Chapter

Harming others

Sean A Spence

in The actor's brain

Published on behalf of Oxford University Press

Published in print July 2009 | ISBN: 9780198526667
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191754364 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/med/9780198526667.003.0010
Harming others

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Now that we have assayed the putative cognitive neurobiology of such behaviours as ‘everyday’ deceit and pathological lying, the time has come to extend our inquiries into the ‘darker’ side of human nature. Such a study is legitimate in the present context, for, if we wish to ‘really’ understand human beings and the extent to which they might enjoy volitional ‘freedom’, then our cherished notions and fragile hypotheses are likely to encounter their most stringent test here: when we look at the damage that adult human beings will (knowingly) inflict upon each other. Indeed, as we shall see, such a line of study reveals many of our assumptions and intellectual inconsistencies to be just what they are: useful ‘rules of thumb’ that may not survive closer critical scrutiny. In short, I shall argue that little is as clear-cut or as ‘obvious’ as it may at first seem. I shall also give some flavour of how difficult it would be to change the situation, as it applies, in ‘everyday life’. In a nutshell, there is often too little evidence available for us to be able to ‘think scientifically’.

Chapter.  18972 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Psychiatry

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