Reductionalism and Morality: Does once cancel out the other?
Many hold on to the view that Reductionlist Physicalism, or the idea that such aspects about humanity like emotions, beleifs, thoughts, etc. can be reduced to a physical motion, action, or change in the brain. Although, in many respects, I agree with this view, I also feel that it leads to uncomfortable conclusions that proponents of this view do not want to adhere to. Which is fair since they see this claim, which they can back up with evidence, as a positive, as do I. However, I cannot see how talk of morality can even enter this view since they would have to reduce it to some physcial action in the brain meaning that, everyone would, in essence, have their own morality unique to them. The question I have (as well as will answer) is, if this is morality anymore? I would say it is not. If we are going to reduce such notions to actions in the brain, we shoudl also reduce the actions to themselves to what is actually occuring than what we percieve is occuring meaning that, all that there in a case study involving different people with various functioning brains and presenting them with moral dilemmas that have their roots in moral philosophy rather than science, all that is being studied is decesion making. Nothing more. The only way proponents of this view try to deal with this challenge is by invoking relative morality. The problem with this is that it suggests that they are working with an assumption about morality, that it is relative, wihout anyway to back it up scientifically (at which point they move focus from this limitation on the claim to how the challenge has little to do with the claim itself). Now, I can stomach this type of response from philosophers since philosophers do not have the rigorous evidence finding to support their claims, rather, logical arguements, thought experiments, or some metaphysical story to back up their claim. But the core of Reductionalist physicalism, they claim, is in science so the fact they resort to the tired "morality is relative" or "it is immoral relative to this moral viewpoint" just seems scientifically lazy since teenagers make similar arguements in regards to morality and they don't need a full body of scientific knowledge to convince themselves of it. They just need to see how some actions in one family is ok whereas the same actions in another family are not ok.
Now to continue a discussion that started in Topher's thread about the scientifically validity of Reductionjlist Physicalism . . .
You misunderstand. It talks about bad moral decisions but not in an absolute/objective manner (which you seem to be implying), but in a relative/subjective sense. Basically, people with damaged to the brain will make immoral decisions in comparison to people without such damage. In other words, normal people will tend to choose X (based on instincts such as empathy, as Kelly discussed), while people with the brain damage will tend to choose Y, which the people without the brain damage would likely consider to be immoral. That was the point the article was making.
Again, the question is, on what basis are the individuals considering the actions of the other individuals immoral or moral? If the only basis they have is becuase it doesn;t resonate with how their brain functions, that is a very weak basis for morality and, as I stated in the intro, seems inttellectually lazy of the scientist to call this process of decesion making morality.
You don’t believe in some kind of absolute/objective morality do you?
I don't beleive in morality period. Not so much becuase no one can really give any sort of clear or applicable explanation of the concept aside from the tired "knowing right from wrong", but due to the fact that throughout the history of humanity, the only model of morality that really fits is relative morality. If this is the case, though, calling yourself moral does not really mean anything since, twenty years from now, the very things that make you moral could make you immoral. Furthermore, from a philosophical perspective, there are only two real groups of morality: consequentialist morality and nonconsequentialist morality. The problem with consequentionlist morality is that an action is right only IF the conditions are right. To use your previous example, it is ok to kill someone to save five but not ok to kill someone if you are bored. The action has little value and is entirely dependant on the particualrs surrounding the action in question. The problem with noncosequentialist views is that too much value is put on an action. Kant, for example, argued that you should never lie even if you are lying to a murderer to save your friend. It hardly seems the case that any action is always right or always wrong regardless of the particulars of the situation.
" Why does God always got such wacky shit to say? . . . When was the last time you heard somebody say 'look God told me to get a muffin and a cup tea and cool out man'?" - Dov Davidoff