The Causal Map and Moral Psychology

Philosophical Quarterly 67 (267):347-369 (2016)
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Some philosophers hold that the neuroscience of action is, in practice or in principle, incapable of touching debates in action theory and moral psychology. The role of desires in action, the existence of basic actions, and the like are topics that must be sorted out by philosophers alone: at least at present, and perhaps by the very nature of the questions. This paper examines both philosophical and empirical arguments against the relevance of neuroscience to such questions and argues that neither succeeds. In practice, there is already a stable body of findings from neuroanatomy and neurophysiology that warrants attention. And as a matter of principle, the ‘causal map’ of action production derivable from these findings requires the study of action theorists and moral psychologists because every such philosopher has commitments to the shape of this causal map: commitments that might be in conflict with reality.

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Timothy Schroeder
Rice University


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