Neuroethics (n.) The Ethics of Neuroscience.

Denotation: Neuroethics is a blend of neuroscience and ethics, and means the ethics of neuroscience. This field of philosophy was created because of the concerns for ethical, legal, and social impact of neuroscience, including the ways in which neurotechnology could be altering human behavior and decisions. The term first came up in 2002 when the Dana Foundation organized a meeting of neuroscientists, ethicists, and other thinkers, called Neuroethics: Mapping the Field.

Example of Neuroethics: If a patient asks to be resuscitated before a surgery on the frontal cortex, which is known to cause problems after surgery with judgement, then says he wants a DNR after the surgery whose decision do you listen to. Are you going to respect the wishes of the patient before the surgery or after, even though it might not be the “same” person as before the surgery because his brain has been altered.



Neuro-: before vowels neur-, word-forming element meaning “pertaining to a nerve or nerves or the nervous system,” from Greek neuro-, comb. form of neuron “nerve,” originally “sinew, tendon, cord, bowstring,”

Science (n.): mid-14c., “what is known, knowledge (of something) acquired by study; information;” also “assurance of knowledge, certitude, certainty,” from Old French science “knowledge, learning, application; corpus of human knowledge” (12c.), from Latin scientia “knowledge, a knowing; expertness,” from sciens (genitive scientis) “intelligent, skilled,” present participle of scire “to know,” probably originally “to separate one thing from another, to distinguish,” related to scindere “to cut, divide,”

Ethics (n.): late 14c., ethik “study of morals,” from Old French etique “ethics, moral philosophy” (13c.), from Late Latin ethica, from Greek ethike philosophia “moral philosophy,” fem. of ethikos “ethical,” from ethos “moral character,” related to ethos “custom” (see ethos). Meaning “moral principles of a person or group” is attested from 1650s.

Sociolectal Information: This term came from the field of Philosophy when Adina Roskies coined the term by calling the field Neuroethics, after stating that it is the ethics of neuroscience, and the neuroscience of ethics. The word is becoming more commonly used as research in neuroscience progresses along with ethical issues that may arise from newer medicines.

Survival Predictions: I think this word will survive, because as long as there is medicine, and as long as science keeps advancing then there will always be ethical problems that will need to be addressed. I think this word is helpful because it shortens “ethics of neuroscience” into something that is easy to say and remember. William and Mary also offers a class on Neuroethics so I think the field of study is starting to become more popular, and will linger as other colleges start to offer classes on the topic.

This definition of Neuroethics started to become challenged because some argue that neuroethics should not be limited to the neuroscience of ethics, but rather be broadened to the cognitive science of ethics.

Lexopinions: This word is mainly used in academic setting and is very specific to the study of neuroscience and a specialized field of philosophy. I don’t think the term Neuroethics will become a colloquial word. I also don’t think this word is very recognizable since this field of philosophy is pretty new and was first addressed in 2002.


  1. mguzmanvogele says:

    I had never heard of the term neuroethics, but I find the concept very interesting. It makes sense that with the development of neuroscience questions are being raised in regards to the ethical ramifications. It might be useful to include some more examples of the possible ethical questions neuroethics is addressing. What social or legal ramifications are scientists and/or philosophers concerned about? This term seems to be very useful, especially since neuroscience is such a complex and nuanced science. Are there any articles or forums you can reference that are currently using this term? Quotes or links to current articles might help give the word more depth and context. I agree that it is unlikely to become a colloquial term, but it sounds like it is likely to continue to be relevant in certain circles.

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