Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg? Rethinking Causal Directions between Neural Mechanisms, Agency, and Human Enhancement

Carissa Véliz
Oxford University
Increasing evidence suggests that it is not only the case that brain-based cognitive and emotional processes affect decision-making, but also that decision-making, actions and habits influence in turn the very structure and function of the brain by way of neural plasticity. This indicates that the interplay between brain and agency is made up of a complex feedback loop of reciprocal causality. The assumption that the causal relationship is one way –brain to behavior– results in unsatisfactory neuroscientific analyses of agency. I contend that taking into account reciprocal causality for the purposes of human enhancement is not only a matter of theoretical consistency, but also carries with it important practical implications. Top-down cognitive enhancement –through mind training techniques such as meditation– may have advantages over biomedical enhancement.
Keywords reciprocal causality  neural plasticity  cognitive enhancement  meditation  downward causation  agency  free will
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DOI 10.1080/21507740.2011.584516
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References found in this work BETA

Cognitive Enhancement: Methods, Ethics, Regulatory Challenges. [REVIEW]Nick Bostrom - 2009 - Science and Engineering Ethics 15 (3):311-341.
Meditation and the Neuroscience of Consciousness: An Introduction.John D. Dunne, Antione Lutz & Richard Davidson - 2007 - In Morris Moscovitch, Philip Zelazo & Evan Thompson (eds.), Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness. Cambridge University Press.
Diminishing and Enhancing Free Will.Walter Glannon - 2011 - American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 2 (3):15-26.

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