From desire to subjective value

What neuroeconomics reveals about naturalism


  • Daniel F. Hartner Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, United States



naturalism, neuroeconomics, decision-making, expected utility theory, folk psychology, moral motivation, neurophilosophy


Philosophers now regularly appeal to data from neuroscience and psychology to settle longstanding disputes between competing philosophical theories, such as theories of moral decision-making and motivation. Such naturalistic projects typically aim to promote continuity between philosophy and the sciences by attending to the empirical constraints that the sciences impose on conceptual disputes in philosophy. This practice of checking philosophical theories of moral agency against the available empirical data is generally encouraging, yet it can leave unexamined crucial empirical assumptions that lie at the foundations of the traditional philosophical disputes. To illustrate this, I compare recent work in the neuroscience of decision to traditional philosophical theories of motivation and argue that the traditional theories are largely incompatible with empirical developments. This shows that genuine continuity between philosophy and science means that in some instances the conceptual foundations required to explain the phenomenon of interest be developed by the sciences themselves.

Author Biography

Daniel F. Hartner, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, United States

Daniel Hartner is assistant professor of philosophy at the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. His research focuses primarily on issues in neuroethics and the relationship between philosophy and neuroscience.




How to Cite

Hartner, D. F. (2014). From desire to subjective value: What neuroeconomics reveals about naturalism. Erasmus Journal for Philosophy and Economics, 7(1), 1–26.