A significant and worrying lacuna lies at the heart of neuroethics: viz., a coherent conception of personal identity. Philosophically, the consequences are serious; morally, they are disastrous. The entire discourse is constrained by a narrow empiricism, oblivious to its own metaphysical and epistemological presuppositions; worse still, it remains hostage to a latent Cartesianism, which logically and ontologically isolates neuroethicists from their subjects. Little wonder neuroethics lacks an anchor for its normative judgements. This chapter aims to supply that anchor. The key lies in action: action as essentially personal; acts owned; acts intended; and acts that embody those intentions that embody meaning. Such acts are the primary manifestation of ‘personhood’; they are also socially oriented, therefore morally interesting. Action locates persons in a world of objects and, most importantly, others. Crucially, relocating neuroethics within this context of personal activity supplies the logical and ontological foundations for both its judgements and its participants.
Part of the book: Neuroethics in Principle and Praxis