Agency in the Age of Brain Science

by Joshua May

(Oxford University Press, under contract)

Neuroscience is booming, fueled by sensational discoveries, unparalleled grant support, and promises to reveal deep insights into the human condition. What ethical questions does it raise and help to answer? 

Neuroethics delves into questions such as:

  • Does neuroscience show that free will is an illusion?
  • When do brain stimulation treatments impair a patient’s autonomy or sense of self? 
  • Does having a mental disorder excuse bad behavior? 
  • Is addiction a brain disease? What about psychopathy?
  • Does neuroscience show we shouldn’t trust our gut feelings in ethics? 
  • Are pills and brain stimulation appropriate methods of moral improvement?
  • Is wishful thinking rampant in everyday life, even in neuroscience itself?
  • Is brain science reliable enough to inform life-or-death decisions in hospitals and courts of law?

The book provides an opinionated survey of the field through gripping case studies and serious attention paid to both the philosophical issues and scientific evidence. It develops a nuanced neuroethics that reconceives human agency as less conscious and reliable but more diverse and flexible than we ordinarily think. The text includes a glossary, discussion questions, and a writing style that’s accessible to students and scholars in both the sciences and humanities.

Table of Contents

(Drafted = ✅)

✅ 1. Ethics Meets Neuroscience

✅ 2. Free Will
✅ 3. Manipulating Brains

✅ 4. Mental Disorders
____5. Self-Control

✅ 6. Moral Judgment
✅ 7. Moral Enhancement

✅ 8. Motivated Reasoning
____9. Brain Reading

____10. Nuanced Neuroethics