The Neuroscience of Human Morality. Three Levels of Normative Implications

Leefmann J (2020)

Publication Language: English

Publication Type: Book chapter / Article in edited volumes

Publication year: 2020

Publisher: Springer

Edited Volumes: Does Neuroscience Have Normative Implications?

Series: The International Library of Ethics, Law, and Technology

City/Town: Cham

Book Volume: 22

Pages Range: 1-22

ISBN: 978-3-030-56133-8

DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-56134-5_1


Debates about the implications of empirical research in the natural and social sciences for normative disciplines have recently gained new attention. With the widening scope of neuroscientific investigations into human mental activity, decision-making and agency, neuroethicists and neuroscientists have extensively claimed that results from neuroscientific research should be taken as normatively or even prescriptively relevant. In this chapter, I investigate what these claims could possibly amount to. I distinguish and discuss three readings of the thesis that neuroscientific evidence has normative implications: an action-theoretic, an epistemological, and a metaphysical reading. I conclude that the action-theoretic reading has the most direct normative consequences, even though it is limited to the questions of whether some pre-established moral norms can be realized by individual agents. In contrast, in applying the other two readings, neuroscience can only be said to have normative implications in a very indirect way and only under the condition of making contested metaethical assumptions. All in all, the room for inferring concrete normative judgments from neuroscientific evidence is relatively limited.

Authors with CRIS profile

How to cite


Leefmann, J. (2020). The Neuroscience of Human Morality. Three Levels of Normative Implications. In Holtzman, Geoffrey S.; Hildt, Elisabeth (Eds.), Does Neuroscience Have Normative Implications?. (pp. 1-22). Cham: Springer.


Leefmann, Jon. "The Neuroscience of Human Morality. Three Levels of Normative Implications." Does Neuroscience Have Normative Implications?. Ed. Holtzman, Geoffrey S.; Hildt, Elisabeth, Cham: Springer, 2020. 1-22.

BibTeX: Download