A survey of the emerging field of neuroethics that calls for a multidisciplinary, pragmatic approach for tackling key issues and improving patient care.
Today the measurable health burden of neurological and mental health disorders matches or even surpasses any other cluster of health conditions. At the same time, the clinical applications of recent advances in neuroscience are hardly straightforward. In Pragmatic Neuroethics, Eric Racine argues that the emerging field of neuroethics offers a way to integrate such specialties as neurology, psychiatry, and neurosurgery with the humanities and social sciences, neuroscience research, and related healthcare professions, with the goal of tackling key ethical challenges and improving patient care. Racine provides a survey of the often diverging perspectives within neuroethics, offers a theoretical framework supported by empirical data, and discusses the neuroethical implications of such issues as media coverage of neuroscience innovation and the importance of public concerns and lay opinion; nonmedical use of pharmaceuticals for performance enhancement; and the discord between intuitive notions about consciousness and behavior and the scientific understanding of them.
Racine proposes a pragmatic neuroethics that combines pluralistic approaches, bottom-up research perspectives, and a focus on practical issues (in contrast to other more theoretical and single-discipline approaches to the field). [He discusses ethical issues related to powerful neuroscience insights into the mechanisms underlying moral reasoning, cooperative behavior, and such emotional processes as empathy.] In addition, he outlines a pragmatic framework for neuroethics, based on the philosophy of emergentism, which identifies conditions for the meaningful contribution of neuroscience to ethics, and sketches new directions and strategies for meeting future challenges for neuroscience and society.
Racine E. Pragmatic Neuroethics: Improving Treatment and Understanding of the Mind Brain, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010, 290 p.