Can Neuroscience Contribute to Practical Ethics? A Critical Review and Discussion of the Methodological and Translational Challenges of the Neuroscience of Ethics

Bioethics 31 (5):328-337 (2017)
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Neuroethics is an interdisciplinary field that arose in response to novel ethical challenges posed by advances in neuroscience. Historically, neuroethics has provided an opportunity to synergize different disciplines, notably proposing a two-way dialogue between an ‘ethics of neuroscience’ and a ‘neuroscience of ethics’. However, questions surface as to whether a ‘neuroscience of ethics’ is a useful and unified branch of research and whether it can actually inform or lead to theoretical insights and transferable practical knowledge to help resolve ethical questions. In this article, we examine why the neuroscience of ethics is a promising area of research and summarize what we have learned so far regarding its most promising goals and contributions. We then review some of the key methodological challenges which may have hindered the use of results generated thus far by the neuroscience of ethics. Strategies are suggested to address these challenges and improve the quality of research and increase neuroscience's usefulness for applied ethics and society at large. Finally, we reflect on potential outcomes of a neuroscience of ethics and discuss the different strategies that could be used to support knowledge transfer to help different stakeholders integrate knowledge from the neuroscience of ethics.



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Author Profiles

Veljko Dubljevic
North Carolina State University
Julia Christensen
Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics
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