Roughly 20 years ago, a disturbing story hit the news media: Nightmare experience for man whose cancer turned him into a pedophile.
The presence of an egg-sized brain tumour is claimed to have correlated with a relatively sudden shift in the man's behaviour, during which the "pleasure principle overrode his restraint", and he began visiting atrocious websites and making inappropriate advances to the underaged.
For some, the story became a modern-day Phineas Gage analogy, in which trauma to the brain resulted in a substantial change to the sufferer's behaviour; their moral behaviour in particular. The fact that trauma to the brain could result in such a significant change to one's moral outlook for some proved an obstacle to the notion of an unchangeable, 'innate' soul or 'nature'.
Assuming for a moment that it is true that his behaviour was in fact caused by a tumour (behaviour which disappeared when the tumour was removed, then reappeared as the tumour returned), then it seems to constitute evidence that a materialistic view, according to which our minds are (at least largely) the products of physical circumstances, is supported.
Yet this leads to what is for some no doubt an uncomfortable conclusion; that our personalities, including our preferences/desires, are ultimately the result of neurological processes which are beyond our control. And if this is true, how can we claim to reasonably morally judge those who find themselves in possession of neurological structures which manifest in abhorrent behaviour? Shouldn't we instead feel sympathy for such people, and view them as the unfortunate inheritors of appalling biological states? Does it matter whether one person's behaviour is determined by a tumour, and another's is their default 'healthy' state? What reason do we have to assume that we can have any control over our minds if they are so prone to neurologic conditions?
What separates the brain tumour victim from the 'normal' person (if anything), in regards to how defined we are by our neurochemistry? Do we currently possess enough data to know if we are ever justified in condemning people as moral agents, as opposed to merely identifying and trying to prevent undesirable behaviours over which - for all we know - we have so little, if any control? Do we have grounds yet to shift from a notion of 'immorality' or 'badness' to a less personal notion of biological catastrophe; natural disaster?
Do any philosophers - perhaps philosophers of free will and/or neurophilosophy - address these questions by drawing on concepts other than pure determinism/randomness scenarios? Or are these concepts inextricably entwined from a view in which we are, in the end, the result of the architecture of our brains?