Digest of terms

conditioning

evolutionary process by which life responds to environmental stimuli, and identified by psychologists as a dominant mode of learning for animals and human beings. It is evident in family upbringing and in education in the use of 'carrot and stick' to induce a desired behavioural outcome, e.g. the promise of a treat or threat of its denial, and in religion in relation to long-term destiny (heaven/hell, karmic consequence). The level of commercial investment in advertising, or of political PR campaigning, indicates not only that it is believed in but that it actually works. At least three related ethical issues arise. Does an emphasis on rewards and punishment turn an intended education in morality into one of prudence? Does a morally superior stimulus necessarily win out over an inferior one - or is it 'bread and circuses', 'porn and pleasure' every time? And what scope is left for moral agency if the determinants of human behaviour are reduced to bodily drives?

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