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Review
, 27 (10), 889-94

[On the Necessity to Distinguishing Judgment From Subjective Choice in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Morality]

[Article in French]
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Review

[On the Necessity to Distinguishing Judgment From Subjective Choice in the Cognitive Neuroscience of Morality]

[Article in French]
Sébastien Tassy. Med Sci (Paris).

Abstract

Recently, cognitive neuroscience has shed new light on our understanding of the neural underpinning of humans' morality. These findings allow for a fundamental questioning and rethinking of the alleged dichotomy between reason and emotion, that has profoundly shaped both moral philosophy and moral psychology. Functional neuroimaging and neuropsychology studies have provided strong arguments favoring a dynamic and interdependent interaction between rational and emotional processes in the brain. Yet another fundamental issue remains largely unexplored: the dissociation between certain behaviours and the moral judgments that seem to precede them. The importance of this dissociation was highlighted in a study of psychopathic patients during which they preserved their moral judgments while frequently engaging in completely non moral behaviour. Such dissociation could result from the cognitive difference between an objective moral judgement with no personal consequence, and a subjective behavioural choice that has effective or potential personal consequences. Consequently, the results of moral dilemma experiments would differ widely depending whether they explore objective or subjective moral evaluations. That these evaluations involve two distinct neural processes should be taken into account when exploring the neural bases of human morality.

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