Gabriel Abend is an assistant professor of sociology at New York University. Recent articles include: “Thick Concepts and the Moral Brain” (in Archives Européennes de Sociologie); “The Origins of Business Ethics in American Universities” (in Business Ethics Quarterly); “What the Science of Morality Doesn’t Say about Morality” (in Philosophy of the Social Sciences); and "Styles of Causal Thought" (forthcoming in American Journal of Sociology; co-authored with Caitlin Petre and Michael Sauder). His book, The Moral Background: An Inquiry into the History of Business Ethics, is forthcoming from Princeton University Press.
One significant dimension of recent neuroscience is its extension to issues that, traditionally, have been investigated by social scientists and humanities scholars. My project studies the production and communication of social and moral neuroscience in three countries: France, Argentina, and United States. My three research questions are: (1) Definition and conceptualization: How do neuroscientists conceptualize and define “morality,” “altruism,” and “prosocial behavior”? If there are disagreements, how are they resolved?; (2) Public representation: How do public sphere actors relate neuroscientific findings to local “common sense” about social and moral questions? How do they relate it to the prevalent philosophical and religious traditions?; and (3) Effect of local context: How are conceptualizations of morality, altruism, and prosocial behavior shaped by their local contexts? Do neuroscientists’ social and moral concepts vary across the three cases? Does this affect experimental measures, tasks, and stimuli? Methodologically, my project has two components: (a) In-depth interviews with neuroscientists; and (b) Quantitative and qualitative content analysis of: scientific communications (journal articles and conference proceedings); and public sphere communications (periodicals, public statements, funding agencies’ reports, and schools of neuroscience’s brochures and websites).