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Suffering and Bioethics$
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Ronald M. Green and Nathan J. Palpant

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199926176

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199926176.001.0001

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Social Neuroscience Meets Philosophy:

Social Neuroscience Meets Philosophy:

Suffering, Empathy, and Moral Cognition

Chapter:
(p.89) 5 Social Neuroscience Meets Philosophy:
Source:
Suffering and Bioethics
Author(s):

Jean Decety

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199926176.003.0005

This chapter draws on the findings of neuroscience and functional imaging technologies to develop our understanding of the links between sensitivity to suffering and the capacity for moral judgment. The author observes that the long history of mammalian evolution, especially the role of parental care in these species, has shaped our brains to perceive and respond with care to others when they are in distress, whether this distress is the result of physical injury, social loss, social rejection, or longing for a loved one. These abilities also seem to be morally significant, with the perception of others’ physical and social distress proving central to caregiving motivation and prosocial behaviors. Highlighting these points, the author closes with an examination of the ways in which newer studies of psychopathy illustrate how lack of sensitivity to others’ suffering contributes to a callous disregard for the welfare of others and amoral conduct.

Keywords:   neuroscience, functional imaging technology, mammalian evolution, prosocial behavior, psychopathy

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