Suppose that advances in neuroscience suggest that human agents do not have free will, or that our attributions of personhood to one another are fictions generated by the brain, or that there is no good evidence for the existence of a “self” who is in control of our actions. Some commentators make a normative claim that we have to change the way we think about ethics since neuroscience reveals these truths about the ethical brain. Via
The Supposed Obligation to Change One’s Beliefs About Ethics Because of Discoveries in Neuroscience wants us to consider what we know about free will, the brain and consciousness and argues these should not influence our views on ethics, offering:
- First, in order to conceive of ourselves as able to follow rational norms in the first place, we must make substantial assumptions about our own free will, selfhood, and personhood. Thus, there cannot be a rational norm to dispense with these concepts.
- Second, the concepts contested by advances in neuroscience are highly valued components of our ethical worldview. From the perspective of instrumental rationality, it is rational to preserve our belief in free will, selfhood, and personhood. Via
Several camps have spouted up in the neuroscience world (that have spread to the legal field & downsized to two) taking sides on “who” is in control of our actions: us or our brains? Noted neuroscientist David Eagleman firmly states that “we ARE our brains" while others reserve caution stating we don’t know nearly enough about consciousness in the brain to make such claims, and still others remain faithful to arbitrary beliefs since if we believe we are in control, we behave better and some just remain all over the place to cover the bases. This article seems to suggest our ethical beliefs of self can co-exist with new discoveries on neuroscience. Sounds friendly enough to me, but is it true…or does it just feel good to think so?
Rather than simply giving us a new subject matter—the ethical issues arising from neuroscience—to attend to, neuroethics offers us the opportunity to refine the tools we use. Via
Kaposy, C. (2010). The Supposed Obligation to Change One’s Beliefs About Ethics Because of Discoveries in Neuroscience, AJOB Neuroscience
Levy, N. (2011). Neuroethics: A New Way of Doing Ethics, AJOB Neuroscience