Me, my (moral) self, and I

In Felipe De Brigard & Walter Sinnott Armstrong (eds.), Neuroscience and Philosophy. pp. 111-138 (forthcoming)
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Abstract

In this chapter, we outline the interdisciplinary contributions that philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience have provided in the understanding of the self and identity, focusing on one specific line of burgeoning research: the importance of morality to perceptions of self and identity. Of course, this rather limited focus will exclude much of what psychologists and neuroscientists take to be important to the study of self and identity (that plethora of self-hyphenated terms seen in psychology and neuroscience: self-regulation, self-esteem, self-knowledge, self-concept, self-perception, and more). We will likewise not engage with many canonical philosophical treatments of self and identity. But we will lay out a body of research that brings together classic themes in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience to raise empirically tractable philosophical questions, and philosophically rigorous empirical questions about self and identity. More specifically, in section 4.2, we will review some recent research that has treated traditional philosophical questions about self and identity as empirical questions. Within this body of work, we will be primarily concerned with the finding that morality (more so than memory) is perceived to be at the core of self and identity. Then, in section 4.3, we raise and respond to a variety of questions and criticisms: first, about the operationalization of identity concepts in the empirical literature; second, about the generalizability of the moral self effect; third, about the direction of change; fourth, about connections with recent work in neuroscience; and fifth, about the target of evaluation. Finally, in section 4.4, we consider a variety of implications and applications of this work on the moral self. Throughout, we aim to highlight connections between classical themes in philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience, while also suggesting new directions for interdisciplinary collaboration.

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