A common idea in Empiricist schools of thought is that ethical questions can never be based on factual data. Consider Hume's "is-ought" problem or the Logical Positivist notion that ethical statements were non-sensical. It seems to me that this could be easily addressed by the following approach:
- Map various emotions and value based statements to the neural configuration that corresponds to them: Pain corresponds to this neural state, Pleasure to this neural state, "Killing is bad" because the fact of death causes this neural state in those people affected by the death, etc...
- Construct a utilitarian ethics based on maximizing positive neural configurations and minimizing negative ones. One doesn't need an explicit mapping of emotions and value statements, as long as one has established in principle that they correspond to neural states.
- Are there any hidden assumptions in this approach that I am missing? Is this approach feasible only if we admit a physicalist approach to the mind-body problem? Or can the values-neural states correspondence still hold even for a mind-body dualist?
- Does the fact that even the very basic positive vs negative dichotomy is relative constitute an obstacle to such an approach? or can one posit/axiom their way out of this dilemma?
- Has anyone of note suggested such an approach?