Our model exposed that people vary in the extent
∙ to which they choose the more highly valued option—
∙ that is, their decision process is “noisy” and they sometimes make mistakes. We explored the possibility that people make noisier choices when deciding for others relative to themselves and that this would relate to moral behavior. Indeed, the extent to which people made noisier choices for others than for themselves was positively correlated with moral behavior
∙ Formal models can also make precise predictions about the relationship between decisions and response times, which bears on contemporary debates about the automatic versus controlled nature of moral cognition
∙ These models have revealed a number of surprising insights about altruistic behavior and the relationship between prosocial choice and response times.
o First, generous choices are slower if the weight placed on payoff to oneself is higher, but faster if the weight placed on payoffs to others is higher. Thus, prosocial decisions are not always faster than selfish ones; the relationship
between prosocial decisions and response times can even be manipulated by changing the costs of prosocial decisions.
o Second, when less evidence favoring one choice option is required before making a decision, generosity increases. Thus, differences in generosity observed across individuals or contexts may not necessarily reflect differences in preferences, but could instead reflect differences in the noisiness of decisions. This has important implications for interpreting the effects of manipulations thought to influence decision noise, such as time pressure or cognitive load.
o The fact that amplified decision noise can increase generosity relates to a third insight: A substantial proportion of generous choices may be “mistakes” rather than reflecting true preferences
∙ By assigning numerical values to latent subcomponents of decisions, formal models can predict choices in new cases different from those used to estimate the original model. ∙ Research on the neural basis of morality has identified a network of brain regions that are consistently activated during moral judgments and decisions
∙ Many of these same regions are involved in making decisions about outcomes for oneself, raising the critical question of whether there is anything “special” about moral decisions relative to other types of decisions
∙ Another criticism relates to the issue of reverse inference, a logical fallacy where psychological processes are inappropriately inferred from activity in a particular brain region—for instance, when feelings of disgust are inferred from observing activity in the insula
∙ Formal models describing moral judgment and decision making represent a first step ∙ toward recreating, and therefore understanding, the cognitive processes that guide moral behavior.
∙ No single model can provide a definitive and unifying mechanism for moral decision making. Nor can the parameters derived from a single study serve as the final word on the numerical weights that apply to various components of moral decisions.
∙ Nevertheless, the advantage of formal models is that that they provide a common mathematical language that can be used to compare effect sizes across studies. ∙ It may be the case that a relatively small number of models can capture most aspects of moral judgment and decision making. Alternatively, the richness and complexity of human morality may be impossible to boil down into a manageable set of mathematical equations. But we won’t find out unless we try, and we will undoubtedly learn a lot in the process.
The Mind’s Best Trick: How We Experience Conscious Will
∙ Cognitive, social, and neuropsychological studies of apparent mental causation suggest that experiences of conscious will frequently depart from actual causal processes and so might not reflect direct perceptions of conscious thought causing action ∙ Question: Does consciousness cause action?
o Consciousness is an active force, an engine of will
∙ The mind has been known to play tricks, though. Could this be one? o One way this could happen is if both the thought about action and the action itself are caused by unperceived forces of mind: you think of doing X and then do X – not because conscious thinking causes doing, but because other mental processes (that are not consciously perceived) cause both the thinking and the doing.
Anomalies of Will
∙ Penfield Experiment:
o We might understand, for example, Penfield’s classic finding on movements induced through electrical stimulation of the motor cortex. Conscious patients were prompted by stimulation of the exposed brain to produce movements that were not simple reflexes and instead appeared to be complex, multistaged, and voluntary.
o Yet, their common report of the experience was that they did not ‘do’ the action, and instead felt that Penfield had ‘pulled it out’ of them. This observation only makes sense if the experience of will is an addition to voluntary action, not a cause of it.
∙ TMS (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) Study:
o People in one study, for instance, were asked to choose to move one or the other index finger whenever they heard a click. Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) was applied alternately to the left or right motor cortex to influence the movement, and this influence over which finger was moved was strong at short response times.
o Respondents reported consciously willing the movements during the TMS influence, although showing a lack of insight into the alternative causal mechanism producing their actions.
∙ Libet on Finger Movement:
o In spontaneous, intentional finger movement, Libet found that a scalprecorded brain readiness potential (RP) preceded the movement (measured
electromyographically) by a minimum of, 550 ms.
o This finding indicates only that some sort of brain activity reliably precedes the onset of voluntary action. However, participants were also asked to recall the position of a clock at their initial awareness of intending to move their finger, and this awareness followed the RP by some 350400 ms.
o So, although the conscious intention preceded the finger movement, it occurred well after whatever brain events were signaled by the RP. This finding suggests that the experience of consciously willing action begins after brain events that set the action into motion.
o The brain creates both the thought and the action, leaving the person to infer that the thought is causing the action.
∙ Anomalies pointing to a system that fabricates an experience of will can also be found in clinical cases. Patients with brain damage resulting in ‘alien hand syndrome’, for example, report that one of their hands functions with a mind of its own, often performing elaborate and seemingly voluntary actions without the patient’s experience of willful control.
∙ Schizophrenia accompanied by auditory hallucinations also produces anomalistic will – in this case, an experience of ‘hearing voices’ that occurs when patients attribute their own thoughts and inner voice to others.
∙ Will is also experienced independently of action in a menagerie of cases known as automatisms
o In the case of table turning, for instance, a group of people gathered around a light table and waited for it to move. Often it would – after a significant wait – sometimes even circling the room or rocking from side to side. Yet the participants often reported no experience of willing the action and instead expressed amazement at the table’s animation.
o Although spirit agency was the popular explanation, investigations by scientists such as Michael Faraday (using force measurement devices between hands and tables) revealed that the source of the table movement was indeed the participants. The experience of will in such cases was entirely misleading about the causal basis of the action.
Apparent Mental Causation
∙ The likely sources of the experience of conscious will are the topic of the ‘theory of apparent mental causation.’
∙ This theory suggests that conscious will is experienced when we draw the inference that our thought has caused our action – whether or not this inference is correct. The ∙ inference occurs in accordance with principles that follow from research on cause perception and attribution – principles of priority, consistency, and exclusivity. o When a thought appears in consciousness just before an action (priority), is consistent with the action (consistency), and is not accompanied by conspicuous alternative causes of the action (exclusivity), we experience conscious will and ascribe authorship to ourselves for the action.
o In essence, we experience ourselves as agents who consciously cause our actions when our minds provide us with timely previews of actions that turn out to be accurate when we observe the actions that ensue.
∙ Departures from veridical perceptions of causality can be traced to each of the principles. o The consistency principle, for example, suggests the general proposition that people will feel more will for success than failure. After all, people more often envision success of a task than failure, so when success occurs, the consistency between the prior thought and the observed action produces an experience of will. ∙ The exclusivity principle governs cases when perceptions of forces outside the self undermine the experience of will. The presence of other actors who could contribute to the action, for instance, create circumstances in which people can fail to sense willful control
∙ Stanley Milgram explained his famous finding, that people will obey a command to shock another person, in terms of such a mechanism, suggesting that an ‘agentic shift’ and an accompanying reduction in conscious will occur when actions are done at the behest of another
∙ In a series of studies, people who were asked to sense the detectable muscle movements of another person and then type answers to questions for that person were found to produce correct answers and attribute a substantial contribution to the other, even when the other was an experimental confederate who never heard the questions
∙ This phenomenon appears to underlie facilitated communication, the discredited technique whereby people giving manual support to autistic or other communication impaired individuals create typed messages that they erroneously attribute to those individuals
∙ Does all this mean that conscious thought does not cause action? – No. ∙ The task of determining the causal relations between conscious representations and actions is a matter of inspection through scientific inquiry, and reliable connections between conscious thought and action can potentially be discerned by this process
∙ The point made here is that the mind’s own system for computing these relations provides the person with an experience of conscious will that is no more than a rough andready guide to such causation, one that can be misled by any number of circumstances that render invalid inferences
Is Free Will an Illusion? Confronting Challenges from the Modern Mind Sciences
∙ Argument: Science does not actually show that free will is an illusion o Still, our beliefs about free will influence our selfconception and our moral and legal practices
Imagine an Imaging Study
∙ Discovered that our decisions are entirely caused by the complex processes happening in our brain
o This was “tested” (imaginary test) with students and the experiment was conducted using an fMRI
∙ Actual test, the leftright test, supported the idea that subjective experience of freedom is no more than an illusion and that our actions are initiated by unconscious mental processes long before we become aware of our intention to act
∙ Imaginary studies like this one suggest that the studies’ relevance to free will depend largely on how they are interpreted and presented
o The way scientists present their interpretations seems to impact subject beliefs and behavior.
Do Scientific Discoveries Challenge Free Will and Responsibility?
∙ Argument Schema:
1. Free will requires that X is not the case
2. Science is showing that X is the case (for humans)
3. Thus, science is showing that human lack free will
4. Science is showing that humans are not morally responsible agents Determinism
o Philosophical arguments define determinism differently than cognitive scientists seem to understand it
o In incompatibilist arguments determinism is defined as the thesis that a complete description of a system at one time and of all the laws that govern that system logically entails a complete description of that system at any future time
o Determinism require a closed system but scientists who study human brains and behavior do not study closed systems
o Most contemporary philosophers are compatibilists who do not think determinism is relevant to free will
o Intuitions that seem to support incompatibilism indicate people find free will to be threatened by bypassing.
o Bypassing is the idea that our mental states do not play the proper role in our decisions and actions
∙ Naturalism – The view that everything exists, including human minds, is part if the natural world and behaves in accordance with natural laws
∙ Epiphenomenalism – the move that science poses a threat by showing that conscious mental processes cannot play a causal role in behavior
The Role of Consciousness in Action
∙ Libet’s experiment was used to show evidence that our conscious intention to move is not the cause of our movement, but like the movement itself, an effect of earlier (nonconscious) brain activity
Rationality and Rationalization
∙ Research on moral judgments and behavior suggests that when people make moral judgments, they often act on immediate gut reactions and then their conscious reasoning just comes up with post hoc rationalizations for these gut reactions
∙ We do have free will, though it is limited, so we need to learn how to develop it and use it wisely
The Neurobiology of Addiction: Implications for Voluntary Control of Behavior
∙ Debate: Is Addiction a brain disease or moral condition?
o Further: Can we hold addicted individuals responsible for their actions and if so to what extent?
One proxy (albeit imperfect) for this question is disagreement as to whether addiction is best conceptualized as a brain disease, as a moral condition, or as some combination of the two.
1. Those who argue for the disease model not only believe it is
justified by empirical data, but also see virtue in the possibility that
a disease model decreases the stigmatization of addicted people
their access to medical treatments.
2. Those who argue that addiction is best conceptualized as a moral
condition are struck by the observation that drug seeking and drug
taking involve a series of voluntary acts that often require planning
and flexible responses to changing conditions—not simply
impulsive or robotic acts.
∙ A disease model has been presented to assist with getting to the answer, but it does not exclusively account for voluntary control
∙ Cognitive and social neuroscience and studies of the pathophysiologic processes underlying neuropsychiatric disorders have begun to probe the mechanisms by which human beings regulate their behavior in conformity with social conventions and in
pursuit of chosen goals—and the circumstances under which such “cognitive control” may be eroded
o The resulting ideas call into question folk psychology views on the voluntary control of behavior, that is, for the most part, we regulate our actions based on conscious “reasons.”
∙ The structure and function of the brain is influenced not only by “bottomup” factors such as genes, but also by topdown factors such “lived experience” and context. o Moreover, neuroscience does not obviate the need for social and psychological level explanations intervening between the levels of cells, synapses, and circuits and that of ethical judgments.
∙ What neuroscience contributes to ethical discourse is mechanistic insight that constrains our interpretations of psychological observations and that suggests new explanatory frameworks for thought and behavior.
∙ Neuroscience should make it possible to ask how the nature of our brains shapes and constrains what we call rationality, and therefore, ethical principals themselves, and it should permit us to probe deeply into the nature of reason, emotion, and the control of behavior
∙ The current medical consensus is that the cardinal feature of addiction is compulsive drug use despite significant negative consequences
∙ The term compulsion is imprecise, but at a minimum implies diminished ability to control drug use, even in the face of factors (e.g., illness, failure in life roles, loss of job, arrest) that should motivate cessation of drug use in a rational agent willing and able to exert control over behavior.
o The current focus on compulsive use as the defining features of addiction superseded previous views that focused on dependence and withdrawal. ∙ Despite somewhat different views of mechanism, all current mainstream formulations agree that addiction diminishes voluntary behavioral control.
∙ At the same time, none of the current views conceives of the addicted person to be devoid of all voluntary control and thus absolved of all responsibility for selfcontrol. ∙ These circuits respond in a coordinated fashion to new information about rewards through the action of the neurotransmitter dopamine.
∙ Dopamine is released from neurons with cell bodies in the ventral tegmental area (VTA) and substantia nigra within the midbrain. These neurons project widely through the forebrain and can influence all of the circuits involved in rewardrelated learning, as well as in other aspects of cognition and emotion.
∙ Dopamine projections from the VTA to the nucleus accumbens bind the pleasurable (hedonic) response to a reward to desire and to goaldirected behavior
∙ Unlike natural rewards, addictive drugs have no nutritional, reproductive, or other survival value.
o However, all addictive drugs exert pharmacologic effects that cause release of dopamine. Moreover, the effects of addictive drugs on dopamine release are
quantitatively greater than that produced by natural rewards under almost all circumstances.
∙ Finally, views based on cognitive neuroscience and studies of addiction pathogenesis suggest that some apparently voluntary behaviors may not be as freely planned and executed as they first appear.
∙ For many reasons, it may be wise for societies to err on the side of holding addicted ∙ individuals responsible for their behavior and to act as if they are capable of exerting more control than perhaps they can; however, if the ideas expressed in this review are right, it should be with a view to rehabilitation of the addicted person and protection of society rather than moral opprobrium.