An Evolutionary and Cognitive Neuroscience Perspective on Moral Modularity

  • Jelle De Schrijver

In the 19th century, the case of Phineas Gage suggested that our moral sense could be located in a particular area of the brain. Damage to a part of the prefrontal cortex seemed to have selectively bereft the railroad worker of his moral faculties, resulting in lawless and anti-social behaviour. Additional studies revealed that behaviour of Phineas Gage and patients with similar brain damage can be further characterized by the disturbance of social behaviour, a diminished response of social emotions such as compassion and failures in non-moral decision-making or planning (Anderson, Bechara, Damasio, Tranel, & Damasio, 1999). As the damage is not selective, the “moral” misbehaviour syndrome is apparently not confined to the moral sphere alone. This leads to the conclusion that there is no discrete “moral centre” or single morality module in the brain (Greene, 2005).


Conditioned Stimulus Moral Judgment Unconditioned Stimulus Evolutionary Psychology Aversive Conditioning 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The writing of this chapter was supported by the Research Foundation – Flanders.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy and Moral SciencesGhent UniversityGentBelgium

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