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Social NeuroscienceToward Understanding the Underpinnings of the Social Mind$
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Alexander Todorov, Susan Fiske, and Deborah Prentice

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780195316872

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195316872.001.0001

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Social Neuroscience and the Soul's Last Stand

Social Neuroscience and the Soul's Last Stand

(p.263) Chapter 18 Social Neuroscience and the Soul's Last Stand
Social Neuroscience

Joshua D. Greene

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the broader implications of social neuroscience. These days, even the most ardent dualists recognize that we have brains and that our brains must do something. In recent decades we've learned that brains do many things that are historically within the province of the soul: perception, memory, the production and comprehension of language, and so forth. The soul has, as it were, “outsourced” these operations to the brain. This outsourcing process, still ongoing, raises a question: How many of the soul's functions can be taken up by the brain before the soul is completely out of a job? In other words, what is the soul's “core competence?” The chapter contends that the answer is moral judgment. After all, in many religious traditions it is the quality of a soul's moral judgment and character that determines where it ends up, either permanently or on the next go-around. Thus, if the soul is not in the moral judgment business, it is not in any business at all. And, thus, what it would take to send the soul packing for good is a purely physical account of how the human mind does its moral business.

Keywords:   social neuroscience, soul, moral judgment, perception, memory, language

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