We are unable to distinguish right from wrong if we rely on pure logic alone, according to a study that shows how morality is based on feelings.That's a rather sweeping statement! Let's read on...
Neuroscientists traced abnormal moral choices -notably cold-blooded "utilitarian" judgments where one person's life is sacrificed for the greater good - to damaged emotional circuits, revealing how, in these cases, moral judgment fails without feelings.This doesn't seem to correspond with the blanket statement with which the story opened.
This discovery will inform the philosophical debate about the degree to which moral judgements are based on norms or emotions.
Our work provides the first causal account of the role of emotions in moral judgments," said co-senior author Prof Marc Hauser of Harvard University. He emphasised that not all moral reasoning depended strongly on emotion. "A wide class of moral judgments are completely normal even without emotional input, showing that we have a cold moral calculus that operates without emotional inspiration," he said.
But for a certain class of moral judgments a small region behind the forehead, the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC), is important.
The discovery was made by researchers at the University of Southern California, Harvard University, Caltech and the University of Iowa after studying six people with damage to the VMPC who behaved in a matter-of-fact way when considering difficult dilemmas.