Hardwired Principles?

Fascinating little snippet from Wired Science.

The fundamental origin of our dearest beliefs is a centuries-old philosophical question: Do they reflect, as Kant claimed, deep and pure principles? Or, per Jeremy Bentham, are they elegantly rationalized cost-benefit analyses?


Neuroscientist Greg Berns of Emory University put this question to the test in a brain scanner. He found that when people refused to accept cash for stating beliefs opposite to their own, it wasn't simply because the cash wasn't enough. Reward-calculating parts of their brains weren't even part of the equation; instead, activity occurred in rule-processing, right-or-wrong systems. Principle was truly principled.


Image: BenFrantzDale/Flickr


Citation: “The price of your soul: neural evidence for the non-utilitarian representation of sacred values.” By Gregory S. Berns, Emily Bell, C. Monica Capra, Michael J. Prietula, Sara Moore, Brittany Anderson, Jeremy Ginges and Scott Atran. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, Vol. 367 No. 1589, March 5, 2012.

Of course it doesn't solve the question. Sure, according to Kant some things just are – the noumenal truths. But if they're hard wired is that because we're created by God that way? Or is it how we've evolved? Or, (can. open. worms all over floor) both!

Either way, interesting stuff.


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