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Patricia Churchland - Beyond Belief 2006

Pat Churchland gave one of the more interesting presentations at Beyond Belief 2006 summed up nicely by her statement that,"the axiom that values come from reason or religion is wrong... There are better ways of ensuring moral motivation than scaring the crap out of people."

Patricia Churchland, who chairs the University of California, San Diego Philosophy Department, focuses also on neuroethics and attempts to understand choice, responsibility and the basis of moral norms in terms of brain function, evolution and brain-culture interactions. Her books include Brain-Wise, Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain and On the Contrary, with Paul M. Churchland.
This is part of session five you can find it at Beyond Belief 2006 the discussion after she speaks is very good.



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Comments

Excellent post. This should really poke a hole into the morality is the realm of religion balloon.

LOL, did anyone catch the shot of that guy falling asleep? That was so funny I couldn't stop laughing. Why did they cut to that? LOL

She's my hero. Her books are incisive and thoughtful.

Although of course I agree with her basic premise that we don't need religion to explain moral behavior and it is not necessary "to scare the crap out of people", I don't think her argumentation is very profound here. For example she totally misrepresents the is/ought - problem in philosophy by contrasting it with the inference of the best explanation. The is/ought distinction is an statement about the logic of language. You simply can never logically derive an "ought sentence" out of facts of nature without the support of other "ought sentences". This is very easy to show. For example out of "the brakes of your care have broken down" follows "you ought to check them before driving" only if you accept the auxilliary hypothesis that "you ought to survive the drive". To assume this may be generally hardwired in our brains, but that does not make the philosophical claim invalid.

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