016. Neuroethics

A discussion on the origins of our moral situation

Essays of possible interest

  1. Neuroethics: an agenda for neuroscience and society
  2. Neuroethics for the new millennium
  3. Neuroethics: the practical and the philosophical
  4. (Supplemental) Neuroethics in the age of brain projects
  5. (Supplemental) On the necessity of ethical guidelines for novel neurotechnologies
  6. (Supplemental) An ethics toolbox for neurotechnology
  7. (Supplemental) Neuroethics defining the issues in theory, practice, and policy
  8. (Supplemental) The neuroethics of non-invasive brain stimulation


Questions to ponder

  1. To what extent do our brains determine our ethics? To what should they?
  2. “[I[t has been suggested that a large proportion of inmates on death row may have damaged or injured brains. If careful epidemiologic studies establish that this is the case, how should our views about moral and legal responsibility change, if at all, to accommodate this surprising fact?”
  3. Do we have a right to know when someone is lying?
  4. “If someone knows that he or she is at some risk for, for example, a psychotic episode, should he or she be held legally responsible for actions undertaken while delusional in virtue of not having prevented the episode?”
  5. Is there an ethical distinction to be made between “death” and “brain death”? Would you wish to have one without the other?
  6. “Traditional ethical theory has centered on philosophical notions such as free-will, self-control, personal identity, and intention. These notions can be investigated from the perspective of brain function.” Is this a useful perspective to take on these matters? Why?
  7. Imagine, if you will, that you work at a government weapons lab working on a mind-altering technology, such as a long-term neural prosthetic meant to enhance memory encoding. One day, your advisor asks you to begin looking into its converse, the selective elimination of previously encoded memories. What do you do?
  8. What does it mean to change one’s self?
  9. In some sciences there are facts and theories that yield accurate and worthwhile predictions. For example, knowing how diseases spread gives you both population-level anticipatory power and suggests remedies at the person-level. Some forms of ethics provide the same (e.g., the most good for the most people most of the time at least provides a bearing on the moral compass even if it doesn’t put a pin in the moral map). Does neuroethics – either as a field of science or as a field of ethics – provide comparable accurate and worthwhile predictions?
  10. Do we have free will?
  11. Is there a “ghost in the machine”?
  12. Have the shifts in our biological and ethical perspectives throughout history generally been to the benefit or the detriment of the human experiment? 
  13. Is “neuroethics” the right word for what we’re talking about here?
  14. Who are you? And does it matter?