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Did Your Brain Make You Do It? (NYT 7/29)
Posted: 29 July 2012 05:18 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Someone posted to the endless free-to-choose thread and then a couple of hours later I saw this article in Sunday’s NY TImes:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opinion/sunday/neuroscience-and-moral-responsibility.html?_r=1

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Posted: 29 July 2012 10:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Yes, interesting read, especially to use a psychological entry to the topic: to examine how people factually think about brain, mind and responsibility.

I think for me an important question for assigning responsibility is if the person in question is capable of understanding the moral dimension of his act, and that he understands why he is punished (understanding is not the same as agreeing!).

The question “Was the cause psychological or biological?” makes for me some sense, but maybe (partially?) irrelevant to the question of responsibility: for me the distinction psychological/biological makes sense in the respect in how the changes in the brain were caused. Did they come about via the senses (seeing that your father is angry with you and your mother), hearing (hear your father say that you are a useless and mean piece of shit, and hearing the fear in your mother’s voice), and feeling (pain)? Or did they come about by other ways, e.g. genetic, or your mother drinking and smoking during she was pregnant of you, or exposure to environment poisons, or somebody did some drug in your beer.

But I tend to agree with the author that such biological cause in themselves do not decide about the question if somebody is responsible or not.

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Posted: 30 July 2012 10:16 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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GdB - 29 July 2012 10:59 PM

I think for me an important question for assigning responsibility is if the person in question is capable of understanding the moral dimension of his act, and that he understands why he is punished (understanding is not the same as agreeing!).

And the answers to that might be it is wrongly judged that he deserves it. The desire for suffering as payback. Or because it’s judged his suffering might deter others and/or change his behaviour in the future.

Stephen

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Posted: 30 July 2012 11:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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StephenLawrence - 30 July 2012 10:16 AM

And the answers to that might be it is wrongly judged that he deserves it. The desire for suffering as payback. Or because it’s judged his suffering might deter others and/or change his behaviour in the future.

To justify punishment I never use the concept of ‘deserving’.

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GdB

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Posted: 30 July 2012 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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GdB - 30 July 2012 11:09 AM

To justify punishment I never use the concept of ‘deserving’.

Really?  So this woman didn’t deserve her punishment?

Whatever it eventually turned out to be.

EDIT
Fixed tag errors, added stuff.

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“In the end nature is horrific and teaches us nothing.” -Mutual of Omicron

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Posted: 30 July 2012 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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GdB - 30 July 2012 11:09 AM
StephenLawrence - 30 July 2012 10:16 AM

And the answers to that might be it is wrongly judged that he deserves it. The desire for suffering as payback. Or because it’s judged his suffering might deter others and/or change his behaviour in the future.

To justify punishment I never use the concept of ‘deserving’.

Good.

Stephen

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Posted: 30 July 2012 10:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Dead Monky - 30 July 2012 11:38 AM

Really?  So this woman didn’t deserve her punishment?

Yep. She first needs medical treatment, as she obviously was not capable to understand or act according to moral standards. If a treatment would turn out successful, the situation should be looked at again.

Unreflected emotions have nothing to do in cases like these.

Could you describe what you mean when you say somebody deserves his/her punishment? On what deliberations do you base who ‘deserves’ which punishment?

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Posted: 31 July 2012 07:10 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Eh.  I don’t especially care whether she “deserves” it or not.  And I’m not entirely sure how to define it anyway.

I was just stirring things up.  Honestly, I’m generally in favor of euthanizing psychotics, sociopaths, and others with less than favorable treatment outlooks.  It’s just a pointless waste of resources.

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“In the end nature is horrific and teaches us nothing.” -Mutual of Omicron

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Posted: 31 July 2012 11:49 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Dead Monky - 31 July 2012 07:10 AM

I was just stirring things up.  Honestly, I’m generally in favor of euthanizing psychotics, sociopaths, and others with less than favorable treatment outlooks.  It’s just a pointless waste of resources.

Would you feel the same way if your son or daughter were diagnosed as a sociopath?

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Posted: 31 July 2012 01:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Eh.  I don’t especially care whether she “deserves” it or not.  And I’m not entirely sure how to define it anyway.

I was just stirring things up.  Honestly, I’m generally in favor of euthanizing psychotics, sociopaths, and others with less than favorable treatment outlooks.  It’s just a pointless waste of resources.


Ouch! DM I here the shouted strains of the “Horst Wessel lied” here. There is a case to be made that some of these people may be successfully treated and if properly diagnosed could be prevented from harming anyone via drug therapy. What I’m saying is let’s first be certain it’s not medical before we throw them into the gas chamber.

 

Cap’t Jack

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Posted: 31 July 2012 01:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Thevillageatheist and FreeInKy,

Don’t take Dead Monky too serious here… He is not as bad as he seems. It is his way of saying that he doesn’t want to be a philosopher. Stirring up is his business. In other times he would have been a jester. Do not expect that he will give the topic a serious treatment.

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Posted: 31 July 2012 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Thevillageatheist and FreeInKy,

Don’t take Dead Monky too serious here… He is not as bad as he seems. It is his way of saying that he doesn’t want to be a philosopher. Stirring up is his business. In other times he would have been a jester. Do not expect that he will give the topic a serious treatment.

Yeah, I know. I was just responding to his over-the-top remark cause there are people out there who actually believe this the way to handle sociopaths. We all wish there was an easy solution to the problem but it’s more complicated than that. Besides, I like it when DM stirs things up. Although I never figured out why he hates hippies??  smile

Cap’t Jack

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One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests.

Thomas Paine

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Posted: 01 August 2012 03:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Soon our problems will all be solved. We won’t have to think at all anymore…:cheese:

http://www.futureoftech.msnbc.msn.com/technology/futureoftech/ambitious-project-aims-simulate-billion-brain-cells-917696

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Art is the creation of that which evokes an emotional response, leading to thoughts of the noblest kind.
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Posted: 01 August 2012 01:51 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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GdB - 30 July 2012 10:51 PM
Dead Monky - 30 July 2012 11:38 AM

Really?  So this woman didn’t deserve her punishment?

Yep. She first needs medical treatment, as she obviously was not capable to understand or act according to moral standards. If a treatment would turn out successful, the situation should be looked at again.

Unreflected emotions have nothing to do in cases like these.

Could you describe what you mean when you say somebody deserves his/her punishment? On what deliberations do you base who ‘deserves’ which punishment?

I’m not Dead Monkey, but I’d like to explain to you what it means.
The brain does make us responsible for our actions.(obviously..what else could it be?)
The human brain is wired to make us collective, social.  This unequivocally means all of our brains work together in conjunction.  This is witnessed so many times in a single minute around the world that it makes the mere description of it seem redundant.  Language, sexual behavior, consensus, family, laws, headmasters, rulers, slaves, fears, etc..
This redundancy in turn is why so many of the most important “cogs” of this discussion never get touched upon. No one thinks to have simple discussions here on the general mechanics of social thinking.  Instead most jump ahead to “philosophical psychology 301 Courses on hidden metaphysical motivations”. etc…

So to answer your question, what it means when someone deserves punishment is that the collective, evolved, social hierarchy has devised systems of reward and punishment to advance the species for survival.(pertaining to evolution)
Deserved is part of this. Most people generally agree on who needs reward and who needs punishment. Generally.  We are a complicated animal with highly complex social and behavioral systems.  But underneath all the wiring and “confusing structure” is the same old system that’s been running along.
So it is completely normal on a philosophical and scientific naturalistic level to assign blame, reward, accolades or punishment. It’s normal on any other level as well.
We’ve been through all this before.  I’m guessing that you-GdB, are trying to advance some meta-buddhist value system on everyone.

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Posted: 01 August 2012 11:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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VYAZMA - 01 August 2012 01:51 PM

I’m guessing that you-GdB, are trying to advance some meta-buddhist value system on everyone.

What has this to do in a discussion based on arguments?

The concept of deserving has some absolute touch. It seems that some people think that the kind and severity of the punishment is rooted in some metaphysical justification. It is not. Those who punish cannot sneak out of responsibility themselves. So partially you are right, but then what punishment somebody deserves is dependent on the culture. So how do a crime and the punishment trade off? Stealing a loaf of bread is punished by: exile to Australia, your hand cut of, or by a small note at the police department? A killing motivated by jealousy is punished by 3 years or 15 years prison? A killing in the same way, but because of robbery by 15 or 25 years? Does the concept of ‘deserving’ helps us to decide such questions? I think it doesn’t.

VYAZMA - 01 August 2012 01:51 PM

So it is completely normal on a philosophical and scientific naturalistic level to assign blame, reward, accolades or punishment. It’s normal on any other level as well.

Yes, of course, I do not even disagree with you (your eyes seem to become red when I discuss a topic about free will or responsibility even before you really read it). We have good reasons to punish criminals. But the concept of ‘deserving’ is no use at all.

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Posted: 01 August 2012 11:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I am just fascinated by “mirror neurons” in our brains.  Here is where the “collective experiences” is stored.  They are present in all sentient lifeforms. They allow us to experience the emotions of empathy and familiarity, but also fear and alienation.
This is how a dog will nurse a tigercub, how we share food with a starving person, how we cringe when we see trauma inflicted on something.
Mirror neurons are essential in translation of body language, vocal pitch, attitude, pain, pleasure. Mirror Neurons determine that “perfect love match”, a recognition of shared emotional compatibility. They can also warn us when something is amiss, these little neurons have the ability to discern the slightest deviation from the norm.

All societies are built on common mirror neurons present in its populations. But I am afraid that evolution of mirror neurons does not in any way guarantee for a stable future.

[ Edited: 02 August 2012 12:02 AM by Write4U ]
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