Short review: Michael Gazzaniga, The Ethical Brain, Harper Perennial 2005

Michael  Gazzaniga, The Ethical Brain, Harper Perennial 2005


1) We are able to speak about ethics form neuroscientific perspective (neuroscience of ethics), and we are also able to speak about ethical implications of neurosciences (ethics of neuroscience).


The book is divided into four parts. First part, concerns so called “Life-Span Neuroethics”. Gazzaniga discusses there problems with conferring a moral status in cases where we have to decide whether an embryo has a moral status or whether has not (possibility of an abortion). On the other hand, he also asks the question, in what point in time an aging brain allows us to not ascribe a moral status to someone (possibility of an euthanasia). This issues are constantly debated by ethicists and lawyers, notwithstanding,  the perspective form Gazzaniga starts this discussion is quite new. He uses his knowledge in neurosciences to ask old questions, but simultaneously he tries to provide new answers. In the second part of his book he discuses ethical dimensions of brain enhancement. Third part is devoted to the possible implications of neuroscientific development for legal sciences. We are able to find remarks concerning  legal responsibility, genesis of antisocial behavior and many more which are in the field of interested scientifically oriented lawyers. The last part of The Ethical Brain concerns the nature of moral beliefs and the concept of universal ethics. This is the part which is purely focused on neurobiology of morals (neuroscience of ethics). One of the most interested thesis introduced in this chapter is this when Gazzaniga claims that moral claims are contextual, social and based on neural mechanism, and if so, we can start to looking for some kind of universal ethics.


The Ethical Brain is a well-written introduction into an emerging field of neuroethics. After reading this book, a reader will gain a general picture of what neuroethics deals with. However, when it comes to philosophy and philosophical interpretations of neuroscientific discoveries he is not as precise in his proceedings as he should be. This is unfortunately a feature which can be found in many works of natural scientists who write about issues from intersections of philosophy and sciences.


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