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Anger and Forgiveness"Are You There Alone?"10 Good Questions about Life and DeathA Casebook of Ethical Challenges in NeuropsychologyA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to Muslim EthicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Critique of the Moral Defense of VegetarianismA Delicate BalanceA Life for a LifeA Life-Centered Approach to BioethicsA Matter of SecurityA Natural History of Human MoralityA Philosophical DiseaseA Practical Guide to Clinical Ethics ConsultingA Question of TrustA Sentimentalist Theory of the MindA Short Stay in SwitzerlandA Very Bad WizardA World Without ValuesAction and ResponsibilityAction Theory, Rationality and CompulsionActs of ConscienceAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction NeuroethicsAdvance Directives in Mental HealthAfter HarmAftermathAgainst AutonomyAgainst BioethicsAgainst HealthAgainst Moral ResponsibilityAgency and AnswerabilityAgency and ResponsibilityAgency, Freedom, and Moral ResponsibilityAging, 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VirtueDesire, Practical Reason, and the GoodDestructive Trends in Mental HealthDid My Neurons Make Me Do It?Difference and IdentityDigital HemlockDigital SoulDignityDisability BioethicsDisability, Difference, DiscriminationDisordered Personalities and CrimeDisorders of VolitionDisorientation and Moral LifeDivided Minds and Successive SelvesDoes Feminism Discriminate against Men?Does Torture Work?Double Standards in Medical Research in Developing CountriesDrugs and JusticeDworkin and His CriticsDying in the Twenty-First CenturyEarly WarningEconomics and Youth ViolenceEmbodied RhetoricsEmerging Conceptual, Ethical and Policy Issues in BionanotechnologyEmotional ReasonEmotions in the Moral LifeEmotions in the Moral LifeEmpathyEmpathy and Moral DevelopmentEmpathy and MoralityEmpirical Ethics in PsychiatryEncountering NatureEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEngendering International HealthEnhancing EvolutionEnhancing Human CapacitiesEnoughEros and the GoodErotic InnocenceErotic MoralityEssays on Derek Parfit's On What MattersEssays on Free Will and Moral ResponsibilityEthical Choices in Contemporary MedicineEthical Conflicts in PsychologyEthical Dilemmas in PediatricsEthical Issues in Behavioral ResearchEthical Issues in Dementia CareEthical Issues in Forensic Mental Health ResearchEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEthical LifeEthical Reasoning for Mental Health ProfessionalsEthical TheoryEthical WillsEthically Challenged ProfessionsEthicsEthicsEthicsEthics and AnimalsEthics and ScienceEthics and the A PrioriEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics and the Metaphysics of MedicineEthics at the CinemaEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationEthics Done RightEthics ExpertiseEthics for EveryoneEthics for PsychologistsEthics for the New MillenniumEthics in CyberspaceEthics in Health CareEthics In Health Services ManagementEthics in Mental Health ResearchEthics in PracticeEthics in PsychiatryEthics in PsychologyEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingEthics of PsychiatryEthics without OntologyEthics, Culture, and PsychiatryEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEvaluating the Science and Ethics of Research on HumansEvilEvil GenesEvil in Modern ThoughtEvil in Modern ThoughtEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolved MoralityExperiments in EthicsExploding the Gene MythExploiting ChildhoodFacing Human SufferingFact and ValueFaking ItFalse-Memory Creation in Children and AdultsFat ShameFatal FreedomFellow-Feeling and the Moral LifeFeminism and Its DiscontentsFeminist Ethics and Social and Political PhilosophyFeminist TheoryFinal ExamFirst Do No HarmFirst, Do No HarmFlashpointFlesh WoundsForced to CareForgivenessForgivenessForgiveness and LoveForgiveness and ReconciliationForgiveness and RetributionFoucault and the Government of DisabilityFoundational Issues in Human Brain MappingFoundations of Forensic Mental Health AssessmentFree WillFree 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Whose Property?Our Daily MedsOur Faithfulness to the PastOur Posthuman FutureOut of EdenOut of Its MindOut of the ShadowsOverdosed AmericaOxford Handbook of Psychiatric EthicsOxford Textbook of Philosophy of PsychiatryPassionate DeliberationPatient Autonomy and the Ethics of ResponsibilityPC, M.D.Perfecting VirtuePersonal AutonomyPersonal Autonomy in SocietyPersonal Identity and EthicsPersonhood and Health CarePersons, Humanity, and the Definition of DeathPerspectives On Health And Human RightsPharmacracyPharmageddonPhilosophy and This Actual WorldPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of Technology: The Technological ConditionPhysician-Assisted DyingPicturing DisabilityPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying God?Playing God?Political EmotionsPornlandPowerful MedicinesPractical Autonomy and BioethicsPractical EthicsPractical Ethics for PsychologistsPractical RulesPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic NeuroethicsPraise and BlamePreferences and Well-BeingPrimates and PhilosophersPro-Life, 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Fiends, Perverts, and PedophilesSex OffendersSexual DevianceSexual EthicsSexual PredatorsSexualized BrainsShaping Our SelvesShock TherapyShould I Medicate My Child?ShunnedSick to Death and Not Going to Take It AnymoreSickoSide EffectsSidewalk StoriesSister CitizenSkeptical FeminismSocial Inclusion of People with Mental IllnessSocial JusticeSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsSome We Love, Some We Hate, Some We EatSovereign VirtueSpiral of EntrapmentSplit DecisionsSticks and StonesStories MatterSubjectivity and Being SomebodySuffering, Death, and IdentitySuicide ProhibitionSurgery JunkiesSurgically Shaping ChildrenTaking Morality SeriouslyTaming the Troublesome ChildTechnology and the Good Life?TestimonyText and Materials on International Human RightsThe Aims of Higher EducationThe Almost MoonThe Altruistic BrainThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Forensic PsychiatryThe Animal ManifestoThe Art of LivingThe Autonomy of MoralityThe Beloved SelfThe Best Things in LifeThe Big FixThe Bioethics ReaderThe Biology and Psychology of Moral AgencyThe Blackwell Guide to Medical EthicsThe Body SilentThe BondThe Book of LifeThe Burden of SympathyThe Cambridge Companion to Virtue EthicsThe Cambridge Companion to Virtue EthicsThe Cambridge Textbook of BioethicsThe Case against Assisted SuicideThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case Against PunishmentThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of Terri SchiavoThe Challenge of Human RightsThe Code for Global EthicsThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Commercialization of Intimate LifeThe Common ThreadThe Connected SelfThe Constitution of AgencyThe Creation of PsychopharmacologyThe Criminal BrainThe Decency WarsThe Difficult-to-Treat Psychiatric PatientThe Disability PendulumThe Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to ConfrontationThe Domain of ReasonsThe Double-Edged HelixThe Duty to ProtectThe Emotional Construction of MoralsThe End of Ethics in a Technological SocietyThe End of Stigma?The Essentials of New York Mental 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How Much?Why Some Things Should Not Be for SaleWisdom, Intuition and EthicsWithout ConscienceWomen and Borderline Personality DisorderWomen and MadnessWondergenesWould You Kill the Fat Man?Wrestling with Behavioral GeneticsWriting About PatientsYou Must Be DreamingYour Genetic DestinyYour Inner FishYouth Offending and Youth Justice Yuck!
Exploring an apparent shift in emphasis away from the mental processes and cultural determinants underlying our understanding of moral stances, and instead focusing upon the biological processes involved in the regions of the brain directly involved with moral decision-making, Tancredi presents here a refreshingly realistic neurophilosophy of mind and human behavior. Across 12 chapters, the reader is taken from the earliest religio-philosophical thinking concerned with moral education, through evolutionary psychology, and towards recent findings of brain functional imaging studies, in explaining cases of pathological moral situation management. And although essentially materialistic in causal explanation, the author achieves this without denying the significance of individual responsibility.
Indeed, both as a professional psychiatrist within legal practice and significant academic reputation, Tancredi neither denies that 'immoral behavior' exists, nor that those so afflicted with strong dispositions are necessarily without responsibility for their own individual behavior. Using case studies of real convicted killers as examples, the author uses the lives of the behavioral psychopaths that he introduces to illustrate the effects of both the ontological nature and nurture factors which can affect brain and consciousness changes (and especially so the loss of inhibition). The significance of such developmental experiences will be familiar to most readers of this book by now, but what may prove to be refreshing for many unfamiliar with developmental neuroscience, it to be able to read here of some of the most significant findings of modern brain research normally to be found only in specialized psychology and brain science journals. Although by no means complete (much recent work concerned with the neurological correlates of gambling behavior, for example, are of much relevance to the arguments outlined in this book, yet not included), the discussions occurring throughout several of the chapters concerned with causal explananda re psychopathology are finally coming to be associated with increasingly specific brain regions and predictable focal network dysfunctions.
This said, it is certainly not the case that Tancredi wishes to deny the significance of, for example, instances of personal socio-sexual abuse in explaining the historical development of psychopathology. In fact the author takes such examples to the very heart of his explanations, going further than previous writers, in presenting the biological significance of (for example) sexual abuse for the very reason that such events/experiences are now known to change the brain's structure and function (often permanently), and in significant and particular (possibly predictable) ways. It is this argument more than any other that many will find most useful for the practicing psychologist or psychiatrist engaged in legal work; but the more sociologically inclined reader may take Tancredi to instead be implying (especially given his rather colloquial writing style), that the homicidal psychopath is already intent upon committing a murderous act, and thereby 'intends' to use his known history, or known alcohol consumption intolerance to facilitate his/her ability to commit the act. However such ideas are intended to be read (see esp. Ch.5), the current reviewer agrees with the author's concluding statement such that the very content of thinking is [necessarily] affected [if not determined by] the brain.
With regards the core biological basis, and neurophilosophy of moral reasoning, I would like to have read Tancredi's opinion of, and distinctions from, Churchland's Neurophilosophy (1978) and the differences inherent in her 'eliminative materialism' in explaining his new stance on moral behavior, and moral decision-making in particular. Another curious omission occurs early in the volume during the developmental behavior factor discussions -- we appropriately learn about the significant contributions of the work conducted by (e.g.), Freud, Piaget, Kolberg, and Bowlby, but no mention is made of the work of Stanley Millgram, and his pioneering work on obedience and authoritarian figure response learning -- a body of research I would have thought clearly relevant to our understanding of societal compliance, and moral choice formation. Indeed, although the 'abuse of Iraqi prisoners by American soldiers' is cited as an example of "immoral behavior" possible explainable by biological factors rather than 'conscious intent' (see Preface p.X), Tancredi unfortunately does not return to this issue later in the book.
Overall, this volume deserves its place as a landmark presentation of a much misunderstood, often conflicting, and thus difficult-to-summarize research (and fast changing) literature concerned with the neurobiological bases of decision-making and choice selection, albeit directly addressing issues of personal or social and moral responsibility. Some of the most important (selected) references are provided for the reader wishing to study the primary sources for many of the research finding claims made throughout the book, and are listed in the numbered 'notes' section at the end. However, given the speed and depth of new neural findings being published every month (especially with regards the function of the nucleus acumbens), I would not be too surprised to see an update version of this book coming to the shelf in the not so distant future.
© 2011 Tony Dickinson
Dr. Tony Dickinson, Visiting Professor, Institute of Neuroscience (Chinese Academy of Sciences), Shanghai, China, PRC.
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