It’s Not Just What You Do, but What’s on Your Mind: A Review of Kwame Anthony Appiah’s “Experiments in Ethics” [Book Review]

Neuroethics 3 (3):201-207 (2010)
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Abstract

What is the impact of science on philosophy? In “Experiments in Ethics”, Kwame Anthony Appiah addresses this question for morality and ethics. Appiah suggests that scientific results may undermine moral intuitions by undermining our confidence in the actual sources of our intuitions, or by invalidating our factual assumptions about the causes of human behavior. Appiah worries that scientific results showing situational causes on human behavior force us to abandon the intuition, formalized in virtue ethics, that what matters is “who you are on the inside”. In this review, we agree with Appiah that scientific results at once force and do not force us to abandon this intuition. We also propose that Appiah’s worry is due in part to an over-simplified conception of “internal causes”, shared widely among scientists and philosophers. By re-introducing the true richness of internal causes invoked in moral judgments, we hope to relax the tension between scientific results and moral intuitions. Ultimately, we propose that science can undermine and constrain but cannot affirm our commitment to specific moral intuitions

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