Tuesday August 19, 2008
This morning I simply could not get down to work. I listened to the radio, I wrote a few words, I spent far too long looking online for obscure texts about banditry in nineteenth century Bulgaria (it’s called research, don’t you know…) and when that was all too much, I hung out with the cat, who has mastered the art of doing sod all to an awesome degree.
What I need, perhaps, is the intervention of a perpetually smiling, horribly efficient productivity guru who can overhaul my working practices and turn me into some kind of 21st-century multi-tasking wizard. Or I simply need a brain upgrade… And that suggestion brings me to the subject of neuroethics, the place where neuroscience meets ethics. Neuroethics is a fascinating emerging field, one that works in two directions. On the one hand it concerns the ethics of neuroscience – for example, What are the ethics of ‘upgrading’ the brain pharmaceutically? or, What bearing does our deeper understanding of the brain have on our notions of impaired states of consciousness such as that of coma? – and on the other hand it concerns the neuroscience of ethics – What does our developing understanding of the brain say about the way we think about ethics?
This is fascinating territory, and although the latter kind of question is to me the more interesting of the two, questions of the former kind are, I suspect, going to become more and more important as technology improves. But rather than going into the subject in any great detail here, I want to just post a link to my review of Walter Glannon’s book Defining Right and Wrong in Brain Science, published on the Metapsychology Online website. The book is a thoroughly worthwhile read, covering some at least of the major issues at stake, even though most of the essays in the volume work within a somewhat circumscribed conception of ethics – ethics, in at least some of the essays gathered in this book, can seem to be reducible to the question of what I can get away with.
To return to my lack of productivity this morning, however… whilst upgrades are all very well, I have to add that I’m not sure that I would be first in the queue if it came to handing out pills to increase my productivity. There is much to be said, after all, for hanging out with one’s cat and doing sod all.
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