- One tradition in moral philosophy depicts human moral behaviour as unrelated to social behavior in nonhuman animals. Morality, on this view, emerges from a uniquely human capacity to reason. By contrast, recent developments in the neuroscience of social bonding suggest instead an approach to morality that meshes with ethology and evolutionary2 biology.
- According to the hypothesis on offer, the basic platform for morality is attachment and bonding, and the caring behavior motivated by such attachment. Oyxtocin, a neurohormone, is at the hub of attachment behavior in social mammals and probably birds. Not acting alone, oxytocin works with other hormones and neurotransmitters and circuitry adaptations. Among its many roles, oxytocin decreases the stress response, making possible the trusting and cooperative interactions typical of life in social mammals.
- Although all social animals learn local conventions, humans are particularly adept social learners and imitators. Learning local social practices depends on the reward system because in social animals approval brings pleasure and disapproval brings pain. Acquiring social skills also involves generalising from samples, so that learned exemplars can be applied to new circumstances. Problem-solving in the social domain gives rise to ecologically relevant practices for resolving conflicts and restricting within-group competition.
- Contrary to the conventional wisdom that explicit rules are essential to moral behaviour, norms are often implicit and picked up by imitation. This hypothesis connects to a different, but currently unfashionable tradition, beginning with Aristotle's ideas about social virtues and David Hume's 18th century ideas concerning "the moral sentiment".
YouTube; Royal Institute of Philosophy, 20/11/13, see YouTube: Churchland - The Brains Behind Morality.
Footnote 1: This is the YouTube abstract; there’s a different one in the book.
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