Neuroethics & neurophilosophy: Understanding the human brain

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Neuroscientific research and the increasing use of neurotechnologies raise a number of philosophical, ethical, social, and regulatory issues. The need to examine them has resulted in the development of a new field of research: neuroethics. This field is an interface between the empirical brain sciences, philosophy of mind, moral philosophy, ethics, and psychology, among other disciplines.

Three approaches to neuroethics

In our research, we focus primarily on fundamental neuroethics: basic research in neuroethics which shapes and informs our work on applied neuroethical issues. From a methodological perspective, we have introduced the distinction between:

  • Neurobioethics” (normative and prescriptive) that uses ethical theory and reasoning to address the practical issues arising from neuroscientific research and its clinical applications, and the issues raised by public communication of neuroscientific findings and their impact;
  • Empirical neuroethics” (mostly descriptive) uses empirical data to inform theoretical (e.g., what is moral reasoning) and practical issues (e.g., who is really a moral agent).
  • Conceptual neuroethics” undertakes conceptual clarification and uses conceptual analysis to address issues such as how neuroscientific knowledge is constructed and why or how empirical knowledge of the brain can be relevant to philosophical, social, and ethical concerns.

Our conceptual approach to fundamental neuroethics provides the theoretical framework to analyse practical issues, to examine ethical and neuroscientific concepts, and to address the impact of neuroscientific findings on society.

  • Ethics & Society - Kathinka Evers

  • Ethics & Society - Arleen Salles

  • Ethics & Society - Michele Farisco

  • The Human Brain Project SP12: Ethics and Society

Our research team

The CRB neuroethics and philosophy research team is an international, multi-disciplinary group. Our backgrounds allow us to approach the issues raised by brain research from theoretical, philosophical, social, bio-political, and clinical perspectives. We collaborate closely with neuroscientists and ICT researchers to understand the ethical and philosophical questions that neuroscience and ICT bring.

We are actively involved in the European Community (FET) Flagship Human Brain Project where we undertake conceptual and normative reflection on the ethical, social, philosophical and regulatory issues that drive and arise from brain research. 

Team members

  • Kathinka Evers, Professor of Philosophy
  • Michele Farisco, Associate Professor of Moral Philosophy & PhD Student
  • Josepine Fernow, Communications
  • Manuel Guerrero, PhD, Guest Researcher
  • Georg Northoff, PhD, Senior Researcher
  • Arleen Salles, PhD Philosophy, Senior Researcher
  • Karl Sallin, MD, PhD Student
  • Pär Segerdahl, Associate Professor of Philosophy

More CRB staff

Our collaborators

The neuroethics and neurophilosophy research team have long standing collaborations with Collège de France and the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and the Centro de Investigaciones Filosóficas (CIF) and the Institute of Cognitive Neurology (INECO) in Buenos Aires.

We also work with Universidad Central de ChileComa Research Group in Liege, the Canada Research Chair of Mind, Brain Imaging and Neuroethics and Centre for Health Law, Policy & Ethics in Ottawa, the Neuroethics Group of the Pellegrino Center for Clinical Bioethics of the Georgetown University in Washington DC, the Bioethics Unit of the Italian National Institute of Health in Rome, the KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm and the Karolinska University Hospital in Stockholm. We also collaborate with Weill Cornell Medical College and CASBI (Consortium for the Advanced Study of Brain Injury, Well Cornell and Rockefeller University). 

Our research endeavours

Neuroethics & Philosophy of the Brain

The CRB neuroethics research team is an international, multi-disciplinary group. Our backgrounds allow us to approach these issues from theoretical, philosophical, social, bio-political and clinical perspectives. We collaborate closely with neuroscientists to understand the ethical and philosophical questions that neuroscience brings. In this report, we provide a summary of our research. The report was updated in November 2016. We are planning an update in the autumn 2020. 

Download our Neuroethics report

Neuroethicxs & philosophy of the brain cover