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Braintrust

What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality
Narrated by: Catherine Dyer
Length: 8 hrs and 51 mins
4.0 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

Non-member price: $28.94

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Publisher's Summary

What is morality? Where does it come from? And why do most of us heed its call most of the time? In Braintrust, neurophilosophy pioneer Patricia Churchland argues that morality originates in the biology of the brain. She describes the "neurobiological platform of bonding" that, modified by evolutionary pressures and cultural values, has led to human styles of moral behavior. The result is a provocative genealogy of morals that asks us to reevaluate the priority given to religion, absolute rules, and pure reason in accounting for the basis of morality.

Moral values, Churchland argues, are rooted in a behavior common to all mammals: the caring for offspring. The evolved structure, processes, and chemistry of the brain incline humans to strive not only for self-preservation but for the well-being of allied selves - first offspring, then mates, kin, and so on, in wider and wider "caring" circles. Separation and exclusion cause pain, and the company of loved ones causes pleasure; responding to feelings of social pain and pleasure, brains adjust their circuitry to local customs. In this way, caring is apportioned, conscience molded, and moral intuitions instilled. A key part of the story is oxytocin, an ancient body-and-brain molecule that, by decreasing the stress response, allows humans to develop the trust in one another necessary for the development of close-knit ties, social institutions, and morality.

A major new account of what really makes us moral, Braintrust challenges us to reconsider the origins of some of our most cherished values.

©2011 Princeton University Press (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

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  • Douglas
  • 22-01-2014

As The Decade Of The Brain Stretches...

into its fourteenth year, anyone who has done any reading about morality, psychopathy, criminology or religion and their relationship to the brain and its various structures is familiar with mirroring cells, the anterior cingulate cortex, the septal area, the limbic system and its play in emotion, the right temporal lobe and how epilepsy in this area can bring on religious fervor or visions--and one of the people we have to thank for all of this scientific wisdom, along with other such illustrious names as Oliver Sacks, Steven Pinker, V. Ramachandran and Daniel Dennett, is Patricia Churchland. One of my early introductions to this topic was Churchland's TED lecture entitled "This Is Your Brain On Morality," and I have read her work and listened to her debates and speeches on morality and the brain for years. With clear, sharp, scientific insight, Churchland gives us the foundations of the origin of morality in the human species and pierces to the center of its Darwinian purposes in our lives. This book is entertaining, enlightening and insightful and is an absolute must for anyone interested in neurology and its role in the moral realm.

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  • Diogenes
  • 04-09-2020

what neuroscience tells us about sociality

disclosure: i didn't finish the book, as it didn't capture my attention, due to not clearly offering what it was selling this book seems fine if you're interested in neuroscience and sociality. it pulls no punches evidentially and hits you with many scientific findings that some would find hard to follow, especially in an audiobook, so be warned. still, if you can handle scientific information in audio form, and you are interested in neuroscience and sociality, i recommend this book however, i was interested in neuroscience and MORALITY. primarily, i was interested in the metaethics of a noted eliminative materialist. i did not catch any explanation of her metaethics, and the book seems to take cues from what people seem to generally agree is moral, namely prosocial behavior. i'm disappointed because i hardly see how prosocial behavior can be considered morality per se. morality, properly understood, is what we "ought" to do, without qualifiers. sure, some prosocial things are generally considered among those oughts, but compelling arguments can be made for cases of moral behavior which go against cooperation, kinship, survival, and many other biological imperatives. for example, while favoring kin is a natural and emotionally rewarding thing to do, many ethicists believe that we should treat all suffering creatures with equal concern, even if that leads to us helping distant others over familiar people. from an interview i read, kin favoritism is something mrs. churchland believes. that's perfectly good. but i was hoping to read how such matters square off in light of eliminative materialism. this book seems to take ethical naturalism as the starting point, not something to justify. i am disappointed another necessary note is that the narration is quite bad. it starts off well, because the narrator is succeeds in conveying the gravitas of an educated woman discussing something she specializes in, but she regularly mispronounces words. in some chapters, she doesn't go more than a few minutes without mispronouncing words. some are technical words, but some are just normal english words. a second complaint i have is that while the casting is age appropriate relative to the author, i don't think her speaking is that sharp with such a deluge of technical information. she trips up sometimes, and pronounces initialisms like FMRI (normally fast like "effemarrai") pointedly letter by letter like "ef. em. ar. ai", without the fluidity of one speaking naturally. it's sort of annoying given all that, if you like the idea of learning about the brain and prosocial behavior, and aren't picky about narrators, i can recommend this book

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  • Casey A. Wollberg
  • 24-05-2020

Some funny reading mistakes and/or typos.

'endogenius'? 'anagolously'? lol other than that, the narration and content were good. minus one star for minor incompetence.

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  • Cesar
  • 27-06-2016

Couldn't keep my attention

There are very few audiobooks in my library that allow my attention to wander when I am listening on my commute. This was one of them. I believe it was too technical in its language to keep up with the concepts that were being divulged. On top of that, the editing of the audio recording was spotty. I could here the recording level shift in certain parts which made it more unpleasant.

I believe if you are in the field of brain research or a related science, you might find this text interesting. I really had a hard time following and I could not get through it.

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  • Michael K. McEvoy
  • 19-02-2014

Very poorly read

Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

NO

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

Very interesting topic

What didn’t you like about Catherine Dyer’s performance?

She was not conversant with scientific terms ; some of this could be excused for being too obscure but some could not

Could you see Braintrust being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Not applicable

Any additional comments?

This was so poorly done I tried to get a refund ; however I could get no response from Audible

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  • Helen Clemence
  • 30-07-2019

A technical book requires a technical narrator

Patricia Churchland is always clear and engaging and this book is well worth a read or a listen for anyone with an interest in neuroscience and/or morality (and I hope that is everyone). The downfall of this audiobook is in the use of a narrator who appears not to be scientifically literate let alone familiar with neuroscience. As a result of the lack of understanding the emphasis is off and words are mispronounced or mistaken - "causally" is systematically read as "casually" to comic effect. In places, the production seems patchy but I suspect this is also a result of the narration, having to go back later to insert re-reads.