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Exploring the Relationship between Aristotelian Moral Philosophy, Moral Psychology, and Contemporary Neurosciences

Publication Authors: 
Hyemin Han
Publication Year: 

The main purpose of this essay is to explore the relation between Aristotelian moral philosophy, moral psychology, and recent neurosciences. This essay discusses whether motivational externalism can be supported by recent neuroscientific evidence. I propose that given various neurosurgical studies from Phineas Gage’s case study to ventromedial prefrontal cortical (VMPFC) lesion experiments, the findings can refute motivational internalism, and can support motivational externalists. Those studies have shown that developed and sophisticated moral reasoning does not necessarily generate moral motivation and actual moral behavior at the end. Instead, there is a motivational force that drives our moral behavior independent from reasoning-based moral judgment from the vantage point of neurosciences.

Second, I demonstrate whether or not findings in developmental neuroscience correspond to moral developmental theory inspired by Aristotelian ethics. Recent studies conducted by developmental neuroscientists show that the developmental process, early habituation followed by development of reasoning, actually occurs in human brains. In addition, intervention-based neuroimaging studies would give us inspiration about how the development of habit and reasoning can be stimulated by interventions by demonstrating that neural-level changes are occurring during the course of the interventions.

I assert that recent neuroscience studies can support Aristotelian moral philosophy and developmental psychology.

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