Abstract: Do we need neuroethics? This provocative question, posed almost 20 years after a series of landmark neuroethics conferences in North America (Marcus 2002; Canadian Institutes of Health Research 2002), can’t be answered briefly. We can, however, consider some of the most important arguments in favor of neuroethics. First, neuroethics may appear to be needed because neuroscience offers a new lens on human morality. This is an argument made by neuroscientists Michael Gazzaniga (Gazzaniga 2005) and (to some extent) Jean-Pierre Changeux (Changeux & Ricoeur 2000; Changeux 1981)—though the latter does not use the term “neuroethics” explicitly. But is neuroscience really a unique or superior source of information about morality? Second, it may seem that neuroethics is needed to address the daunting ethical problems that are raised specifically by advances in neuroscience, including new technologies. But here again, there are reasons for nurturing healthy skepticism. In contrast to these two foundational arguments, we argue for a more “instrumental” justification of neuroethics. Neuroethics will not yield an entirely new vision of human morality, but it certainly offers precious insights that a scientifically oriented ethics should consider. Furthermore, though the issues raised by neuroscience research may not be unique nor the most important in the grand scheme of things, they are important enough to warrant the attention of a dedicated community of scholars and practitioners who have at heart the well-being of individuals who live with neurological and psychiatric illnesses or who are personally impacted by applications of neuroscience. This togetherness and sense of community, oriented toward the betterment of the lives of specific groups of individuals, is, in our eyes, the key reason why we need a neuroethics (Racine & Sample 2018; Racine 2010). This orientation serves, beyond publications, funding, or number of scholars involved, as a benchmark for the evaluation of the field of neuroethics, what it is becoming, and how well it is doing.
Racine Eric and Sample Matthew. Do we need neuroethics? AJOB Neuroscience, 2019; 10:3, 101-103.