From Desire to Subjective Value: On the Neural Mechanisms of Moral Motivation

Publication Year:
Usage 217
Downloads 217
Social Media 1
Tweets 1
Repository URL:;
Hartner, Daniel
article description
Increasingly, empirically minded moral philosophers are using data from cognitive science and neuroscience to resolve some longstanding philosophical questions about moral motivation, such as whether moral beliefs require the presence of a desire to motivate (Humeanism). These empirical approaches are implicitly committed to the existence of folk psychological (FP) mental states like beliefs and desires. However, data from the neuroscience of decision-making, particularly cellular-level work in neuroeconomics, is now converging with data from cognitive and social neuroscience to explain the processes through which agents are moved to act on the basis of decisions, including decisions about social and moral norms. I argue that these developments are beginning to cast doubt on the prospect of finding nontrivial physical 'realizers' for the FP states invoked in the Humeanism dispute by posing two distinctive challenges that tend to work against each other: belief-desire directionality and causal relevance.