Philosopher and neuroscientist Joshua Greene has a new book out called Moral Tribes. Thomas Nagel has written a review for New Republic entitled, "You Can't Learn about Morality from Brain Scans:The Problem with Moral Psychology." The book just came out, so I have yet to read it (so I can't speak to that part of the book review). But Nagel discusses a number of interesting metaphilosophical issues that Greene's work raises at the intersection of empirical moral psychology and first order moral philosophy that I thought it might be fun to discuss here on the blog. Here is a short video of Greene discussing some aspects of the view he defends in the book. It's prety clear from my work where my metaphilosophical alegiances are when it comes to these and related issues. I am far more interested in hearing what readers think either about Nagel's review (especially if you've already read the book) or about what Greene says more generally about "point and shoot" vs. "manual mode" moral psychology and optimized morality.
p.s. Signed comments are strongly preferred. I will be moderating comments, so please be patient.
ADDENDUM: A reader emailed me the following--which I thought it was worth passing along:
"The print version [of Nagel's review] has one title, and the web version has another. The web title especially ("You can't learn about morality from brain scans") not only misrepresents the book (which spends rather little time on functional neuroimaging and makes no essential use of it in its argument), but also misrepresents Nagel's review. Nagel barely talks about "brain scans", and for good reason.
There's a bit of a backstory here. Leon Wieseltier is the literary editor of TNR, and he recently had a nasty spat with Pinker and Dennett over "Science should stay out of philosophy":
My strong suspicion is that he assigned the review to Nagel hoping that Nagel would trash the book. Then Nagel wrote a very thoughtful and respectful dissent. But Wieseltier just gave Nagel's review the title that he had in mind before he even got the review back."
While this is speculation at this point, given that the title of Nagel's review led me to expect the review to be decidely different than it turned out to be, I think it is worth sharing! I will send an email later on today to TNR and Nagel to see if I can shed any more light on why the title of the review is so discongruent with the content.
SECOND ADDENDUM: The aforementioned reader's suspicions were correct. Nagel has kindly clarified to me that he did not select the title.