Profile: Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Professor of Practical Ethics at Duke

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. He is core faculty in the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, the Duke Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, and the Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Sciences. He serves as Resource Faculty in the Philosophy Department of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Partner Investigator at the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, and Research Scientist with The Mind Research Network in New Mexico.

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NoteStreams By Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

My Brain Made Me Do It, But Does That Matter?

Imagine that Brian promises to drive you to the airport but never shows up, and you miss your flight.
When you confront Brian, he tells you that he remembered his promise but decided to watch a movie instead. Would you be angry? You betcha!
But then suppose Brian pleads, “Don’t be angry at me. My brain made me do it. I wanted to watch the movie, and my desires are lodged in my brain. Moreover, I don’t care that much about you, but that is only because my neurons do not fire very fast when I think of you. My brain makes me act as I do, so I’m not responsible.”
This plea will not quell your anger. Why not?

Category: Science

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