Section Introduction: The Neuroscience of Organizational Ethics
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The idea that neuroscience has the potential to enrich and have fundamental implications for ethics is not new but rather part of an ongoing debate about the contribution of neuroscience to the humanities. Already in 1967, physician and neuroscientist Paul MacLean wrote that understandings of the neuronal bases of empathy had the potential to change our view of moral decision-making and empathy in medicine (MacLean 1967). However, alongside celebrations of the promises of neuroscience and its epistemic supremacy in the domain of ethics (Gazzaniga 2005; Churchland 2008), passionate critiques of this view have emerged, deemed as “reductionist” by social scientists and ethicists [for a review, see Pickersgill (2013) and Racine (2013)]. Between an anti-naturalist rejection of the potential of neuroscience to contribute to ethics and the opposite strong positivist sweeping assertions that neuroscience will revolutionize the way we consider morality and offer new foundations to ethics as a discipline, a series of middle-ground moderate naturalistic positions have been proposed (Racine et al. 2017), including those inspired by Dewey’s pragmatic philosophy and his thinking on the role of evidence in ethics (Racine 2010). In our eyes, claims about the foundational nature of neuroscience knowledge, i.e., that a “brain-based ethics” could be derived from the neuroscience of morality, are misled and involve different types of logical fallacies (Racine 2013). However, neuroscience undeniably has important contributions to make to the field of ethics but only if these are brought into dialogue with perspectives from other disciplines as a way to support deliberative processes about different ethical issues.
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