Oral Presentation Australasian Association of Bioethics & Health Law and New Zealand Bioethics Conference

Neuroethics as a guide to ethics (1087)

Grant Gillett 1
  1. University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand

The neural underpinning of ethical reasoning comprehensively involves structures throughout the brain. That anatomical correlate  ranges from areas involved in sensory function, to motor, language-related, emotive, and social functions. Such an inclusive neural basis indicates the scope of ethical engagement as a cognitive task, various aspects of which are the focus of various kinds of ethical deliberation and discussion. An inclusive view inspired by brain integration as the highest level of neural function equips human beings for situated or ethological self-development. That engagement rests on sensory, motor, and other function which are more organic and dynamic than the conceptualisations of many philosophical accounts can capture. Work in brain dynamics and ecologically situated cognition which draws and builds on our natural and relational tendencies can indicate and enrich our understanding of ethics. That enrichment can inform areas such as environmental ethics, animal ethics, the ethics of entitlement and marginalisation, and many new initiatives that do not fit well into a framework of cognition and propositional attitudes as currently conceived. These new and inclusive directions should be informed by the analyses and debates that neuro-philosophical approaches embody.