Title Conscience
Subtitle The Origins of Moral Intuition
Author Patricia S. Churchland
ISBN 9781324000891
List price USD 27.95
Price outside India Available on Request
Original price
Binding Hardbound
No of pages 272
Book size 165 x 241 mm
Publishing year 2019
Original publisher W. W. Norton & Company
Published in India by .
Exclusive distributors Viva Books Private Limited
Sales territory India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, .
Status New Arrival
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Conscience is an entertaining, erudite, and timely reminder of the neurobiological origins of those voices in our head telling us to behave. Moral philosophers, zealots and ideologues have been arguing for their versions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ for millennia; now it’s time for Patricia S. Churchland to remind us that morality doesn’t come from a stone tablet or a logical axiom, but is rather one of Nature’s inventions enabling our greatest superpower: sociality. It’s messy, useful, and very human—like thumbs.”

Blaise Agüera y Arcas, distinguished scientist, Google AI


“Informative, accessible, and engaging.”

Glenn C. Altschuler , Psychology Today


“There are fascinating nuggets in the research Churchland cites…Her examples are varied and provocative.”

Olivia Goldhill, New York Times


“Patricia S. Churchland has done it again! She wisely guides readers on a lively romp through recent research in neuroscience, genetics, evolution, psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, economics, politics, and philosophy in order to reach a more complete understanding of how and why we can get along despite our deep disagreements about what is wrong or right. This fun and fascinating journey shows why morality cannot be fully understood without the wide variety of perspectives and of scientific information that this tour de force provides.”

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, author of Think Again


“A thoughtful, accessible, and enlightening book.”

Kirkus Reviews


“Lucid, stimulating accounts of recent discoveries in neuroscience and psychology.”

Sissela Bok, American Scholar


“No one blends philosophy and neuroscience as well as Patricia S. Churchland. Here she provides a much-needed correction to the usual emphasis on reasoning and logic in moral philosophy. Our judgements are guided by ancient intuitions and brain processes shared with other mammals.”

Frans de Waal, author of Mama’s Last Hug


“In Conscience, Patricia S. Churchland pulls back the curtains and takes us behind the scenes to show where our morals come from. Packed with the latest neuroscience research, the surprising answer turns out to be our very own brains. A must-read for anyone with a conscience.”

Gregory Berns, author of How Dogs Love Us


“The British intellectual C.P. Snow gave a lecture in which he argued that the sciences and humanities were different enterprises that could never be bridged. Churchland’s pioneering book Neurophilosophy showed that the bridge is in fact the human brain. Now she tackles the last stronghold of orthodox philosophers—human morality itself. And she has done it again, providing a powerful argument for a neuroscientific approach to morality”

V. S. Ramachandran, author of The Tell-Tale Brain

“Patricia S. Churchland takes us on a fascinating journey intertwining philosophy from Socrates and Aristotle to Kant and Solzhenitsyn to the latest ideas in neuroscience, covering a vast span of knowledge in a graceful and appealing style that is spellbinding. A jewel among books about human nature.”

Ann Graybiel, investigator at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT


Illuminating, entertaining and wise.

Nicholas A. Christakis, Nature


How do we determine right from wrong? Conscience illuminates the answer through science and philosophy.

In her brilliant work Touching a Nerve, Patricia S. Churchland, the distinguished founder of neurophilosophy, drew from scientific research on the brain to understand its philosophical and ethical implications for identity, consciousness, free will, and memory. In Conscience, she explores how moral systems arise from our physical selves in combination with environmental demands.

All social groups have ideals for behavior, even though ethics vary among different cultures and among individuals within each culture. In trying to understand why, Churchland brings together an understanding of the influences of nature and nurture. She looks to evolution to elucidate how, from birth, our brains are configured to form bonds, to cooperate, and to care. She shows how children grow up in society to learn, through repetition and rewards, the norms, values, and behavior that their parents embrace.

Conscience delves into scientific studies, particularly the fascinating work on twins, to deepen our understanding of whether people have a predisposition to embrace specific ethical stands. Research on psychopaths illuminates the knowledge about those who abide by no moral system and the explanations science gives for these disturbing individuals.

Churchland then turns to philosophy—that of Socrates, Aquinas, and contemporary thinkers like Owen Flanagan—to explore why morality is central to all societies, how it is transmitted through the generations, and why different cultures live by different morals. Her unparalleled ability to join ideas rarely put into dialogue brings light to a subject that speaks to the meaning of being human.


Introduction: Wired to Care

Chapter 1. The Snuggle for Survival

Chapter 2. Getting Attached

Chapter 3. Learning and Getting Along

Chapter 4. Norms and Values

Chapter 5. I’m Just That Way

Chapter 6. Conscience and Its Anomalies

Chapter 7. What’s Love Got to Do With It?

Chapter 8. The Practical Side




About the Author:

Patricia S. Churchland is the author of, most recently, Conscience: The Origins of Moral Intuition and Touching a Nerve: Our Brains, Our Selves. She is professor emerita of philosophy at the University of California, San Diego, and the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. She lives in San Diego.

Target Audience:

Students and academicians of ethics, moral philosophy & neurophilosophy.


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