“Morality is not the product of a mythical pure reason divorced from natural selection and the neural wiring that motivates the animal to sociability. It emerges from the human brain and its responses to real human needs, desires, and social experience; it depends on innate emotional responses, on reward circuitry that allows pleasure and fear to be associated with certain conditions, on cortical networks, hormones and neuropeptides. Its cognitive underpinnings owe more to case-based reasoning than to conformity to rules.
Hardware and software are intertwined to such an extent that all philosophy must be “neurophilosophy.” There’s no other way. (...) Morality turns out to be not a quest for overarching principles but rather a process and practice not very different from negotiating our way through day-to-day social life. Brain scans, she points out, show little to no difference between how the brain works when solving social problems and how it works when solving ethical dilemmas. (…)
[Churchland] thinks, with Aristotle’s argument that morality is not about rule-making but instead about the cultivation of moral sentiment through experience, training, and the following of role models. The biological story also confirms, she thinks, David Hume’s assertion that reason and the emotions cannot be disentangled. (...) Churchland describes this process of moral decision-making as being driven by “constraint satisfaction.” (...) roughly speaking it involves various factors with various weights and probabilities interacting so as to produce a suitable solution to a question.” (...) Morality doesn’t become any different than deciding what kind of bridge to build across a river. (...)
Our intuitions about how to get along with other people may have been shaped by our interactions within small groups (and between small groups). But we don’t live in small groups anymore, so we need some procedures through which we leverage our social skills into uncharted areas—and that is what the traditional academic philosophers, whom Churchland mostly rejects, work on. What are our obligations to future generations (concerning climate change, say)? What do we owe poor people on the other side of the globe (whom we might never have heard of, in our evolutionary past)? (...) [A] several universal “foundations” of moral thought: (...) That strikes her as a nice list, but no more—a random collection of moral qualities that isn’t at all rooted in biology."