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Caring about Fairness February 18, 2010

Posted by Dwight and Lynn Furrow in Dwight Furrow's Posts, ethics of care, Political Philosophy, Science.
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New research in neuroscience continues to have important implications for philosophical debates in ethics and political philosophy.

Via Colin Farrelly:

Political philosophers interested in abstract debates about equality vs priority and sufficiency should find this recent study in Nature Neuroscience of interest (as well as this News piece).

It is commonly assumed that the impulse to maximize one’s own self-interest is automatic and can be contrasted with the deliberative, reflective sentiments of prosocial actors who care about equality. But it seems that the decision-making of the latter is also automatic emotional processing. Here is the abstract of the paper:

‘Social value orientation’ characterizes individual differences in anchoring attitudes toward the division of resources. Here, by contrasting people with prosocial and individualistic orientations using functional magnetic resonance imaging, we demonstrate that degree of inequity aversion in prosocials is predictable from amygdala activity and unaffected by cognitive load. This result suggests that automatic emotional processing in the amygdala lies at the core of prosocial value orientation.

This is important research in support of an ethic of care and its political implications. It suggests that our concern for fairness and equality is rooted in the emotions, not in our capacity to reason impartially.

It supports my main argument in Reviving the Left.

book-section-book-cover2 Dwight Furrow is author of

Reviving the Left: The Need to Restore Liberal Values in America

For political commentary by Dwight Furrow visit: www.revivingliberalism.com

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