Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Neuroscience and X's Moral Attitude Toward Cows

Neuroscientist David Eagelman writes (in a dialogue with Raymond Tallis here):

"An individual brain reflects its culture. Our opinions on normality, custom, dress codes and local superstitions are absorbed into our neural circuitry from the social forest around us. To a surprising extent, one can glimpse a culture by studying a brain. Moral attitudes toward cows, pigs, crosses and burkas can be read from the physiological responses of brains in different cultures."

But surely that is incorrect. Even if we had an exhaustive knowledge of the physical state of affairs of X's brain at time t, such knowledge would not allow us to point to a network of neural connections and conclude: "And here we have X's moral attitude toward cows." Only X has the key to such first-person subjective consciousness.