How Your Morality is Connected to Your Brain

Are your personal politics genetic? This could be how your moral compass is formed. 🧠

Her biological approach has made her a controversial figure among philosophers

Could our individual morality be hard-wired? According to Neuro-philosopher Patricia Churchland we need to look at the brain to understand where our moral values comes from. According to Churchland, our moral values are rooted in a behavior common to all mammals the caring for offspring. And a key part of the story is brain chemicals. Oxytocin and the other peptide, vasopressin, are known to be very important in regulating social behavior in mammals and in birds. They are important for generating attachments and maintaining attachments first to offspring but to parents, to siblings, to friends, to mates and so on.

“There are many regions of the brain that contribute to virtually everything we do, to all of the decisions we make, to all of the behaviors we engage in, even to perception. We know that for social and moral decisions that frontal structures, these guys up here above the eyes, that those structures are very important, but so are the very ancient structures that provide motivation structures and in what's called the brain stem and in the basal ganglia. So there isn't a morality center, it isn't like you know you can ping it often and suddenly somebody would just be immoral, it's very complicated but then, everything about the brain is very complicated,” Patricia Churchland tells Brut.

Just like brain science, genetics could also be the key to understanding moral decision-making. Studies even show that biology can determine political views, as in, whether someone is liberal or conservative. Yet, according to Churchland, genetics is not everything. Her biological approach has made her a controversial figure among philosophers. Disrupting the Western philosophical tradition, her views are reshaping the way we think about our moral absolutes.