Category Archives: The Dice

King Hammurabi and your “deontology brain”


For many people, especially the most religious of a fundamentalist bent, the whole idea of ethics and morality is only about rules. In this continuing exploration of our four “ethical brains” (see this earlier post for an introduction to that concept), it is practical to start with “rules and exceptions,” not because they are the earliest or dominant ethical modes, but… Read more »

Hearing, seeing, and choosing in logarithms – part 2


In Part One of this series of posts, I demonstrated the non-linear “natural logarithmic” relationship between the frequency of a sound and our perception of it. Likewise, our perception of the volume of sound has this same “proportion-based” relationship, and I noted that this is true for our other senses as well. These are manifestations of what is called the… Read more »

Your four (or more) ethical brains


The organizing thread of these observations on ethics and morality is that we have historically mis-ordered the sequence of human ethical reasoning. My assertion is that first multiple parts of the human brain are evaluating the alternative survival strategies which they have evolved to address. Only second do the human languages of theology and philosophy attempt to “map” the conflicting… Read more »

Hearing, seeing, and choosing in logarithms – part 1


The fret spacing on a guitar can give us a a very important insight into how human volition (i.e., choice or free will) works biologically, at the deepest level of our brain neurons. The insight is that the biochemistry of our nerve cells has a natural logarithmic, rather than linear, mathematics built into it, which is crucial to how we… Read more »

Ethics from the bottom up


I have studied ethics for many years now, including formal academic work. I started from the usual place, which was an assumption that you will find some higher-order “correct ethical decision” for every dilemma if you can analyze it properly “top-down” and apply the correct philosophical or theological model. Over the years I have more often preferred to turn this… Read more »

Zeno’s paradox and the infinitesimal


In a recent post I wrote about the split among neuroscientists between the “determinists” and the “compatibilists.” The former see choice/free will/volition as an illusion created by our brains, while the latter see an active role for our “minds” in determining our future actions, although not necessarily as the “master decision-maker” that our personal “homunculus” often perceives. In that post… Read more »

Ethics or morality – Is there a difference?


‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’ ‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’ ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – – that’s all.’ —Lewis Carroll, Through… Read more »

Free will, determinism, and “the nudge”


Over thousands of years, humans have placed a lot philosophical and theological baggage on the overlapping concepts of free will, choice and volition. We have developed elaborate systems of ethics and religions to articulate “the right” choices to be selected from the array of options open to us daily. Yet there remains a split among neuroscientists as to the nature… Read more »

North Korea and Game Theory


A recent post on this blog noted that the current North Korea nuclear showdown is not far afield from what I call “the first ethical dilemma.” This dilemma dates from the time in our distant hunter-gatherer past when our emerging extended-family “mini-civilization” was threatened by the encroachment of another extended family group into “our space.” I presented a 2×2 decision matrix… Read more »

The first ethical dilemma


The discipline of Ethics is not really about “good actions versus bad actions.” Murder is bad. Got it. The most interesting and vexing ethical questions are those issues where good people disagree about basic issues of human volition (i.e., “choice” or “free will”). And beneath the conscious volition there are different parts of the human brain doing probabilistic survival planning, with… Read more »