Author: Sergio Sánchez-Migallón Granados and José Manuel Giménez Amaya
Published in: Philosophica

In recent years, the term "Neuroethics" has been gaining ground, especially in the Anglo-Saxon environment, in terms of its dissemination and content. It seems unquestionable that a new and consistent discipline is being born. The aim here is to set out, firstly, the context and reasons for the emergence of this field of research; secondly, its definition and the scope of its task; and thirdly, the events and some specific works that have consolidated it.


1. The emergence of Neuroethics in the interdisciplinary context of Neuroscience
2. Conceptual and programmatic definition of Neuroethics
2.1. The meeting of San Francisco in 2002
2.2. Neuroethics as ethical criteria
2.3. Neuroethics as an apex of ethical and methodological questions
3. Origin and development of Neuroethics
3.1. Preparatory events and major institutional milestones
3.2. Some specific publications and applications
(a) Adina L. Roskies
b) Judy Illes
(c) Martha Farah
(d) Thomas Fuchs
Ethical issues in neuroscience-based diagnostics and interventions
Ethical issues concerning our conception of ourselves as human beings
e) Walter Glannon
f) Jonathan Moreno
(g) Neil Levy
4. Balance
5. bibliography
6. References on the Internet

1. The emergence of Neuroethics in the interdisciplinary context of Neuroscience

To understand the emergence of Neuroethics, it is worth bearing in mind the important role that interdisciplinarity played in the birth of Neuroscience. Initially, this interdisciplinarity arose naturally among the various biological disciplines interested in the normal and pathological nervous system, to which psychology and psychiatry were also closely linked. However, in this climate of understanding between sciences to address the resolution of common problems, it was only logical that, over time, concerns about ethical issues would emerge. And problems derived both from the direct exercise of internship of research on the brain, as well as those arising from the more general and challenging questions, so to speak, that Neuroscience was encountering. These latter questions were immediately subsumed under the label "mind-brain relations", but which, by their very nature and dynamics, would increasingly go beyond this terminological and conceptual limit.

Concern about ethical issues in neuroscience is due to two phenomena that coincide in time. On the one hand, it should be borne in mind that neuroscience is a discipline that was born in the heart of a scientific magma where biological technology is beginning to develop at a dizzying pace. Bioethics aims to provide an ethical response to this technical progress in the life sciences and its application in medicine and related disciplines. Logically, Neuroscience does not escape this ethical task, but with the advantage of gradually glimpsing this interaction between Ethics and Neuroscience as a privileged field for interdisciplinary study and with fertile social repercussions. On the other hand, technological progress in Neuroscience itself means that the problems to be investigated in this science are shifting towards problems more related to man's inner self, to his illness, to his cognitive and emotional functions. This, together with the great enigmas posed by the human mind and the social irruption of mental illnesses with therapies that are effective through the modification of brain biology, focuses the development of Neuroethics also in an interdisciplinary context that is much broader than the so-called mind-brain relations.

Most modern, interdisciplinary neuroscience has a synchronic historical narrative with respect to bioethics. The four main thematic fields of Bioethics are: the beginning and end of human life, doctor-patient relations and animal experimentation; and all of them can be related to Neuroscience in a very simple way. On the one hand, the morpho-functional configuration of the nervous system and its illnesses are at the basis of the problems of the beginning and end of human life. For some bioethicists, the beginning of the latter is related to what they believe to be the unitary and closed configuration of biological systems in the human embryo around the eighth week of the embryonic development . Neurodegenerative diseases and the loss of consciousness of the terminally ill are also at the centre of the festering ethical discussion on euthanasia. On the other hand, neuroscience has also played an important role in the medicalisation of medicine and animal experimentation in recent years. It is logical, therefore, that the ethical problems linked to the study of the nervous system (its illness, its manipulation, its relationship with other disciplines) are gradually taking shape as highly relevant ethical problems. It could be said that the study of the ethical dimension of neuroscience naturally leads to the training of a specific bioethical subdiscipline[Roskies 2009].

But why does Neuroethics then emerge with a profile of its own, with a distinctive aspect with respect to Bioethics in general? To answer this question, it is worth considering two facts. Firstly, Neuroscience is perhaps the biological discipline that has had the greatest media potential in recent years. The importance being given to the functions of the nervous system in a society of knowledge increasingly hormone by the media of speech, as well as the clearly scientistic belief that we can improve or manipulate our brains to be better or to lessen the deficiencies of a humanity in danger -often in front of itself- means that Neuroethics can also be seen as a form of containment or control and as a clear corollary of development interdisciplinary. However, this importance given is more theoretical than internship, since although our knowledge of the brain in recent years has grown a lot, we have not achieved clear and systematic answers to understand how the brain works as a whole in a unitary way, and for the therapeutic overcoming of neurodegenerative or mental illnesses.

The second fact is that this perplexity of neuroscience has been seen as both a content and methodological limitation: how can we approach ethical human realities (such as free choice, guilt, sense of responsibility, consciousness of duty or moral obligation, convictions about what is right and good, the search for human happiness, etc.) on the basis of a biological structure - or at least by looking only at its relation to it - of which we cannot even present a coherent theory of its overall functioning? Faced with questions of such importance, the only thing left is an interdisciplinary attitude of partnership and financial aid.

In this way, it is understandable that some neuroscientists have seen the alliance of Neuroscience with Ethics (or with Philosophy in general) as another way to address the big questions that are increasingly relevant in their research: what is man, can we control our brain, does freedom exist, is it possible to use Neuroscience to fight crime, terrorism or other social ills that invade us, is it possible to use Neuroscience to fight crime, terrorism or other social ills that invade us?

2. Conceptual and programmatic definition of Neuroethics

2.1. The meeting of San Francisco in 2002

The meeting held in May 2002 in San Francisco (California) was the real official and programmatic launch, so to speak, of Neuroethics. This congress, sponsored by the Dana Foundation and organised by Stanford University and the University of California at San Francisco, brought together some 150 specialists from a wide range of fields to study and analyse the ethical and social implications of research on the brain. The various papers of this meeting were transcribed in the book Neuroethics. Mapping the Field[Marcus 2002].

The grade of publisher explains the purpose of this lecture or meeting in a way that has practically been coined as a definition of Neuroethics:

"The study of the ethical, legal and social issues that arise when scientific findings about the brain are brought to medical internship , legal interpretations and health or social policy. These findings are occurring in fields ranging from Genetics or brain imaging to disease diagnosis and prediction. Neuroethics should examine how doctors, judges and lawyers, insurance company executives and politicians, as well as society at large, deal with all these findings"[Marcus 2002: III].

In a very short time after 2002, the term "Neuroethics" was on the lips of many neuroscientific researchers and others from humanistic, legal, social and journalistic fields. The contents pointed out by the various researchers in this subject reflect that their respective definitions of Neuroethics have much to do with the field of study they intend to address, as well as with their understanding of Ethics in general.

The best known definition is the one given by the journalist W. Safire in that meeting in San Francisco: "The examination of what is right or wrong, good or bad, about the treatment, enhancement, invasion or manipulation of the human brain"[Safire 2002]. This definition is complemented by the one given by Judy Illes and Thomas Raffin according to which Neuroethics is a new bioethics discipline that has formally emerged in 2002 to group all those theoretical and practical issues that have moral and social consequences in the neurological sciences, whether in the laboratory , in health care or in social life[Illes-Raffin 2002].

However, although Neuroethics is conceived here as an interdisciplinary science, the explicit accredited specialization to the neurological sciences suggests that the idea of Neuroethics still refers, above all, to the effects of diseases of the nervous system. This link will change rapidly over the last few years to a more complex and articulated view of Neuroethics, encompassing more philosophical issues, such as self-awareness, psychiatric illness, freedom or brain enhancement in the future or the manipulation of our brain by external interventions.

For this reason, it seems right to open up the field of Neuroethics from the very moment of its definition. And a broad way of defining it is the one proposed by Kemi Bevington. This scientific communicator defines Neuroethics as the study of the ethical, legal and social issues that arise when scientific findings about the brain are taken to the medical internship , to legal interpretations or to social or health policies. As neuroscience advances into new and unexplored territories of research, Bevington continues, the depth and complexity of questions about moral responsibility and human identity will also increase; and it is not unreasonable to suppose that other issues might even arise concerning the relationship between biology and religious belief[Bevington 2004].

The four main blocks into which the topics on Neuroethics were divided at meeting in San Francisco were: (a) neural science and the self; (b) neural science and social policy; (c) ethics and the internship of neural science; and (d) neural science and the Public discourse. In a more recent article , Illes and Bird, following a very similar classification of neuroethical issues, have articulated these four broad sections in a more concise and elegant way. According to these authors, the four main objectives of neuroethics are reduced to: (1) Neuroscience of the self, acting and responsibility; (2) Neuroscience and social policies; (3) Neuroscience in the clinical internship ; and (4) Neuroscience in the Public discourse and in the training [Illes-Bird 2006]. Below we will list some of the topics covered in each of these sections.

The first section, which deals with the relationship between neural science and the self, includes topics such as the relationship between neuroscience and freedom and responsibility, the biological instructions of personality and social behaviour, the neurobiology of choice and decision-making and, finally, the extensive chapter on self-awareness. In the second set, related to Neuroscience and Social Policy, are topics such as staff and criminal responsibility, the study of true and false memories, Education and learning processes, social pathologies, privacy and the prediction of future brain pathologies. The third thematic field deals with the Ethics of the clinical internship of neural science, and included topics such as pharmacotherapy, surgery and the use of stem cells in the nervous system, gene therapy, neural prostheses and the parameters within which the research and the treatment of nervous pathologies should be established. Another truly paradigmatic issue from an ethical point of view has been the use of embryonic stem cells in the adult brain of patients with neurodegenerative pathologies and deep brain stimulation in mental illnesses. In this respect, the article of Mayberg et al. represents a milestone[Mayberg 2005]. The fourth problem area concerned the relationship of neural science to Public discourse and training, and here issues such as the training of young clinical and basic researchers and the encouragement of a proper understanding of the problems addressed, as well as their timely knowledge dissemination and reporting to the social speech media, could be addressed.

To conclude this section, it is also interesting to know whether this discipline has been received peacefully in the globalised world of the network Internet. First of all, it should be noted that there is no entrance at Spanish with the word "Neuroethics". When we turn to the English word "Neuroethics" we usually find the aforementioned definition by Safire and the division - common among the main researchers - of two types of problems. The first one, reference letter , refers to those that arise, above all, with the advance of brain imaging techniques, psychopharmacology or brain implants. The second category of problems has to do with the ethical problems that arise with the growth of our knowledge of the (neuro)biological instructions of behaviour, personality, self-awareness or states of spiritual transcendence.

This dual category of issues that Neuroethics deals with is really interesting, because this dual, and therefore broader, understanding of Neuroethics is accurate and of great financial aid for a fruitful interdisciplinary reflection.

2.2. Neuroethics as ethical criteria

This is not the place to present the various proposals as to what specific ethical measures are to be taken in the application of Neuroscience, i.e. the specific neuroethical approaches devised, but to highlight the general awareness of the need to establish new specific ethical criteria, which justifies the new discipline of Neuroethics.

In view of the progress in neuroscience, it is understandable that academic community, and society in general, is increasingly concerned about its possible consequences, taking into account, for example, medical actions such as new psychopharmacology, deep brain stimulation techniques, mechanical or organic implants, advances in neuroimaging or the early diagnosis of mental illnesses.

It is true that science seeks the good end of knowing. But modern science seeks to know in order to act; it seeks to be able to manipulate and dominate. Naturally, this application of knowledge has meant incalculable possibilities of improvement for humanity. In particular, medicine is succeeding in diagnosing, applying appropriate and successful therapies and preventing more and more diseases. But this requires manipulation and intervention. Unfortunately, however, there is no shortage of cases of manipulation for various purposes, purposes that no one would hesitate to describe as immoral: scientific experiments using people as experimental material in concentration camps, eugenics applied to the weakest or to a particular ethnic group, sophisticated instruments of torture, etc. But the fact is that, in view of the way neuroscience is developing, these dangers are increasing. The possibilities for manipulation of individuals are penetrating to an extent that has never been possible before. And the consequences of such interventions are not only often irreversible, but also largely unknown. On the other hand, we are not only talking about inflicted damage, but also about intrusions into the human being that seem to leave no room for the hitherto unassailable human identity and privacy.

Thus, the logical reaction has been - as on other occasions - to point out certain ethical criteria that, by way of dikes, contain the research and the application of Neuroscience within a use that is considered legitimate or non-injurious.

However, the most relevant neuroscientists realise that the questions that arise within neuroscience and in its application go beyond the setting of regulatory ethical criteria. In other words, it is not only an activity that has to be controlled, but an activity that in itself questions the essence of the human being and even itself as a cognitive activity. Moreover, many are concerned about the social repercussions of this research [Moreno 2002]. At final, "the neurological research can radically transform our image of man and consequently the foundation of our culture, the basis of our ethical and political decisions"[Könneker 2003]. This is precisely what characterises and justifies the specificity of Neuroethics: the ethics of a science, Neuroscience, whose possibilities of action in various dimensions and fields extend to limits that were hitherto unthinkable and still unknown to us.

2.3. Neuroethics as an apex of ethical and methodological questions

In fact, by its very nature, every system of ethical criteria raises questions beyond the use of the activity it regulates. Precisely the question of why we are afraid that science will turn against man, or why we should defend the human being, requires us to ask ourselves what exactly we are defending in the human being, and why. Every ethical regulation is based, consciously or unconsciously, on assumptions about its foundation.

Certainly, a large part of today's scientific culture will say: but isn't science telling us not only how it can intervene, but also - at last - what man really is; shouldn't we rather accept the scientific answer about the human being en bloc and eliminate fears from other times and sources; isn't it more sensible and peaceful to leave ourselves in the hands of the scientific experts and leave aside another subject of discussions that often appear insoluble? According to agreement with this approach, Neuroethics would consist of the study of the neurobiological instructions of the behaviour we call ethics. However, two objections can be raised against this proposal of taking questions about the basis of ethical regulation out of sight. First, that this suggestion is already a fundamental answer, a budget on the level of the foundation of the human person and what is or is not to be protected; and this is exactly what it seeks to discuss. It is an old sophism to try to eliminate the discussion of a problem by introducing a solution to it without discussion in advance. The second objection is often presented as weaker, but in reality it is very important and profound. It is a serious and honest question as to whether we can really give ourselves unreservedly to science. It seems obvious that the testimony of the innermost conscience cannot help but conceive, for scientific manipulation, limits of which we are convinced. We cannot avoid thinking about data and conceptions which are not scientific, and which rightly limit the scientific application. Some data and knowledge that may not be strictly philosophical - that is to say, philosophically thought out - but of what could be called knowledge spontaneous, natural. But they are contents of which we are really convinced because they present themselves intuitively in an immediate, self-evident way.

This opens up, on the one hand, a set of substantive questions about the fundamental presuppositions of the human being. And on the other hand, the methodological problem of access to and reliability of these contents.

As far as the substantive issues are concerned, some suggest that this set of questions, so to speak, does not belong strictly to Neuroethics, but that a new term should be found for it and its study: "neurophilosophy" or "neuroanthropology"[Churchland 2002]. Today, however, the term "Neuroethics" also seems to be established for these certainly philosophical and anthropological questions. Be that as it may, it is a fact that in the different approaches of Neuroethics what is really under discussion are those fundamental questions: whether the human being is only a biological organism or something more, whether his freedom is something apparent or real, whether one can ultimately speak of responsibility, whether his emotions or feelings are simply epiphenomena of the neurobiological system or not, etc.

On this level, Neuroethics can therefore be seen, rather than as a new science (true sciences are Neuroscience and Philosophy or Ethics, in the classical sense), as a set of questions about the most radical and intimate aspects of man. Questions in which it is no longer a question of his origin (as in the case of the discussion on evolutionism), nor of his difference with a machine (as in the discussion of the Philosophy of the mental and artificial intelligence). Now we are faced with the great issues that define its most intimate life, its most staff intimate life, its moral life: freedom, responsibility, feelings,... In a certain sense, it can be said that experimental science has reached, from its first physical and physiological origins, the most staff human nucleus: its ethical or moral nucleus. For this reason, the term Neuroethics does seem appropriate to designate this new field of problems or this new perspective from which to study these questions of the human being.

In other words, neuroscience appears, so to speak, as the threshold where science can no longer avoid these ultimately personal questions. And this is where the other side of the problem appears: the methodological question, no less important than that of content.

From this point of view of method, it is not difficult to see that historically these two sciences (experimental and philosophical or ethical) have often been at odds with each other. A confrontation that consisted practically of a struggle to get hold of the most mysterious and profound object in the universe, and at the same time the one that is of most interest: the human being. Neuroethics has become precisely and definitively the field, if I may say so, of this battle.

However, Neuroethics itself seems to be contributing a new element to this discussion; new, at least, in the tradition of the increasingly specialised modern sciences. This element or factor is the need, perceived by neuroscientists, to incorporate arguments from various sciences (Biology, Neurology, Psychiatry, Psychology, etc.) into their research and discourse. This novelty makes it possible to overcome the relationship between the sciences in core topic of confrontation, and to begin to see this relationship as an opportunity for interdisciplinary meeting fruitful for all parties. This need for a genuine relationship and dialogue between different sciences opens up a field of reflection of great importance. Neuroethics offers, therefore, a fertile field in which the question of the nature of the multidisciplinarity itself can be raised. In this way, the methodological discussion of Neuroethics becomes a discussion on how to look at that set of questions about human being and acting, on how to pose them without forcing what we are wondering about, on how to interpret the hypothetical answers without disfiguring the initial data .

In the end, in reality, these methodological questions also end up being substantive questions, questions of content. They become questions about the nature of science, of our knowledge and experience. For example, in this context we ask ourselves which sciences can and should enter into dialogue: only the experimental sciences among themselves or also other forms of knowledge (such as Philosophy) that in another time and sense were considered as sciences? This question immediately raises the question of what we call science, or what does it mean to know, or what subject of experience can we consider as source of knowledge? Earlier we spoke of unrenounceable convictions that we oppose to possible abuses of science: they are convictions of something that we intuit rather than demonstrate. This would be the place to ask: to what extent is intuition more reliable, and even more certain, than demonstration, and are the two modes of knowledge really mutually exclusive, or is there a relationship that favours the cooperation of knowledge? All this could be a merely academic or nuanced discussion if it did not involve what neuroscience and neuroethics deal with: the human being in the most intimate and radical way.

The picture presented may seem, perhaps, exaggeratedly pessimistic or dramatic. But this is no longer the case when we consider, for example, proposals in areas such as human dignity or the right to life. Or when we observe that in psychiatry the trend is moving in the direction of considering the person as a purely biological being rather than as a being who is also cognitively and emotionally capable of having and being guided by a meaning in life. Thus, psychopharmacology is gaining ground by leaps and bounds to the detriment of psychotherapy, which is no longer believed in[Mojtabai-Olfson 2008]. And this even though psychiatry has often seen psychotherapy and the meaning of life (especially in its brilliant period in the first third of the 20th century in Germany, with figures such as Karl Jaspers or Kurt Schneider) as central to it.

It is not difficult to see that what Neuroethics is actually addressing is nothing less than experimental science itself, and with it its idea of experience and its idea of rationality. Undoubtedly, a much-needed discussion is needed today. Very necessary because modernity unconsciously raised these questions, and its intoxication with progress prevented reflection on them. Today's post-modern thought, on the other hand, has seen very well the breakdowns and crises that science already foresees, but has desisted from proposing a solution, abandoning mankind to an unprecedented void. Logically, science alone, faced with such a task, is necessarily entering into crisis. It sees itself in the status to provide these answers, as well as to understand itself. And it seems that Neuroethics in this broad sense constitutes a privileged window, an opportunity to address such a crucial discussion.

At final, Neuroethics thus presents itself as an opportunity to initiate a profound interdisciplinary dialogue. It clearly shows the conceptual limits (although not the technical limits) of neuroscience, and at the same time raises the most profound questions about human being and acting from a scientific point of view. It is therefore, on the one hand, an excellent opportunity for scientists and philosophers to dialogue. On the other hand, it is also a demanding call to responsibility addressed to the academic-scientific community in view of the growing repercussions that science is having on individuals and society as a whole.

3. Origin and development of Neuroethics

3.1. Preparatory events and major institutional milestones

The first major event contributing to the origin of neuroethics was the founding of the International Brain Research Organization (IBRO) in 1961, under the auspices of UNESCO. Its origins can be traced back to a meeting of brain electroencephalography researchers held in London in 1947, which led to the creation of the Federation of EEG and Clinical Neurophysiology. At another meeting of this Federation and other research groups in Moscow in 1958, a unanimous decision was taken to create an international organisation for all brain researchers. A few years later, in 1969, the Society for Neuroscience was founded. However, these societies concentrated on the promotion of brain science research and paid little attention to the ethical or social implications of such research. For this reason, the American Society for Neuroscience launched, in 1972, a committee Committee on Social Responsibility, which later became the committee Social Issues Committee. This body has the mission statement task of informing all members of the Society of Neuroscience and the general public about the social implications of the programs of study of the nervous system. This committee was particularly important in establishing the various ethical regulations on the use of experimental animals, in particular non-human primates. In 1983, committee initiated annual round tables on social issues, the first of which was devoted to sex differences in the brain. In subsequent years, these meetings were devoted to topics such as cognitive enhancement, when brain "life" begins, brain death, neurotoxicity of food additives, and the use of fetal cells for the treatment of neurological diseases.

R. E. Cranford coined the term "neuroethicist" when speaking of the neurologist as advisor ethicist and as a member of institutional ethics committees[Cranford 1989]. According to him, with the increasing number of ethical problems in neurological internship , the presence of neuroethicists with expertise in dealing with these problems will adequately facilitate their satisfactory resolution. This is the first time that the term "neuro" is explicitly associated with the term "ethics". Two other publications relevant to determining the roots of Neuroethics are due to Patricia Churchland in 1991[Churchland 1991], and to A. Pontius in 1993[Pontius 1993]. In the first, Professor Churchland of the University of California (San Diego) raises from a philosophical point of view the ethical questions related to the conception we have of ourselves. In the second, Pontius reflects on the neurophysiological and neuropsychological aspects of children's development and Education.

However, the real start of the actual programs of study of Neuroethics took place at the meeting in San Francisco in 2002. The following year saw another decisive event in the history of this discipline: the Society for Neuroscience organised for the first time a major lecture on Neuroethics. In 2005, the same society also started call conferences on the dialogue between neuroscience and society, which have become well known in the media speech. This scientific society began to assume that issues related to Neuroethics had moved from being an object of special interest to being an integral part of its mission statement. And finally, in 2006, the Neuroethics Society was constituted in a small meeting held in Asilomar (California). The Neuroethics Society defines itself as a group of scholars, scientists and clinicians who, together with other professionals, share an interest in the social, legal, ethical and political repercussions of advances in neuroscience. Neuroscience, they claim, is providing many data that can help us to better achieve our goals, to better understand ourselves as social, moral and spiritual beings. The main goal of this society is to promote the development and the application manager of Neuroscience through an interdisciplinary and international research , Education and social engagement for the benefit of all nations, races and cultures. However, for many, one of the most important challenges for this new society, dedicated specifically to bringing together those interested in Neuroethics, is to establish a smooth and positive relationship with the Society for Neuroscience.

Two somewhat institutional milestones are also two editorials that have appeared in two prestigious journals, Nature (UK) and Science (USA), which have had a notable impact on the international academic community . Both articles clearly emphasise the importance of Neuroethics as discipline of great projection in today's society, which is giving so much relevance to the programs of study of the brain, and where technology for the research and therapy of neurological and mental illnesses is developing very rapidly. On the other hand, there is also the social impact that these programs of study contain for the security of countries, among other fields. It is precisely the latter that is directly addressed in the first of the editorials. It takes as its occasion the start-up of two new companies (called No Lie MRI and Cephos) that develop research in brain imaging to be applied as lie detectors or other measures related to the security of society. The publishing house argues that "in the future, ethicists should be more concerned about whether these imaging techniques might one day be used to discern or expose people's innermost secrets. Society has in its hands, for the first time, a tool with which to detect lying, and this could have profound consequences for individual privacy and human rights"[Nature 2006]. The other publishing house is signed by Henry Greely of the Stanford Centre for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University. In it, Greely gives a hurried but incisive overview of the main issues addressed by Neuroethics, starting from the fact that Neuroscience is a biological discipline that has expanded in an extraordinary way. He concludes by stating that funding for neuroscience needs to go hand in hand with a concern to support and back programs of study neuroethics in order to control such research and its impact on society: "But funding science without helping work to adequately develop its social consequences will ensure that the neuroscientific revolution may bring, alongside great scientific and medical advances, much pain and chaos"[Greely 2007].

Moreover, since March 2008, publishing house Springer has published a specific journal on the new discipline entitled Neuroethics, under the editorship of Neil Levy.

Finally, from the academic perspective, it is worth highlighting the recent foundation of two centres at research aimed at Neuroethics. Firstly, in 2007, the University of British Columbia in Vancouver (Canada) set up the National Core for Neuroethics with the mission statement to analyse and study the ethical, legal, political and social implications of neuroscientific research . The other centre is the Wellcome Centre for Neuroethics, set up by the University of Oxford (UK) in 2009, whose goal is to study "the effects that neuroscience and neurotechnologies will have on various aspects of human life". Its mission statement specifies five areas of research: cognitive enhancement; the frontiers of consciousness and severe neural damage; freedom, responsibility and addiction; the neuroscience of morality; and applied neuroethics.

3.2. Some specific publications and applications

Here we attempt to offer only an overview of some of the works and books that have been published on Neuroethics in recent years, many of which have appeared in scientific journals of recognised international prestige. What is common to all of them is their determined and inevitable interdisciplinary dialogue. A dialogue that in some authors is more open and fruitful than in others, but which in any case is already perceived as an unavoidable necessity.

(a) Adina L. Roskies

She published work Neuroethics for the New Millenium in 2002 in the journal Neuron. Roskies is professor and researcher at the department of Philosophy of Darmouth College in Hanover (New Hampshire), and her work focuses on the study of freedom and the legal implications of Neuroscience. In her contribution she systematises the field of this new discipline in two main sections: the ethics of Neuroscience and the neuroscience of Ethics.

Within the Ethics of Neuroscience, Roskies distinguishes between two kinds of issues facing Ethics in its meeting with neuroscientific disciplines: those related to the ethical internship performance of neurobiological research in general, and those concerning the assessment ethical and social impact of the results obtained with neurobiological experimentation techniques. Our author calls the former "ethics of (neuroscientific) internship " and the latter "ethical implications of neuroscience". In the first section we find those issues that regulate the conduct of neuroscientific experiments from agreement with ethical codes of conduct both in those basic disciplines of Neuroscience and in their application to the clinic (e.g., in the treatment of neurodegenerative or mental illnesses). The second set of issues concerns how to use all the knowledge we are gaining through neuroscience to better shape society and thus to consider the beginning of human life, death or what it means to be human and whether it is possible to transform humanity into something better. Logically, the conclusions reached in this section will shape the way in which ethical criteria should be applied in the practice of Neuroscience and its corresponding clinical applications.

With respect to the neuroscience of ethics, Roskies' assumption is that ethics has traditionally been based on concepts such as free will, self-control, identity staff and intention. The novelty now is that all these notions of ethical theory can be explored in some way within Neuroscience. It is true that this vision of Neuroethics, according to Roskies, is much less developed than the one reflected in the previous section , but the advances in neural science could bring results in this field at a dizzying rate in the coming years. The American researcher suggests that at the core of research neuroscience are questions about the most radical aspects of our being and acting: how does the brain influence our approach to the moral problems of our society, can we modify moral principles through biological alterations, and many more questions about the essence of our self-awareness and free action. In fact, the first area of questions (the ethics of Neuroscience) is subsumed in the second (the neuroscience of Ethics), for, according to Roskies, understanding Ethics itself from a neurobiological perspective will change the way we apply it to the basic and clinical research of Neuroscience.

b) Judy Illes

Judy Illes' activity has been decisive in spreading the importance of Neuroethics through her research and publications on the Ethics of neuroimaging (among others, the book Neuroethics: defining the...[Illes 2005] and the article "Neuroethics: a modern...".[Illes-Bird 2006]). He currently works at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver (Canada), where he directs the National Core for Neuroethics.

The article we wish to highlight here was published in the journal Brain and Cognition in 2002 together with Thomas Raffin ("Neuroethics: An Emerging..."). In this article, Illes and Raffin enter into the new discipline of Neuroethics from the context of neuroimaging, whose development has grown exponentially in the last two decades of the research neuroscientific. Advanced neuroimaging techniques make it possible to image realities ranging from the foetal brain in the womb to patterns of brain activation associated with cognitive or behavioural processes in both childhood and adult individuals. The article is the presentation of a special issue of the aforementioned journal on the ethical perspective of neuroimaging, and sample that neuroimaging occupies a central place in the brain research and, logically, also in the integrative processes of Neuroscience with other disciplines; in our specific case, with Ethics.

(c) Martha Farah

Professor Martha Farah is the director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Pennsylvania. Her 2002 article ("Emerging Ethical Issues in Neuroscience") and 2005 ("Neuroethics: The Practical and the Philosophical") outline quite clearly her idea of this new bioethical discipline .

In the first, he sets out to review the main ethical issues raised by neuroscientific developments. It concentrates on three: the enhancement of normal brain function, court-ordered intervention on the central nervous system, and so-called "brain reading".

With regard to the improvement of normal brain function, mood, as well as cognitive or vegetative functions in healthy individuals, this is becoming a clear fact and a systematic internship in our society. In relation to the individual's own health, the long-term effects deadline, which might bring about unwanted and untolerated limitations, need to be analysed. Moreover, the effective achievement of the improvement of our nervous conditions could result in the lack of a right and orderly striving to be more capable in healthy skill with others. And this leads to a consideration of a social nature. The possibilities of attaining these means of improvement could divide individuals socially, between those who can acquire them and those who cannot, or between individuals of the first category class (with manifest cerebral advantages) and others of the second category (lowered and reduced to "slaves" for the most degrading jobs).

Intervention on the central nervous system ordered by a court of law may seem unrealistic, but it is already theoretically proposed in many fora in an attempt to lessen or eliminate the criminal capacity of convicts, especially those guilty of sexual offences. The problem we face from an ethical point of view is that these interventions may also alter our own personality and turn us into "biological puppets", certainly incapable of committing crimes, but at too high a price. The discussion is very lively, since the neurosurgical technology of deep brain stimulation is developing very rapidly in recent years, driven mainly by the results obtained in neurodegenerative diseases (such as Parkinson's disease) or mental illnesses (such as depression or obsessive-compulsive disorders).

So-called "brain reading", which concentrates especially on the application of neurobiological technology to lie detection, is something that is receiving increasing attention in the relationship between science and society in order to establish patterns of security in a community such as ours, which must protect itself from the destabilisations of war, terrorism or crime. Ethical issues arising from this procedure concern privacy and the use of such information by political, judicial, police or military authorities in ways that lead individuals into inhumane situations.

The second work, from 2005, summarises current approaches to Neuroethics and is complemented by another that appeared in 2007 ("Social, Legal, and Ethical Implications of Cognitive Neuroscience..."). In these new publications, the author warns that until now very little attention has been paid to the importance of the ethical implications of Neuroscience, in contrast to the attention given to Bioethics in disciplines such as molecular Genetics . This interest in the ethical aspects of neurobiological disciplines has been multiplied, according to Farah, by the great development of cognitive neuroscience. And considering the ethical issues to be debated in this context, this researcher distinguishes between two types: what she calls practical and philosophical. Among the former are those arising from "neurotechnology" and its applications in health and disease. The latter include questions about the way we think about ourselves as people, as moral and spiritual beings. And to both must be added, of course, the social implications of all this.

(d) Thomas Fuchs

Thomas Fuchs' approach to Neuroethics can be considered one of the main approaches undertaken in this discipline for two reasons. Firstly, because he raises the issues of Neuroethics in a radical way, trying to reach the ethical background of the problems that arise in the research and the application of neurobiology. Secondly, because it approaches the discussions from an interdisciplinary perspective, relating them especially to Philosophy, which makes the speech much richer and more effective, and its conclusions reach a wider scientific audience.

Philosophically trained at the school of Robert Spaemann in Munich and medically specialised in Psychiatry and Psychopathology, Fuchs practises his profession as a psychiatrist at one of the most prestigious centres in Europe in this field: the University of Heidelberg in Germany.

The work we look at here ("Ethical Issues in Neuroscience"[Fuchs 2006]) discusses how the ethically critical issues of Neuroscience development have prompted the birth of Neuroethics. Examples of these issues are: prediction of disease; psychopharmacological enhancement of attention, report or mood; neurotechnology applied in psychosurgery; deep brain stimulation and brain implants. All these alterations are capable of affecting a human being's sense of privacy, autonomy and, at final, identity staff. Moreover, the often reductionist interpretations of the results obtained by neuroscience could represent a challenge with respect to notions as transcendental for our existence as freedom, responsibility staff or the individuality of our self; all of these concepts that are essential for our culture and our interpersonal and social relations. Not forgetting, moreover, that these neurobiological results could gradually change medical-psychiatric concepts of essential importance, such as mental illness and mental health in general. Therefore, it is of vital importance to approach the study of Neuroethics in a profound and global way, i.e. in an interdisciplinary context, in order to address these issues adequately. Thus, Philosophy, the broadest and ultimate human knowledge, will have to play a decisive role in these analyses when critically evaluating the results of Neuroscience that confront the most nuclear and intimate of questions: what is man?

Fuchs' contribution is divided into two main sections. The first deals with the ethical problems of neuroscience-based diagnoses and interventions, and the second with ethical problems concerning our conception of ourselves as human beings.

Ethical issues in neuroscience-based diagnostics and interventions

This section addresses the neuroethical problems resulting from the application of neuroimaging, pharmacological brain enhancement and new technical interventions on the brain. What is most interesting here is Professor Fuchs' critique of neuroimaging techniques. Certainly, the great development of neuroimaging has created in many neuroscientists, and somewhat in the general public, the idea that we are what our brain is, that it is activated and deactivated according to cognitive, emotional or motivational tasks in a rather selective way. Fuchs discusses this idea with acuity and determination, noting that the association of subjective experience to the images that these techniques provide requires some assumptions to be taken into account. First, it must be accepted that neuroimaging programs of study illustrates only a partial aspect of the biological processes that are going on. We see statistically, for example, which brain areas receive more blood flow when a certain phenomenon occurs, but we do not know whether this increase is the direct cause of the phenomenon being explored or, on the contrary, its effect. Secondly, the proper interpretation of the results depends very much on the experimental design that is adopted and on which outline is followed in the exploration; this is often not explained in detail, so that the conclusions drawn by non-experts are too simplistic. And finally, it should not be forgotten that, in general, the activities of everyday life are complex and are not easy to explore without subjecting them to simplifications that can denaturalise them; in fact, the usual exploratory paradigms in this subject of experiments lack the "global" component that is present, for example, in social interactions. For all these reasons, Fuchs warns that neuroimaging techniques are excellent for exploring the human nervous system, but it would be very risky to rely exclusively on their results to draw unitary conclusions about human behaviour.

Ethical issues concerning our conception of ourselves as human beings

The difficulties that arise when mental states are reduced to brain states are addressed here. In Fuchs' view, reductionist ideas about the mind-body problem and the self of the person raise very serious ethical questions: (a) can the attribution of responsibility staff of the subject be made to coincide with a series of correlated neurobiological processes; (b) should we treat mental illnesses simply as brain diseases; and (c) can we still maintain for the person the notions of unity and autonomy that the results of Neuroscience claim to define for us only biologically, i.e. is the self a mere illusion of complex brain processes? As can be seen, the questions that arise are central to neuroethics. Thus, Fuchs goes to the philosophical heart of the problem and concludes that a fundamental interdisciplinary attitude is necessary to address ethical problems in the context of a holistic human consideration. At final, he insists, techniques to monitor and manipulate brain functions are developing very rapidly and caution and restraint are needed in their application. At the moment we do not yet know clearly and precisely how the different biological systems of the brain interact with each other, nor how alterations in these systems can predict a certain behaviour or psychopathological attitude. Nor do we know how intervention on these brain systems can affect the beliefs, desires, intentions and emotions that make up the human mind. Moreover, it can be predicted that the now classic tension between traditional, intuitive or religious views of people and the biologicist view of much of current neuroscience, which interprets the person only as their brain, may generate conflicts that have important consequences from a social and cultural point of view.

Fuchs concludes that neuroscientists will in the future increasingly have to explain the meaning of their work not only from a scientific point of view, but also in moral or ethical terms. Moreover, psychiatrists could also play a central role in identifying ethical questions raised by research neuroscience, as they have always been a bridge between biologistic views and their application to the field staff. This is why Fuchs insists that it is very important not to lose sight of the fact that we must develop and encourage a holistic, not reductionist, view of the relationship between mind and brain, knowing that doctors do not treat brains, but people ("The Challenge of Neuroscience: Psychiatry and Phenomenology Today"[Fuchs 2002]; and "Neurobiology and Psychotherapy: An Emerging Dialogue"[Fuchs 2004]).

e) Walter Glannon

Walter Glannon is Professor at the University of Calgary (Canada), holding the Canada Research Chair in Biomedical Ethics and Ethical Theory at department of Philosophy of that University. The first work that we comment on here ("Neuroethics") is a broad and documented study on Neuroethics[Glannon 2006]. There he focuses his study, above all, on the clinical perspectives of neuroscience. He points out that the progress of neuroscience in the fields of neuroimaging, psychosurgery, deep brain stimulation and psychopharmacology has given society firm hope of greater efficacy in the prediction, diagnosis and treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders. Moreover, he adds, some forms of psychopharmacology may even lead to an increase in cognitive and emotional Schools in normal people. However, there is a growing awareness that we are dealing with the most complex and least known organ of the human body from the point of view of morphophysiological and physiopathological experimental science.

Glannon's work systematically explores all these techniques, arguing that mapping the neural correlates of the mind through brain scans, or transforming these correlates through surgery, stimulation or pharmacology can affect people positively or negatively. This is why it is so important to weigh very carefully and thoroughly all the potential benefits and harms caused by the employment of neurotechnology. Hence also the need to introduce, for the advancement of clinical neuroscience, an in-depth study of ethical issues in the application of neurobiological research to the clinical application of diseases of the nervous system.

However, since the brain is by far the most complicated and least understood organ of the human body, we are still unable to explain how different neural systems interact with each other and what morphofunctional abnormalities may predict psychopathological disturbances. Nor is it clear how modification or alteration of these brain systems can affect the beliefs, desires, intentions or emotions that are such distinctive features of what we call the human mind. But it is certain that all these interventions will cause variations in a positive or negative sense, which is why it is important to introduce ethical criteria in all advances in clinical neuroscience.

In 2007, Glannon published a book(Defining Right and Wrong in Brain Science...) as publisher , compiling the writings which, in his opinion, have been the main works published on Neuroethics (of which we have commented on some). It is illustrative to list the sections into which the author has divided this series of works: (I) fundamental issues; (II) professional obligation and knowledge dissemination public; (III) neuroimaging; (IV) free will, moral reasoning and responsibility; (V) psychopharmacology; and (VI) brain injury and brain death. This text ends with an epilogue by the English researcher Steven Rose on the importance of Ethics in a "neurocentric" world (taken from The future of the brain...[Rose 2005]).

Glannon's latest book(Bioethics and the brain, 2008) is a new edition of the same book published in 2006. In it he continues with his purpose to explain and disseminate the importance of the ethical assessment of brain interventions. A remarkable point is that Glannon is one of the few authors who openly introduces brain death among the topics of Neuroethics. In general, this author has a view of the mind as a set of features that emerge from the functions of the brain and the body. However, he does not seem to be a pure "emergentist" in the sense that programs of study talks about mind and brain, as he admits and presents a certain approximation to more open conceptions than a pure brain emergentism. Glannon's main point of interest is that our brain and mental functioning is also very much anchored in the relations of the nervous system with other organ systems, such as the endocrine and immune systems. This thesis is very revealing in terms of the attempt to seek unitary responses of our whole body to stimuli of various kinds subject. At the same time, he considers that the concept of the self is also based on psychological functions that are based on as many neurobiological and organic functions in relation to the nervous system.

f) Jonathan Moreno

Professor Moreno currently teaches Medical Ethics and the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also a member of the Center for Bioethics and the Center for American Progress at the same University. He has also recently had the opportunity to influence political life in the United States by being appointed advisor for President Barack Obama on Neuroethics issues, as well as by his interventions in the media at speech.

This researcher published a article ("Neuroethics: An diary for Neuroscience and Society"[Moreno 2003]) in which he establishes a historical analogy between the last decades of the 20th century, where there is an explosion of modern Genetics and reflection on its ethical consequences, and the first decades of the 21st century, which will be - according to him - the era of the brain, where logically the ethical dialogue will be transferred to this discipline with unusual force. The interesting thing about this analogy is that just as ethical reflection in the Genetics was something somewhat new for the academic community and society in general, the philosophical discussion on mental function and behaviour is something that comes from very far away, and this fact shapes and complicates the nature of Neuroethics. To a large extent, indeed, the ethical consideration of the research of the nervous system will be conditioned by the way in which we understand mind-brain relations. It is clear that if we adopt a reductionist model to explain all our mental and behavioural action as a direct reflection of the biological action of our neurons, freedom and responsibility will have to be approached in a different way than if we consider brain biology open to broader approaches, in which immateriality or morality in human action is included. Ethical reflection will be conditioned, at final, by the way in which we understand the human being.

Jonathan Moreno begins his article by talking extensively about the problem of freedom, or free will, and about reductionism in the mind-body relationship. At this point, our author closely follows the reflections of the philosopher of the mind Patricia Churchland set out in her well-known text on the relationship between Neuroscience and Philosophy (Neurophilosophy: Toward a...[Churchland 1989]). Moreno acknowledges that from the reductionist stance it becomes very difficult to explain freedom as we ordinarily understand it. However, he resolutely adopts -with Churchland- that reductionist position of trying to explain freedom by biology, trying not to enter into vital paradoxes. But as the aforementioned work progresses and penetrates into the ethical repercussions of Neuroscience, the difficulties become more and more evident in the search for a consensus between these two antagonistic positions (the reductionist one and the one of common feeling). Moreno then adopts a clearly constructivist attitude, that is, trying to find the minimum truth common to the two visions. And the fact is that, as I announced at the beginning, entering into Neuroethics is in fact inevitably to ask oneself about man, about his actions, about what makes us different from each other, about what is good and what is bad. In fact, this is the core of work, but it is interesting to highlight the neuroethical issues addressed in Moreno's writing. These are: the legal relations of the brain research , identity staff, consent, manipulation (what is considered natural and what is not) and the implications of Neuroscience for the development of war, concluding with a reflection on the novelty of Neuroethics.

Precisely in relation to warfare, one of the neuroscientific applications that is gaining greater direct importance and internship is that which refers to its use in so-called conventional warfare or in the fight against terrorism. Moreno has published a book on this subject (Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defence[Moreno 2006]), in which he sets out his bioethical reflections and his specialization on these issues. He has also given several conferences on this aspect of neuroethics, which has made him an authority on the current application of neuroscience to military life. Specifically, Moreno tries to give a vision of the relationship between the most sophisticated and modern science, the American agencies destined to the defence of the nation and the geopolitical space where the fight for defence develops beyond the bombs and the men who fight.

Predictably, the issues that may arise from the relationship between neuroscience and national defence (or between security measures and the safeguarding of civic rights) undoubtedly have a legal or juridical dimension, as they affect citizens' rights and freedoms. This is why it makes sense to reflect on the connections between neuroscience and law, to which Stephen Morse has devoted himself in particular ("New Neuroscience, Old Problems..." [Morse 2004]; see "New Neuroscience, Old Problems...").[Morse 2004]; see also the study "Neuroethics. Law..."[Capó 2006]).

(g) Neil Levy

Neil Levy is a senior philosopher researcher at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the University of Melbourne, and also contributes as researcher to the Program on Ethics of the New Biosciences and The Wellcome Centre for Neuroethics, both at the University of Oxford; he is also the publisher editor of the journal Neuroethics.

Levy raises the possibility of Neuroethics from a view of the brain that leaves no room for the immaterial operations of the mind. However, it is hasty to describe him as simply materialistic or reductionist with respect to mind-brain relations. For it is not easy to pigeonhole the group of Anglo-Saxon philosophers who, like Levy, come from the tradition of the analytical Philosophy . There is in them a kind of combination of a peculiar emergentism, constructivism and a certain monistic reduction. In his 2007 book(Neuroethics. Challenges) he states that a philosophical approach to ethics must rigorously adhere to what is known through experimental neuroscience, and also that human beings are ultimately, like all complex organisms, nothing more than a community of mechanisms. Now, if one raises the question of reductionism in the light of these two thesis and tries to sustain an Ethics (even a utilitarian one like Levy's), one has to accept the possibility of something that escapes materiality. And this -in our opinion- because it is impossible to deny completely the immateriality of some of man's activities (such as formulating theories), even if these do not manifest themselves without the material substratum of the brain, and because, moreover, science today does not manage to explain these activities completely biologically. The inevitable consequence of Levy's (and other materialists') approach can only be an accumulation of contradictions; contradictions which are not accepted because they are not seen, or which are rejected even when they are perceived.

Both in the aforementioned book and in several contributions to the journal Neuroethics, Levy insists on the idea - in common with other authors - that Neuroethics comprises two categories of problems. The first comprises, in general, those related to the technology of Neuroscience, and fall within the field of Bioethics. The second encompasses those that arise when the knowledge provided by neurobiological research makes us see our most intimate vital functions, and our very being, in a different way to how we have understood them up to now. In reality, these texts defend the so-called thesis paritaria: the problems posed by the development of Neuroscience are by no means new, neither in their wording nor in the ethical solutions that have been attempted. Basically, we are dealing with problems that were already posed, in some way, in the past. For this reason, Levy acknowledges, it is important to return to Philosophy, so that he once again raises the importance of interdisciplinarity in Neuroethics.

Of course, the crux of this whole vision of Neuroethics - as of any other - lies in the way we understand the mind. And to make position of the narrow biologistic way in which Levy conceives of the mind, it is perhaps best to quote directly from a paragraph in his book:

"The mind may not be a thing; it cannot be understood as a physical thing located in space. But it is entirely dependent, not only for its existence but also for the details of its functioning, on simple things: neurons and connections between them. It may be possible to reconcile these facts with the view that the mind is a spiritual substance, but it would seem a desperate act to even try"[Levy 2007: 17].

Finally, another of Levy's concepts core topic , in his book on Neuroethics, is what he calls the "extended mind". With this notion he tends to see the mind as extended over our body and mediated by the realities around us. According to him, this must also be taken into account in our ethical research . He explains this in the last paragraph of his book:

"This book aims to goal illustrate the moral significance of the extended mind by exploring the ethics of the mind sciences. If I am right, grasping its truth will allow us to arrive at a better and more nuanced knowledge of how our minds are already technologically mediated and embedded, and thus prevent us from making ill-considered responses to such technologies, which should be neither uncritically praised nor hysterically rejected, but rather evaluated one by one"[Levy 2007: 315-316].

4. Balance

All of the above invites and urges us to reflect deeply. And this necessarily starts with neuroscience. This science, whose progress has accelerated exponentially in recent decades thanks to the technological development , was born and has grown with an interdisciplinary character and vocation. Moreover, it is a scientific field that is inevitably generating ethical, moral and anthropological repercussions of a hitherto unknown scope.

On the other hand, although the prospects for development potential of neuroscientific research are certainly promising from the point of view of neuroimaging techniques, it is generally accepted that there are some unknowns that do not seem to be amenable to solution with experimental technology: above all, the explanation of the global functioning of the brain. In addition, neuroscience has suddenly found itself asking philosophical questions (anthropological, psychological and ethical) to which it cannot respond with mere technical instruments and from the conception of itself as an exclusively experimental science.

These recent events have led a certain issue of very significant scientists to consider opening a new research field closely linked to the neuroscientific development : Neuroethics. This new discipline is conceived according to two categories or levels. The first refers to the ethical criteria for experimentation and clinical application of neuroscience. In this sense, Neuroethics is configured as a specialised branch of Bioethics. The second plane moves to a deeper level, considering the philosophical problems that neuroscience questions. These problems include the analysis of freedom, legal and moral responsibility, the intimacy that constitutes a person's identity, the authenticity of emotions as personal and one's own, etc.

Above are the most outstanding events and works on Neuroethics, from the decisive meeting held in San Francisco in 2002 to recent articles and monographs. In all these programs of study sample the double concern that defines Neuroethics is expressed: the establishment of ethical criteria and the need to open up reflection on philosophical problems that are decisive for the individual and even for society as a whole, and, within society, in different areas, such as the legal, political, informational, health, military, etc. On the other hand, with respect to these philosophical considerations, different positions can be observed in the different researchers: from the attitude of those who try to reduce the whole argumentation to an experimental scientific level (such as P. Churchland or some of N. Levy's approaches), and those who admit a speech and a wider scope of answers than the purely materialistic or biologicist (as is the case of T. Fuchs). The logical result is the need for Neuroethics to embrace various sciences, including humanistic ones, in a fruitful interdisciplinary dialogue.

The multidisciplinarity is thus revealed as an intrinsic requirement of scientific activity; it is something that lies in the essence of knowledge, of the search for truth and of contact with it. If this is not taken into account, the inevitable consequence is a reductionism that privileges a certain way of understanding science and experience - which will usually be the empirical scientific form - and dismisses other forms of experience (artistic, moral, religious, emotional, etc.) as illusory. But since the latter, being evident, do not disappear so easily and resist being fitted into the moulds of the mathematical and mechanical method of modern science, what ends up happening is that profound contradictions appear, many of which are very clearly perceived today. Contradictions or paradoxes that arise between very heterogeneous experiences that call for a unitary truth that encompasses and comprehends the different spheres of life and the various particular sciences.

In this context, we can see the opportunity opened up by the interest and practice of Neuroethics to initiate a profound interdisciplinary dialogue. In Neuroethics, the conceptual limits (although not the technical ones) of Neuroscience can be clearly seen, and at the same time, the most profound questions about human being and acting are raised from this biological science. At final, Neuroethics offers an excellent opportunity for scientists and philosophers to dialogue, and at the same time constitutes a demanding call to responsibility - directed especially at the academic-scientific community - in view of the growing repercussions that experimental science (and in particular Neuroscience) is having on individuals and on society as a whole, atomising and disintegrating our knowledge and our actions.

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6. References on the Internet

National Core for Neuroethics, (The University of British Columbia),


Neuroethics Society,

Program in Neuroethics, Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics (Stanford University),

Society for Neuroscience,


The Wellcome Centre for Neuroethics, (University of Oxford),