Will Neuroscientific Discoveries about Free Will and Selfhood Change our
Ethical Practices?

Chris Kaposy

Abstract: Over the past few years, a number of authors in the new field
of neuroethics have claimed that there is an ethical challenge presented
by the likelihood that the findings of neuroscience will undermine many
common assumptions about human agency and selfhood. These authors claim
that neuroscience shows that human agents have no free will, and that
our sense of being a “self” is an illusory construction of our brains.
Furthermore, some commentators predict that our ethical practices of
assigning moral blame, or of recognizing others as persons rather than
as objects, will change as a result of neuroscientific discoveries that
debunk free will and the concept of the self. I contest suggestions that
neuroscience’s conclusions about the illusory nature of free will and
the self will cause significant change in our practices. I argue that we
have self-interested reasons to resist allowing neuroscience to
determine core beliefs about ourselves.


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