Neuroethics is an interdisciplinary research area that focuses on ethical issues raised by our increased and constantly improving understanding of the brain and our ability to monitor and influence it, as well as on ethical issues that emerge from our concomitant deepening understanding of the biological bases of agency and ethical decision-making.
1. The rise and scope of neuroethics
Neuroethics focuses on ethical issues raised by our continually improving understanding of the brain, and by consequent improvements in our ability to monitor and influence brain function. Significant attention to neuroethics can be traced to 2002, when the Dana Foundation organized a meeting of neuroscientists, ethicists, and other thinkers, entitled Neuroethics: Mapping the Field. A participant at that meeting, columnist and wordsmith William Safire, is often credited with introducing and establishing the meaning of the term “neuroethics”, defining it as
the examination of what is right and wrong, good and bad about the treatment of, perfection of, or unwelcome invasion of and worrisome manipulation of the human brain. (Marcus 2002: 5)Others contend that the word “neuroethics” was in use prior to this (Illes 2003; Racine 2010), although all agree that these earlier uses did not employ it in a disciplinary sense, or to refer to the entirety of the ethical issues raised by neuroscience.
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