The Myth of the Moral Brain: Could a drug make us nicer people?
来源：未知 作者：从珍瘦 时间：2019-02-28 08:02:03
Tim O’Leary/Millennium Images By Jonathon Keats IN 2007, Paul Zak gathered 68 young men to play a game. Pairing them at random, he gave $10 to one person in each pair, which the recipient was instructed to split with his partner. The former could choose how much to offer. If the latter accepted, both men kept the cash. If not, they had to return it. This is the ultimatum game, a standard economics experiment. But Zak, a neuroeconomist, gave it a twist by dosing half his subjects with oxytocin. The difference was dramatic. Those who took a dose of the hormone were 80 per cent more generous than those who didn’t. On the strength of this and other studies linking oxytocin with trust, oxytocin has been lauded as the “moral” chemical. Harris Wiseman is sceptical. He’s also wary of morality claims for serotonin, dopamine and TMS, in which electricity is used to stimulate areas of the brain. In The Myth of the Moral Brain, he argues compellingly against “neuroprimacy” in ethics. “Moral functioning is travestied when approached primarily through biological lenses,” he writes. Through his thoughtful critique of neuroscientific reductionism, he provides a foundation for understanding the complexities of moral action. Wiseman objects to Zak’s experiments. Real life, he argues, is nothing like psychological studies, which require that participants make simple decisions in controlled conditions. To attain statistical significance, the experiments sacrifice relevance. Even more damning, Wiseman observes that the results reveal nothing about motivation. In the ultimatum game, oxytocin may make the subjects more generous, or, equally plausibly, it may make them more risk adverse – which has nothing to do with morality. As a result of these serious limitations, Wiseman thinks that neuroscience is largely counterproductive when it comes to understanding ethics. “Such studies have given us the illusion that our understanding has been deepened,” he writes, “when, arguably, the superficiality of the methods, combined with the authority the domain carries with it, have served to undermine and in fact reduce our understanding of the real-life phenomena [they] are supposed to be representing.” On one level, The Myth of the Moral Brain is a cautionary tale of overconfidence in easy fixes for deep flaws. On another level, Wiseman uses the inadequacies of neuroprimacy to stress that morality emerges not only from biology, but also from psychological, political, social-environmental, economic and religious influences. In such a quagmire, no drug can be expected to effectively target evil. Instead, “virtues require practice”, he writes. In this conclusion, Wiseman is convincing. The challenge is to get people to practise morally salient traits such as trust and generosity. Ironically, chemicals may help. If we believe that oxytocin makes us behave morally, we might yet be enhanced by an ethical placebo effect. The Myth of the Moral Brain: The limits of moral enhancement Harris Wiseman MIT Press This article appeared in print under the headline “A drug to make us good?” More on these topics: