By declaring ‘we are good’ in The Altruistic Brain, Donald Pfaff meant that all the humans are innately moral neither from philosophical nor religious sense, but from consideration of the objective science. The wiring for the human brain is meant for goodwill that often propels people to display altruism. If the human brain is altruistic in nature, and altruism is good, therefore, humans are good. Viewing altruism from such point, then it is a neat syllogism (Pfaff, 2015). Nonetheless, reduction of the morals questions to syllogism does not well the way Pfaff wants it. Ever since the proposal of the altruism concept in the 19th century, the scientists have been debating on whether people are brought into the world pre-programmed to exercise niceness to others or not. Several conducted research indicate that the concept of altruism has environmental triggers but not something people are born with as earlier propagated.
As a rule, the natural scientists working on the evidently philosophical subject matter set average antennae of the philosophers quivering. However, through the years, the cognitive neuroscience has been able to mature through research and practitioners are currently ready and able to understand the consequences associated with these researches. From Pfaff’s point of view, the findings from the neuroscience study indicate that humans are ‘wired’ to be good just like the acquisition of the natural languages. Since Pfaff’s book was written for the non-specialist audience, it offers and interprets the pieces of evidence that favour the ideas already presented by Wilhelm von Humboldt whose declaration was that the humankind is intrinsically more inclined towards philanthropic actions than self-serving (Wendel, 2013). While people observe the acts of kindness and generosity, the explanations to why such virtues occur remain elusive. In neurology, through mapping the activities of the brain, it can show the behavioural patterns in humans with regard to the social cues that occur from every day interactions to altruism or violence. From the studies of the genetically identical twins, scientists have found that 35-65% of altruistic tendencies like helping strangers are explainable through genetics with differences influenced by social and cultural environment (Rodrigues, Ulrich, & Hewig, 2014). In addition, scientists found that variation of some specific genes is linkable to altruism, which clued them into its genetic origin.
The altruistic Brain presents and deliberates on the pieces of evidence generated from neuroscience with far reaching significances and inferences on how people conceive the human nature. Due to the wide range of consequences that the knowledge of human beings has predisposition for altruistic behaviour, the book implicates that it should be obligatory to read not only by the cognitive scientists and philosophers but each person involved in the decision-making processes with references to social and legal policies (Benedetti, 2010). Some scientists like Elizabeth Svoboda believe that the effects associated with altruistic depend on the brain chemistry. According to the neurologists, like Jordan Grafman, when the subjects choose to engage in donation to any hypothetical charity organization of their own, their brain activities tend to increase in areas associated with social bonding. Moreover, the brain tends to respond as if they have ingested some drug or won some lottery that reveals a closer connection between the brain and altruism. Altruism is significant for social bonding that is deeply rooted in the human brain. From genetics to neuroscience, both the philosophers and scientists are acquiring more insight into the important nature of human social bonding (Post, 2002). With scientists delving deeper into the epigenetics, the surrounding environment including the friends and family members continue to prove to have more influence on the genes than initially though.
Benedetti, F. (2010). The Patient’s Brain: The neuroscience behind the doctor-patient relationship. Oxford: OUP Oxford.
Pfaff, D. W. (2015). The altruistic brain: How we are naturally good. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Post, S. G. (2002). Altruism & altruistic love: Science, philosophy, & religion in dialogue. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Rodrigues, J., Ulrich, N., & Hewig, J. (2014). A neural signature of fairness in altruism: A game of theta? Social Neuroscience, 10(2), 192-205.
Wendel, J. (2013, September 10). Epigenetics sheds new light on altruism. Retrieved from altruism/