Neuroscience has dramatically increased understanding of how mental states and processes are realized by the brain, thus opening doors for treating the multitude of ways in which minds become dysfunctional. This book explores questions such as when is it permissible to alter a person's memories, influence personality traits or read minds? What can neuroscience tell us about free will, self-control, self-deception and the foundations of morality? The view of neuroethics offered here argues that many of our new powers to read (...) ,alter and control minds are not entirely unparalleled with older ones. They have, however, expanded to include almost all our social, political and ethical decisions. Written primarily for graduate students, this book will appeal to anyone with an interest in the more philosophical and ethical aspects of the neurosciences. (shrink)
The question of the psychopath's responsibility for his or her wrongdoing has received considerable attention. Much of this attention has been directed toward whether psychopaths are a counterexample to motivational internalism (MI): Do they possess normal moral beliefs, which fail to motivate them? In this paper, I argue that this is a question that remains conceptually and empirically intractable, and that we ought to settle the psychopath's responsibility in some other way. I argue that recent empirical work on the moral (...) judgments of psychopaths provides us with good reason to think that they are not fully responsible agents, because their actions cannot express the kinds of ill-will toward others that grounds attributions of distinctively moral responsibility. I defend this view against objections, especially those due to an influential account of moral responsibility that holds that moral knowledge is not necessary for responsibility. (shrink)
It is well known that the nature of consciousness is elusive, and that attempts to understand it generate problems in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, psychology, and neuroscience. Less appreciated are the important – even if still elusive – connections between consciousness and issues in ethics. In this chapter we consider three such connections. First, we consider the relevance of consciousness for questions surrounding an entity’s moral status. Second, we consider the relevance of consciousness for questions surrounding moral responsibility for action. (...) Third, we consider the relevance of consciousness for the acquisition of moral knowledge. (shrink)
Implicit attitudes are mental states that appear sometimes to cause agents to act in ways that conflict with their considered beliefs. Implicit attitudes are usually held to be mere associations between representations. Recently, however, some philosophers have suggested that they are, or are very like, ordinary beliefs: they are apt to feature in properly inferential processing. This claim is important, in part because there is good reason to think that the vocabulary in which we make moral assessments of ourselves and (...) of others is keyed to folk psychological concepts, like ‘belief’, and not to concepts that feature only in scientific psychology: if implicit attitudes are beliefs there is a prima facie case for thinking that they can serve as the basis for particular kinds of moral assessment. In this paper I argue that while implicit attitudes have propositional structure, their sensitivity and responsiveness to other mental representations is too patchy and fragmented for them to properly be considered beliefs. Instead, they are a sui generis kind of mental state, a state I dub patchy endorsements. (shrink)
Neil Levy presents a new theory of freedom and responsibility. He defends a particular account of consciousness--the global workspace view--and argues that consciousness plays an especially important role in action. There are good reasons to think that the naïve assumption, that consciousness is needed for moral responsibility, is in fact true.
In 1997, a Scottish surgeon by the name of Robert Smith was approached by a man with an unusual request: he wanted his apparently healthy lower left leg amputated. Although details about the case are sketchy, the would-be amputee appears to have desired the amputation on the grounds that his left foot wasn’t part of him – it felt alien. After consultation with psychiatrists, Smith performed the amputation. Two and a half years later, the patient reported that his life had (...) been transformed for the better by the operation . A second patient was also reported as having been satisfied with his amputation . (shrink)
The recent debate over the moral responsibility of psychopaths has centered on whether, or in what sense, they understand moral requirements. In this paper, I argue that even if they do understand what morality requires, the content of their actions is not of the right kind to justify full-blown blame. I advance two independent justifications of this claim. First, I argue that if the psychopath comes to know what morality requires via a route that does not involve a proper appreciation (...) of what it means to cause another harm or distress, the content of violations of rules against harm will be of a lower grade than the content of similar actions by normal individuals. Second, I argue that in order to intend a harm to a person?that is, to intend the distinctive kind of harm that can only befall a person?it is necessary to understand what personhood is and what makes it valuable. The psychopath's deficits with regard to mental time travel ensure that s/he cannot intend this kind of harm. (shrink)
It is universally accepted in bioethics that doctors and other medical professionals have an obligation to procure the informed consent of their patients. Informed consent is required because patients have the moral right to autonomy in furthering the pursuit of their most important goals. In the present work, it is argued that evidence from psychology shows that human beings are subject to a number of biases and limitations as reasoners, which can be expected to lower the quality of their decisions (...) and which therefore make it more difficult for them to pursue their most important goals by giving informed consent. It is further argued that patient autonomy is best promoted by constraining the informed consent procedure. By limiting the degree of freedom patients have to choose, the good that informed consent is supposed to protect can be promoted. (shrink)
Some philosophers have criticized the use of psychopharmaceuticals on the grounds that even if these drugs enhance the person using them, they threaten their authenticity. Others have replied by pointing out that the conception of authenticity upon which this argument rests is contestable; on a rival conception, psychopharmaceuticals might be used to enhance our authenticity. Since, however, it is difficult to decide between these competing conceptions of authenticity, the debate seems to end in a stalemate. I suggest that we need (...) not resolve this debate to end the stalemate. New technologies which alter the self can be understood within the framework of the first conception of authenticity, I suggest, not as threatening the authentic self, but rather as bringing the outward appearance of the self into line with its deepest essence. Since psychopharmaceutical use can plausibly be understood on this model, it can be seen as enhancing our authenticity on either conception. (shrink)
Doxastic responsibility matters, morally and epistemologically. Morally, because many of our intuitive ascriptions of blame seem to track back to agents’ apparent responsibility for beliefs; epistemologically because some philosophers identify epistemic justification with deontological permissibility. But there is a powerful argument which seems to show that we are rarely or never responsible for our beliefs, because we cannot control them. I examine various possible responses to this argument, which aim to show either that doxastic responsibility does not require that we (...) control our beliefs, or that as a matter of fact we do exercise the right kind of control over our beliefs. I argue that the existing arguments are all wanting: in fact, our lack of control over our beliefs typically excuses us of responsibility for them. (shrink)
I develop an account of weakness of the will that is driven by experimental evidence from cognitive and social psychology. I will argue that this account demonstrates that there is no such thing as weakness of the will: no psychological kind corresponds to it. Instead, weakness of the will ought to be understood as depletion of System II resources. Neither the explanatory purposes of psychology nor our practical purposes as agents are well-served by retaining the concept. I therefore suggest that (...) we ought to jettison it, in favour of the vocabulary and concepts of cognitive psychology. (shrink)
Several ethicists have argued that research trials and treatment programs that involve the provision of drugs to addicts are prima facie unethical, because addicts can’t refuse the offer of drugs and therefore can’t give informed consent to participation. In response, several people have pointed out that addiction does not cause a compulsion to use drugs. However, since we know that addiction impairs autonomy, this response is inadequate. In this paper, I advance a stronger defense of the capacity of addicts to (...) participate in the programs envisaged. I argue that it is only in certain circumstances that addicts find themselves choosing in ways that conflict with their genuine preferences. Research and treatment programs have none of the features that characterize choices in these autonomy-undermining circumstances, and there is therefore no reason to think that addicts lack the capacity to give informed consent to these programs. (shrink)
In this article we survey six recent developments in the philosophical literature on free will and moral responsibility: (1) Harry Frankfurt's argument that moral responsibility does not require the freedom to do otherwise; (2) the heightened focus upon the source of free actions; (3) the debate over whether moral responsibility is an essentially historical concept; (4) recent compatibilist attempts to resurrect the thesis that moral responsibility requires the freedom to do otherwise; (5) the role of the control condition in free (...) will and moral responsibility, and finally (6) the debate centering on luck. (shrink)
In 'What Luck Is Not', Lackey presents counterexamples to the two most prominent accounts of luck: the absence of control account and the modal account. I offer an account of luck that conjoins absence of control to a modal condition. I then show that Lackey's counterexamples mislocate the luck: the agents in her cases are lucky, but the luck precedes the event upon which Lackey focuses, and that event is itself only fortunate, not lucky. Finally I offer an account of (...) fortune. Fortune is luck-involving, and therefore easily confused with luck, but it is not itself lucky. (shrink)
The extended mind thesis is the claim that mental states extend beyond the skulls of the agents whose states they are. This seemingly obscure and bizarre claim has far-reaching implications for neuroethics, I argue. In the first half of this article, I sketch the extended mind thesis and defend it against criticisms. In the second half, I turn to its neuroethical implications. I argue that the extended mind thesis entails the falsity of the claim that interventions into the brain are (...) especially problematic just because they are internal interventions, but that many objections to such interventions rely, at least in part, on this claim. Further, I argue that the thesis alters the focus of neuroethics, away from the question of whether we ought to allow interventions into the mind, and toward the question of which interventions we ought to allow and under what conditions. The extended mind thesis dramatically expands the scope of neuroethics: because interventions into the environment of agents can count as interventions into their minds, decisions concerning such interventions become questions for neuroethics. (shrink)
A number of philosophers have recently argued that agents need not be conscious of the reasons for which they act or the moral significance of their actions in order to be morally responsible for them. In this paper, I identify a kind of awareness that, I claim, agents must have in order to be responsible for their actions. I argue that conscious information processing differs from unconscious in a manner that makes the following two claims true: (1) an agent’s values (...) ought to be identified with attitudes of which she is conscious, because having a value entails having a set of dispositions produced by conscious attitudes alone, and (2) that only actions settled upon by conscious deliberation are deeply attributable to agents, because only such actions express the agent’s evaluative stance. (shrink)
Recent findings in neuroscience, evolutionary biology and psychology seem to threaten the existence or the objectivity of morality. Moral theory and practice is founded, ultimately, upon moral intuition, but these empirical findings seem to show that our intuitions are responses to nonmoral features of the world, not to moral properties. They therefore might be taken to show that our moral intuitions are systematically unreliable. I examine three cognitive scientific challenges to morality, and suggest possible lines of reply to them. I (...) divide these replies into two groups: we might confront the threat, showing that it does not have the claimed implications for morality; or we might bite the bullet, accepting that the claims have moral implications, but incorporating these claims into morality. I suggest that unless we are able to bite the bullet, when confronted by cognitive scientific challenges, there is a real possibility that morality will be threatened. This fact gives us a weighty reason to adopt a metaethics that makes it relatively easy to bite cognitive scientific bullets. Moral constructivism, in one of its many forms, makes these bullets more palatable; therefore, the cognitive scientific challenges provide us with an additional reason to adopt a constructivist metaethics. (shrink)
Accounts of moral responsibility can be divided into those that claim that attributability of an act, omission, or attitude to an agent is sufficient for responsibility for it, and those which hold that responsibility depends crucially on choice. I argue that accounts of the first, attributionist, kind fail to make room for the relatively stringent epistemic conditions upon moral responsibility, and that therefore an account of the second, volitionist, kind ought to be preferred. I examine the various arguments advanced on (...) behalf of attributionist accounts, and argue that for each of them volitionism has a reply that is in every case at least as, and often more, persuasive. Most significantly, only volitionism can accommodate the intuitively important distinction between the bad and the blameworthy. (shrink)
This introduction to the special issue on empirically informed moral theory sketches the more important contributions to the field in the past several years. Attention is paid to experimental philosophy, the work of philosophers like Harman and Doris, and that of psychologists like Haidt and Hauser.
The following is a transcript of the interview I (Yasuko Kitano) conducted with Neil Levy (The Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, CAPPE) on the 23rd in July 2009, while he was in Tokyo to give a series of lectures on neuroethics at The University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy. I edited his words for publication with his approval.
Disorders of volition are often accompanied by, and may even be caused by, disruptions in the phenomenology of agency. Yet the phenomenology of agency is at present little explored. In this paper we attempt to describe the experience of normal agency, in order to uncover its representational content.
The claim that addiction is a brain disease is almost universally accepted among scientists who work on addiction. The claim’s attraction rests on two grounds: the fact that addiction seems to be characterized by dysfunction in specific neural pathways and the fact that the claim seems to the compassionate response to people who are suffering. I argue that neural dysfunction is not sufficient for disease: something is a brain disease only when neural dysfunction is sufficient for impairment. I claim that (...) the neural dysfunction that is characteristic of addiction is not sufficient for impairment, because people who suffer from that dysfunction are impaired, sufficiently to count as diseased, only given certain features of their context. Hence addiction is not a brain disease (though it is often a disease, and it may always involve brain dysfunction). I argue that accepting that addiction is not a brain disease does not entail a moralizing attitude toward people who suffer as a result of addiction; if anything, it allows for a more compassionate, and more effective, response to addiction. (shrink)
In a recent paper, Ishtiyaque Haji and Michael McKenna argue that my attack on Frankfurt-style cases fails. I had argued that we cannot be confident that agents in these cases retain their responsibility-underwriting capacities, because what capacities an agent has can depend on features of the world external to her, including merely counterfactual interveners. Haji and McKenna argue that only when an intervention is actual does the agent gain or lose a capacity. Here I demonstrate that this claim is false: (...) capacities are dispositions that can be constituted by features of the environment that are currently inactive. I also reply to two other objections: that my argument begs the question against historical accounts of moral responsibility and that it leaves the very locus of free action, our mental acts, untouched. (shrink)
In his “Frankfurt-style cases user manual”, Florian Cova (2013) distinguishes two kinds of Frankfurt-style arguments against the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP), and argues that my attack on the soundness of Frankfurt-style cases succeeds, at most, only against one kind. Since either kind of argument can be used to undermine PAP, Cova suggests, the fact that my attack fails against at least one means that it does not succeed in rescuing PAP from the clutches of Frankfurt enthusiasts. In this brief (...) response I will argue that my attack undermines both kinds of Frankfurt-style arguments. It shows that we are not entitled to rely on the intuitions that these arguments provoke, whether they are produced by the direct version of the Frankfurt-style argument or the indirect.In a typical Frankfurt-style case (FSC), an agent performs a bad action for which, intuitively, they seem to be morally responsible, despite the fact that they lack alternative possibilities (see Frankfurt 196. (shrink)
Most philosophers believe that wrongdoers sometimes deserve to be punished by long prison sentences. They also believe that such punishments are justified by their consequences: they deter crime and incapacitate potential offenders. In this article, I argue that both these claims are false. No one deserves to be punished, I argue, because our actions are shot through with direct or indirect luck. I also argue that there are good reasons to think that punishing fewer people and much less harshly will (...) have better social consequences, at a reduced overall cost, then the long prison sentences that are usually seen as required for social protection. (shrink)
The United States Supreme Court hasrecently ruled that virtual child pornographyis protected free speech, partly on the groundsthat virtual pornography does not harm actualchildren. I review the evidence for thecontention that virtual pornography might harmchildren, and find that it is, at best,inconclusive. Saying that virtual childpornography does not harm actual children isnot to say that it is completely harmless,however. Child pornography, actual or virtual,necessarily eroticizes inequality; in a sexistsociety it therefore contributes to thesubordination of women.
This article presents a model for regulating cognitive enhancement devices. Recently, it has become very easy for individuals to purchase devices which directly modulate brain function. For example, transcranial direct current stimulators are increasingly being produced and marketed online as devices for cognitive enhancement. Despite posing risks in a similar way to medical devices, devices that do not make any therapeutic claims do not have to meet anything more than basic product safety standards. We present the case for extending existing (...) medical device legislation to cover CEDs. Medical devices and CEDs operate by the same or similar mechanisms and pose the same or similar risks. This fact coupled with the arbitrariness of the line between treatment and enhancement count in favour of regulating these devices in the same way. In arguing for this regulatory model, the paper highlights potential challenges to its implementation, and suggests solutions. (shrink)
Recent work in neuroimaging suggests that some patients diagnosed as being in the persistent vegetative state are actually conscious. In this paper, we critically examine this new evidence. We argue that though it remains open to alternative interpretations, it strongly suggests the presence of consciousness in some patients. However, we argue that its ethical significance is less than many people seem to think. There are several different kinds of consciousness, and though all kinds of consciousness have some ethical significance, different (...) kinds underwrite different kinds of moral value. Demonstrating that patients have phenomenal consciousness — conscious states with some kind of qualitative feel to them — shows that they are moral patients, whose welfare must be taken into consideration. But only if they are subjects of a sophisticated kind of access consciousness — where access consciousness entails global availability of information to cognitive systems — are they persons, in the technical sense of the word employed by philosophers. In this sense, being a person is having the full moral status of ordinary human beings. We call for further research which might settle whether patients who manifest signs of consciousness possess the sophisticated kind of access consciousness required for personhood. (shrink)
So-called downshifters seek more meaningful lives by decreasing the amount of time they devote to work, leaving more time for the valuable goods of friendship, family and personal development. But though these are indeed meaning-conferring activities, they do not have the right structure to count as superlatively meaningful. Only in work – of a certain kind – can superlative meaning be found. It is by active engagements in projects, which are activities of the right structure, dedicated to the achievement of (...) goods beyond ourselves, that we make our lives superlatively meaningful. (shrink)
Children, even very young children, distinguish moral from conventional transgressions, inasmuch as they hold that the former, but not the latter, would still be wrong if there was no rule prohibiting them. Many people have taken this finding as evidence that morality is objective, and therefore universal. I argue that reflection on the phenomenon of imaginative resistance will lead us to question these claims. If a concept applies in virtue of the obtaining of a set of more basic facts, then (...) it is authority independent, and we therefore resist the attempts of authorities to claim that it does not apply. Thus, the moral/conventional distinction is a product of imaginative resistance to claims that a concept does not apply when its supervenience base is in place (or vice versa). All we can rightfully conclude from the fact that children are disposed to make the moral/conventional distinction is that our moral concepts belong to the class of authority-independent concepts. Though the set of basic facts in virtue of which an authority-independent concept obtains must be objective, the concept itself might be conventional, inasmuch as we could easily draw its boundaries wider or narrower, or fail to have a concept that corresponds to these properties at all. (shrink)
In a series of articles, Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons have argued that Richard Boyd’s defence of moral realism, utilizing a causal theory of reference, fails. Horgan and Timmons construct a twin Earth-style thought experiment which, they claim, generates intuitions inconsistent with the realist account. In their thought experiment, the use of (allegedly) moral terms at a world is causally regulated by some property distinct from that regulating their use here on Earth; nevertheless, Horgan and Timmons claim, it is intuitive (...) that the inhabitants of this world disagree with us in their moral claims. Since any disagreement would be merely verbal were the alleged moral facts identical to or constituted by different natural facts, the identity or constitution claim must be false. I argue that their argument fails. Horgan and Timmons’ thought experiment is underdescribed; when we fill out the details, I claim, we shall see that the challenge to moral realism fades away. I sketch two possible interpretations of the (apparently) moral claims of the inhabitants of moral Twin Earth. On one interpretation, they fail to disagree with us because they actually agree with us; on the other, they fail to disagree with us because they are not moralizers at all. Which interpretation is true, I argue, will depend on the facts that explain the differences between us and the inhabitants of moral twin Earth. (shrink)
Addiction is almost universally held to be characterized by a loss of control over drug-seeking and consuming behavior. But the actions of addicts, even of those who seem to want to abstain from drugs, seem to be guided by reasons. In this paper, I argue that we can explain this fact, consistent with continuing to maintain that addiction involves a loss of control, by understanding addiction as involving an oscillation between conflicting judgments. I argue that the dysfunction of the mesolimbic (...) dopamine system that typifies addictions causes the generation of a mismatch between the top-down model of the world that reflects the judgment that the addict ought to refrain from drugs, and bottom-up input caused by cues predictive of drug availability. This constitutes a powerful pressure toward revising the judgment and thereby attenuating the prediction error. But the new model is not stable, and shifts under the pressure of bottom-up inputs in different contexts; hence the oscillation of all-things-considered judgment. Evidence from social psychology is adduced, to suggest that a similar process may be involved in ordinary cases of weakness of will. (shrink)
It is sometimes objected that we cannot adopt skepticism about moral responsibility, because the criminal justice system plays an indispensable social function. In this paper, I examine the implications of moral responsibility skepticism for the punishment of those convicted of crime, with special attention to recent arguments by Saul Smilansky. Smilansky claims that the skeptic is committed to fully compensating the incarcerated for their detention, and that this compensation would both be too costly to be practical and would remove the (...) deterrent function from incarceration. I argue that the skeptic is not committed to full compensation of the offender, and that the costs of such compensation would in any case be far smaller than Smilansky thinks. In fact, I claim, the costs of the criminal justice system to which the skeptic is committed might be very much lower than the costs – economic, social and moral – we currently pay as a consequence of our system of punishment. (shrink)
Neuroethics is a rapidly growing subfield, straddling applied ethics, moral psychology and philosophy of mind. It has clear affinities to bioethics, inasmuch as both are responses to new developments in science and technology, but its scope is far broader and more ambitious because neuroethics is as much concerned with how the sciences of the mind illuminate traditional philosophical questions as it is with questions concerning the permissibility of using technologies stemming from these sciences. In this article, I sketch the two (...) branches of neuroethics, the applied and the philosophical, and illustrate how they interact. I also consider representative themes from each: the ethics of dampening memory and of cognitive enhancement, on the one hand, and the attack upon the reliability of deontological intuitions and upon free will, on the other. (shrink)
A number of writers have tackled the task of characterizing the differences between analytic and Continental philosophy.I suggest that these attempts have indeed captured the most important divergences between the two styles but have left the explanation of the differences mysterious.I argue that analytic philosophy is usefully seen as philosophy conducted within a paradigm, in Kuhn’s sense of the word, whereas Continental philosophy assumes much less in the way of shared presuppositions, problems, methods and approaches.This important opposition accounts for all (...) those features that have rightly been held to constitute the difference between the two traditions.I ﬁnish with some reﬂections on the relative superiority of each tradition and by highlighting the characteristic deﬁciencies of each. (shrink)
Neuroethics offers unprecedented opportunities as well as challenges. The challenges stem from the range of difficult ethical issues, which are confronted by neuroethicists. Issues concerning the nature of consciousness, of personal identity, free will, and so on, are all grist for the neuroethical mill. This article argues that this debate bears centrally on neuroethics and is significant for neuroethics. Whether the best interpretation of the facts to which proponents of the extended mind appeal is that the mind is genuinely extended, (...) or merely embedded, or a reflection on these facts, are not in dispute but they reveal that the domain of neuroethics extends to all the processes and mechanisms subserving cognition, rather than just those processes and mechanisms internal to the skull. Once this fact is recognized both the scope of neuroethics and some of its characteristic concerns will be transformed. (shrink)