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Neuromodulation of the “Moral Brain” – Evaluating Bridges Between Neural Foundations of Moral Capacities and Normative Aims of the Intervention


Ineichen, Christian Raffael; Christen, Markus (2020). Neuromodulation of the “Moral Brain” – Evaluating Bridges Between Neural Foundations of Moral Capacities and Normative Aims of the Intervention. In: Holtzman, G S; Hildt, E. Does Neuroscience Have Normative Implications? Cham: Springer, 165-185.

Abstract

The question of whether neuroscience has normative implications or not becomes practically relevant when neuromodulation technologies are used with the aim of pursuing normative goals. The historical burden of such an endeavor is grave and the current knowledge of the neural foundations of moral capacities is surely insufficient for tailored interventions. Nevertheless, invasive and non-invasive neuromodulation techniques are increasingly used to address complex health disturbances and are even discussed for enhancement purposes, whereas both aims entail normative objectives. Taking this observation as an initial position, our contribution will pursue three aims. First, we summarize the potential of neuromodulation techniques for intervening into the “moral brain” using deep brain stimulation as a paradigmatic case and show how neurointerventions are changing our concepts of agency and personality by providing a clearer picture on how humans function. Second, we sketch the “standard model” explanations with respect to ethically justifying such interventions, which rely on a clear separation between normative considerations (“setting the goals of the intervention” or “the desired condition”) and empirical assessments (“evaluating the outcome of the intervention” or “the actual condition”). We then analyze several arguments that challenge this “standard model” and provide bridges between the empirical and normative perspective. We close with the observation that maintaining an analytical distinction between the normative and empirical perspective is reasonable, but that the practical handling of neuromodulation techniques that involve normative intervention goals is likely to push such theoretical distinctions to their limits.

Abstract

The question of whether neuroscience has normative implications or not becomes practically relevant when neuromodulation technologies are used with the aim of pursuing normative goals. The historical burden of such an endeavor is grave and the current knowledge of the neural foundations of moral capacities is surely insufficient for tailored interventions. Nevertheless, invasive and non-invasive neuromodulation techniques are increasingly used to address complex health disturbances and are even discussed for enhancement purposes, whereas both aims entail normative objectives. Taking this observation as an initial position, our contribution will pursue three aims. First, we summarize the potential of neuromodulation techniques for intervening into the “moral brain” using deep brain stimulation as a paradigmatic case and show how neurointerventions are changing our concepts of agency and personality by providing a clearer picture on how humans function. Second, we sketch the “standard model” explanations with respect to ethically justifying such interventions, which rely on a clear separation between normative considerations (“setting the goals of the intervention” or “the desired condition”) and empirical assessments (“evaluating the outcome of the intervention” or “the actual condition”). We then analyze several arguments that challenge this “standard model” and provide bridges between the empirical and normative perspective. We close with the observation that maintaining an analytical distinction between the normative and empirical perspective is reasonable, but that the practical handling of neuromodulation techniques that involve normative intervention goals is likely to push such theoretical distinctions to their limits.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Biomedical Ethics and History of Medicine
Dewey Decimal Classification:610 Medicine & health
Language:English
Date:1 November 2020
Deposited On:23 Dec 2020 15:15
Last Modified:04 Jan 2021 08:15
Publisher:Springer
ISBN:9783030561338
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-56134-5_9

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