This is a great and very important book. It should be read by everyone concerned with the foundations of morality.
And, to be personal, her work parallels my own work in the field where I stress the cultural sources of morality, with an acknowledgement of the biological basis of behavior, and thus, of culture.
I see some of the other reviews have covered a great deal, so I will be brief.
The material about the brain is excellent. her discussions of the studies where people were given, through nasal sprays, Oxytocin, which had an effect on how the subjects treated other people, thus demonstrating how brain chemistry definitely has a bearing on our moral thinking. Professor Churchland is also very careful to state what is known and what is not known about how the brain works.
The main reason I give the book 4 instead of 5 stars is I felt she could have done a bit more to make connections between the moral theory she was discussing at the end, with all the work on the brain.
We know that caring is a biological function. We also know that negative environmental factors can interfere with caring, especially if one's own survival is in question. I would have also like to have seen a discussion of the ethics of care, namely the discussions following Carol Gilligan's groundbreaking work.
My quibbles with the book are more personal that substantive, because of my own work in the area. Having said that, I repeat that this is an essential book.
on June 24, 2011
Excellent read that fills in the blank spots of my learning journey that began in medical school class 54 UWO. This book in no way cancels out my belief in something beyone that we are able to perceive with our 5 senses. This book complements, scientifically, "Godless Morality" by Richard Holloway, Bishop of Edinburgh
Howard Thompson MD CCFP