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Anger and Forgiveness"Are You There Alone?"10 Good Questions about Life and DeathA Casebook of Ethical Challenges in NeuropsychologyA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to Muslim EthicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Critique of the Moral Defense of VegetarianismA Delicate BalanceA Fragile LifeA Life for a LifeA Life-Centered Approach to BioethicsA Matter of SecurityA Mirror Is for ReflectionA Mirror Is for ReflectionA Natural History of Human MoralityA Philosophical DiseaseA Practical Guide to Clinical Ethics ConsultingA Question of TrustA Sentimentalist Theory of the MindA Short Stay in SwitzerlandA Tapestry of ValuesA Very Bad WizardA World Without ValuesAction and ResponsibilityAction Theory, Rationality and CompulsionActs of ConscienceAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction NeuroethicsAdvance Directives in Mental HealthAfter HarmAftermathAgainst AutonomyAgainst BioethicsAgainst HealthAgainst MarriageAgainst Moral 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ScienceEthics and the A PrioriEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics and the Metaphysics of MedicineEthics at the CinemaEthics at the End of LifeEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationEthics Done RightEthics ExpertiseEthics for EveryoneEthics for PsychologistsEthics for the New MillenniumEthics in CyberspaceEthics in Everyday PlacesEthics in Health CareEthics In Health Services ManagementEthics in Mental Health ResearchEthics in PracticeEthics in PsychiatryEthics in PsychologyEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingEthics of PsychiatryEthics without OntologyEthics, Culture, and PsychiatryEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEvaluating the Science and Ethics of Research on HumansEvilEvil GenesEvil in Modern ThoughtEvil in Modern ThoughtEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolved MoralityExperiments in EthicsExploding the Gene MythExploiting ChildhoodFacing Human SufferingFact and ValueFacts and ValuesFaking ItFalse-Memory Creation in Children and AdultsFat ShameFatal FreedomFellow-Feeling and the Moral LifeFeminism and Its DiscontentsFeminist Ethics and Social and Political PhilosophyFeminist TheoryFinal ExamFirst Do No HarmFirst, Do No HarmFlashpointFlesh WoundsForced to CareForgivenessForgivenessForgiveness and LoveForgiveness and ReconciliationForgiveness and RetributionForgiveness is Really StrangeFoucault and the Government of DisabilityFoundational Issues in Human Brain MappingFoundations of Forensic Mental Health AssessmentFree WillFree Will And Moral ResponsibilityFree Will and Reactive AttitudesFree Will, Agency, and Meaning in LifeFree?Freedom and ValueFreedom vs. InterventionFriendshipFrom Darwin to HitlerFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Enlightenment to ReceptivityFrom Morality to Mental HealthFrom Silence to VoiceFrom Valuing to ValueFrontiers of JusticeGender in the MirrorGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetics of 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Brain Made Me Do ItMy Sister's KeeperMy Sister's KeeperMy WayNano-Bio-EthicsNarrative MedicineNarrative ProsthesisNatural Ethical FactsNatural-Born CybogsNaturalized BioethicsNeither Bad nor MadNeoconservatismNeonatal BioethicsNeurobiology and the Development of Human MoralityNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNew Takes in Film-PhilosophyNew Waves in EthicsNew Waves in MetaethicsNietzsche on Ethics and PoliticsNo Child Left DifferentNo Impact ManNormative EthicsNormativityNothing about us, without us!Oath BetrayedOf War and LawOn ApologyOn Being AuthenticOn EvilOn Human RightsOn The Stigma Of Mental IllnessOn the TakeOn Virtue EthicsOn What MattersOn What We Owe to Each OtherOne ChildOne Nation Under TherapyOne World NowOne World NowOur Bodies, Whose Property?Our Bodies, Whose Property?Our Daily MedsOur Faithfulness to the PastOur Posthuman FutureOut of EdenOut of Its MindOut of the ShadowsOverdosed AmericaOxford Handbook of Psychiatric EthicsOxford Studies in Normative EthicsOxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 7Oxford Textbook of Philosophy of PsychiatryPassionate DeliberationPatient Autonomy and the Ethics of ResponsibilityPC, M.D.Perfecting VirtuePersonal AutonomyPersonal Autonomy in SocietyPersonal Identity and EthicsPersonalities on the PlatePersonhood and Health CarePersons, Humanity, and the Definition of DeathPerspectives On Health And Human RightsPharmaceutical FreedomPharmacracyPharmageddonPhilosophy and This Actual WorldPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of Technology: The Technological ConditionPhysician-Assisted DyingPicturing DisabilityPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying God?Playing God?Political EmotionsPornlandPowerful MedicinesPractical Autonomy and BioethicsPractical EthicsPractical Ethics for PsychologistsPractical RulesPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic NeuroethicsPraise and BlamePreferences and Well-BeingPrimates and PhilosophersPro-Life, Pro-ChoiceProcreation and ParenthoodProfits Before People?Progress in BioethicsProperty in the BodyProzac As a Way of LifeProzac on the CouchPsychiatric Aspects of Justification, Excuse and Mitigation in Anglo-American Criminal Law Psychiatric EthicsPsychiatry and EmpirePsychological Concepts and Biological PsychiatryPsychology and Consumer CulturePsychology and LawPsychotropic Drug Prescriber's Survival GuidePublic Health LawPublic Health Law and EthicsPublic PhilosophyPunishing the Mentally IllPunishmentPursuits of WisdomPutting Morality Back Into PoliticsPutting on VirtueQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRaceRadical HopeRadical VirtuesRape Is RapeRe-creating MedicineRe-Engineering Philosophy for Limited BeingsReason's GriefReasonably ViciousReckoning With HomelessnessReconceiving Medical EthicsRecovery from SchizophreniaRedefining RapeRedesigning HumansReducing the Stigma of Mental IllnessReflections on Ethics and ResponsibilityReflections On How We LiveReframing Disease ContextuallyRefusing CareRefuting Peter Singer's Ethical TheoryRelative JusticeRelativism and Human 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and PedophilesSex OffendersSex, Family, and the Culture WarsSexual DevianceSexual EthicsSexual PredatorsSexualized BrainsShaping Our SelvesShock TherapyShould I Medicate My Child?ShunnedSick to Death and Not Going to Take It AnymoreSickoSide EffectsSidewalk StoriesSister CitizenSkeptical FeminismSocial Dimensions of Moral ResponsibilitySocial Inclusion of People with Mental IllnessSocial JusticeSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsSome We Love, Some We Hate, Some We EatSovereign VirtueSpeech MattersSpiral of EntrapmentSplit DecisionsSticks and StonesStories MatterSubhumanSubjectivity and Being SomebodySuffering, Death, and IdentitySuicide ProhibitionSurgery JunkiesSurgically Shaping ChildrenTaking Morality SeriouslyTaming the Troublesome ChildTechnology and the Good Life?TestimonyText and Materials on International Human RightsThe Age of CulpabilityThe Aims of Higher EducationThe Almost MoonThe Altruistic BrainThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Forensic 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ReconciliationTreatment Kind and FairTrusting on the EdgeTry to RememberUltimate JudgementUnborn in the USA: Inside the War on AbortionUndermining ScienceUnderstanding AbortionUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding EmotionsUnderstanding EvilUnderstanding Kant's EthicsUnderstanding Moral ObligationUnderstanding Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry InteractionsUnderstanding TerrorismUnderstanding the GenomeUnderstanding the Stigma of Mental IllnessUnderstanding Treatment Without ConsentUnhingedUnprincipled VirtueUnsanctifying Human Life: Essays on EthicsUnspeakable Acts, Ordinary PeopleUp in FlamesUpheavals of ThoughtUsers and Abusers of PsychiatryValue-Free Science?Values and Psychiatric DiagnosisValues in ConflictVegetarianismViolence and Mental DisorderVirtue EthicsVirtue, Rules, and JusticeVirtue, Vice, and PersonalityVirtues and Their VicesVoracious Science and Vulnerable AnimalsVulnerability, Autonomy, and Applied EthicsWar Against the WeakWar, Torture and TerrorismWarrior's DishonourWeaknessWelfare and Rational CareWhat are you staring at?What Genes Can't DoWhat Have We DoneWhat Is a Human?What Is Good and WhyWhat Is Good and WhyWhat Is the Good Life?What Price Better Health?What Should I Do?What We Owe to Each OtherWhat Would Aristotle Do?What's Good on TVWhat's Normal?What's Wrong with Children's RightsWhat's Wrong with Homosexuality?What's Wrong With Morality?When Is Discrimination Wrong?Who Holds the Moral High Ground?Who Owns YouWho Qualifies for Rights?Whose America?Whose View of Life?Why Animals MatterWhy Animals MatterWhy Does Inequality Matter?Why Honor MattersWhy I Burned My Book and Other Essays on DisabilityWhy Not Kill Them All?Why Punish? How Much?Why Some Things Should Not Be for SaleWisdom, Intuition and EthicsWithout ConscienceWomen and Borderline Personality DisorderWomen and MadnessWondergenesWould You Kill the Fat Man?Wrestling with Behavioral GeneticsWriting About PatientsYou Must Be DreamingYour Genetic DestinyYour Inner FishYouth Offending and Youth Justice Yuck!
Whence the idea of
"conscience"? The moral notion of ought, and the
acknowledgment that we sometimes do things that we ought not do, requires an
acceptance of the premise that there exists a moral standard to which we
aspire. If we consciously determine to do that which we ought to do, we are
acting as if that moral standard is somehow higher than, or at least different
than, our natural inclinations. And if we admit that from time to time we have
not "been ourselves," ethically speaking, or, we "didn't know
what we were thinking" when we violated our own moral standards, we are
likewise giving cognizance to a conflict between what we understand to be the
right mode of behavior, and our own demonstrated actions. What is the source of
this inner conflict, this acknowledgment of an occasional gap between our
preferred morality and our own actions? As Henry Haslam asks the question in The
Moral Mind, "Why don't we go along with the dictates of our biological
This is a question
that has haunted humankind since the beginning of recorded history. Socrates
wrestled with it in the Meno and the Protagoras, concluding
that the question is itself fallacious because no human being ever knowingly
desires -- or, therefore, does -- that which is bad (see Meno 77e). St.
Paul lamented in the Christian New Testament that he knew what was right but
could not bring himself to do it (Rom. 7:12-25). In The Adventures of
Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain has Huck forego his duty to return Jim, a
slave, to his slave-owner, by declaring, "All right, then, I'll go to
Hell." In his Descent of Man, Charles Darwin identified this inner
dissonance as the essential characteristic that differentiates humans from
lower animals. The gap between moral belief, on the one hand, and wilful human
action, on the other, creates a tension that runs through literature,
philosophy, religion, moral psychology, and a variety of other disciplines and
Henry Haslam is a
natural scientist who works from strong evolutionary presuppositions. His essay
summarizes his conclusions about the development and nature of human morality.
He draws heavily from evolutionary theory, and from his beliefs about our
animal ancestry, in an effort to articulate a naturalistic explanation for the
phenomenon of the human conscience. The Moral Mind takes into account
the apparent similarity of human and animal "ethical" behavior, and
Haslam explores the question of conscience with a certain optimism about the
insights that science in general, and evolutionary theory in particular, can
The idea of conscience
includes both an expectation (regarding the possibility of an external,
objective set of moral standards) and a disappointment (that human intentions
and behaviors too often fall short of such standards, however those standards
are derived or understood). As John Hare observes in The Moral Gap, the
dilemma created by moral expectations (and the resultant disappointments) can
be addressed in one of three ways: by human attempts to intentionally close the
gap between such expectations and observed behaviors; by denying that the gap
exists (that is, by lowering moral standards until they are equated with actual
human behavior); or by developing an integrated religious, social or economic
theory that accommodates the dynamics of the dilemma. Attempts to close the gap
have included various classical, faith-based and modernistic moral theories and
strictures, including (and especially) Aristotelean virtue theories. Efforts to
deny the gap have emerged from a variety of neo-Darwinist empirical theorists, who,
like Socrates, would conclude that morality must necessarily consist of the sum
of observed behavior.
investigation falls into the third category. He, like Darwin, acknowledges that
the moral sense -- the human conscience -- represents a deep and spiritual
challenge that should not be readily brushed aside. For Haslam, it is not
enough to pretend that redemption is simply a matter of education and volition.
Similarly, his work takes into account the frustration felt by most people as
they observe evil at the hands of others (and as they occasionally experience
real disappointment upon reflection of their own ethical negligence).
The Moral Mind
consists of a survey of both moral philosophy (as understood by moral
theorists) and the moral sense (as articulated by some natural and social
scientists). The theoretical aspects of the former are described in traditional
terms (logical positivism, moral relativism, emotivism, etc.). The cognitive
aspects of the latter are founded largely on robust evolutionary claims in
regard to moral instincts, the development of social customs, and the human
tendency to drift, from time to time, in the direction of selflessness and
altruism. Whether these claims are warranted, or simply represent wishful
thinking on the part of some evolutionary theorists, is a question that is
necessarily left to the reader.
This work is not
held out as a comprehensive treatise on moral cognition. But it serves well as
an introductory investigation that is guided by an author who has a profound
regard for scientific truth, as well as an intellectual openness to the
transcendent and the spiritual. The Moral Mind offers a stimulating
introduction to the questions about conscience and morality that continue to
hover over a the investigation of the moral sense by philosophers and
scientists, and that continue to inform the efforts of theists who struggle to
reconcile scientific findings with an evolution-friendly understanding of
creation and theology.
Darwin, Charles. The Descent of Man (1871). Darwin.
Ed. Philip Appleman. New York: W. W. Norton, 1970.
Hare, John. The Moral Gap : Kantian Ethics, Human Limits, and God's
Assistance. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.
Plato. "Protagoras" and "Meno." Trans. W.K.C.
Guthrie. Harmondsworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1972.
Twain, Mark [Samuel Clemens]. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. New York:
Random House, 1996.
2006 Albert D. Spalding, Jr.
Albert D. Spalding, JD, is an associate professor at Wayne State University School of Business
Administration. He teaches legal studies and ethics.