Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Us about Morality

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  • by social structures and cultural traditions inthe formation of human beings.

    Roberts suggests that Hesse equated theEast with home, pointing out that in thebook the words of the poet Novalis, who wasan important influence on Hesses work, arequoted directly: Where are we reallygoing? asks Novalis; Always home! TheEast, in Roberts reading of Hesse, is thus auniversal human destination influenced byHesse finding himself at odds with the Ger-man reality in the years following the FirstWorld War, which signaled the decline of theWest and an emerging age of catastrophes andnihilism. For Roberts, Hesse appears to havebeen looking backwards to pre-modern peri-ods in human history often referencing think-ers from antiquity to the Middle Ages in TheJourney to the East. As for The Glass BeadGame, Hesse situated the origins of the Gameitself deep within human history, attemptingto recover the most noble in the culture ofthe past. Roberts suggests that Hesse admiredDostoevsky and Nietzsche as in their workshe could see the foreshadowing of what heregarded as a frightening future (13), whilealso valorizing the realm of Platonic ideas,with the East being for H. H. and for Hessehimself an idea toward which seekers travelin their own distinctive ways (14).

    Roberts compares and contrasts H. H. inThe Journey to the East with Knecht in TheGlass Bead Game with regard to the problem-atic of the growth of character, especially interms of Knechts willingness to question(21) and his developing a critical conscious-ness. Paradoxically, this means a return toWestern cultural roots, while reconsideringsome of the elitist and egocentric assump-tions (21) that may have influenced H. H.sjourney to the East. Roberts makes clear thatthere are certain lessons to be learned fromThe Glass Bead Game, such as theintertwining of self and society, the need forself-reflection, and the importance ofdialogingall comprising a lifelong processof informal education. In summary, Robertspresents Herman Hesse through the literaland symbolic journeys undertaken by hisprotagonists, H. H. and Knecht, as a manstriving to understand both himself and hissociety. He remarks that Thomas Mann,Hesses countryman and fellow Nobel laure-ate, described The Glass Bead Game as the

    great novel of education. From West to Eastand Back Again partakes of the novel educa-tional theory that acknowledges life-trans-forming experiences and affirms the role ofdialogue in the formation of human and soci-etal structures.

    INNA SEMETSKYUniversity of Waikato, New 2013, Inna Semetsky

    Braintrust: What Neuroscience Tells Usabout Morality. By Patricia S. Churchland(Princeton, NY: Princeton University Press;2011), ix + 273 pp. $24.95/16.95 cloth.

    Patricia Churchland opens a can of contempo-rary ethical conundrums with deftly explainedand richly annotated neuro-physiological evi-dence. Braintrust is a welcome addition to theinterdisciplinary literature bridging the chasmsaid to exist between is and ought, epito-mized by the Natural Fallacy.

    In her introduction, Churchland adopts apragmatic view of moral dilemmas: practicaland social problems are constraint satisfactionproblems, and our brains often make gooddecision in figuring out some solution. . . .Not necessarily the best solution, but a suit-able solution (7). She outlines her neuro-scientific point of view in Chapter 2: In allanimals, neural circuitry grounds self-caringand well-being (13), while she cautions inChapter 3 that a causal relation betweengenes and behavior . . . cannot be achievedmerely by telling a fetching story (22).Instead, in Chapter 4, she mobilizes experi-mental data supporting her main hypothesis. . . that morality originates in the neurobiol-ogy of attachment and bonding, . . . [and]the oxytocin-vasopressin network in mam-mals can be modified to allow care to beextended to others beyond ones litter ofjuveniles, and that, given that network as abackdrop, learning and problem-solving arerecruited to managing ones social life (71).

    In Chapters 5 and 6, Churchland dissectsthe relationship of neural circuitry and mirrorneurons, imitation, and empathy, remindingthe reader that universality is consistent withthe existence of an innate module, but it does


  • not imply the existence of an innate module(108), and it is anything but obvious how, inneural terms, I can be aware of what I intendor believe or desire or feel (142). Finally, inChapters 7 and 8, Churchland returns to phi-losophy for turning a platform into aframework and finding a motherboard oftrust . . . [in the] family (202).

    Regrettably, Churchland relies on short-cuts, such as resorting to teleology in lieu ofexplanation: the mother rats newborn cubsmust be fed, cleaned, and kept warm, aswell as protected from the assorted dangers(30), and on sweeping generalizations thatlack precision: the nervous system is highlyconserved across species (45). Churchlanddoes not avoid the anthropomorphism sheaffects to despise (e.g., 69); her advocacy ofneuro-chemical controls leads her to prejudgeexperimental results (e.g., 80); she takes theedge off objectivity by smoothing data(e.g., 121); she supports her argument withanecdotal evidence, typically from her ownexperience, where data are required (e.g.,129); and she raises bogus issues withconfounded language: Perhaps it would besalutary at this stage to loose the skepticalhounds on the whole claim that empathydepends on simulation (151).

    Rather than escaping from the morass ofthe Natural Fallacy, Churchlands argumentdegenerates into cliches: from a biologicalpoint of view, basic emotions are MotherNatures way of orienting us to do what weprudentially ought (175). Still, one can onlyagree with her that science can teach us, andhas already taught us, a great deal about whatwe ought to do . . . [without implying] thatscience can solve all moral dilemmas (190).

    STANLEY SHOSTAKUniversity of Pittsburgh, 2013, Stanley Shostak

    Islamization of Turkey under the AKPRule. Edited by Birol Yesilada and BarryRubin (London: Routledge, 2011), viii +128 pp. $125.00/85.00 cloth.

    With the approach of the general elections of12 June 2011, the ruling Justice and Develop-

    ment Party (Adalet ve Kalknma Partisi, AKP)was expected to win the elections accordingto the opinion polls. It continued to enjoysignificant public support and Prime MinisterRecep Tayyip Erdogan declared that hewould resign if the AKP came second in theelections. Considering the volatile, unstable,and fragmented nature of Turkish political lifesince the 1990s, it goes without saying thatwinning the elections for the fourth time in arow was nothing but a spectacular triumph.But what is the secret of this success? Whatare the underlying factors of this victory?What explains the irrepressible rise of theAKP? And how come that a conservative-democratic party that came to power thanksto its untainted record has in recent yearsshown signs of its authoritarian inclinations?

    Islamization of Turkey under the AKP Rule,previously published as a special issue ofTurkish Studies, sets out to examine theAKPs political position through its ideologyand discourse, political decisions, choices andactions, alongside its social and economicbasis. Edited by Birol Yesilada and BarryRubin, this book takes a close look at therule of the AKP and provides an overview ofthe partys political journey. In concentratingon central themes, such as religiosity, toler-ance, Islamism and secularism, the bookstrikes a fine balance between the historicalroots of the rise of the AKP and the currentsociopolitical issues that shed light on its rolein Turkish political life. The book also pre-sents a lucid analysis of the theoretical andempirical aspects of the political processshaped by the AKP. Whether Islamization isthe most fitting term to define the AKPspolitical profile or not is disputable, yet eachcontribution in the book demonstrates theauthoritarian tendencies embedded in its fun-damentally conservative outlook. At onelevel, from Yesilada and Peter Noordijkscomparative analysis of the impact of tradi-tional-religious values on voters to ErsinKalaycoglus study of the determinants ofparty preferences of voters, the essays attemptto portray the cognitive universe of Turkishvoters. At a second level, the book opens theway to rethinking the discursive practices ofthe AKP. In this regard Mustafa Sens valu-able contribution is worth pondering over.While Sen sheds light on the interwovenprocesses of the changing nature of the



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