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EMBL/EMBO Joint Conference 2006

Adina Roskies, Dartmouth College, Hanover, USA

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Adina Roskies

Biography

Adina Roskies earned a Ph.D. at the University of California, San Diego, in neurosciences and cognitive science in 1995. Her doctoral work in neural development was conducted at the Salk Institute, and following that she pursued postdoctoral research in cognitive neuroimaging at Washington University's Medical School in St. Louis. In 1997, she became Senior Editor of the neuroscience journal Neuron, where she played a key role in broadening its scope to include systems and cognitive neuroscience. Roskies obtained a second Ph.D. in philosophy from MIT in 2004, and joined the philosophy department at Dartmouth College in 2004.

Her research interests in philosophy include the philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, and ethics. She has worked as a member of the McDonnell Project in Neurophilosophy, which aims to integrate philosophical thought and neurobiological research. Her current focus is on the philosophy of neuroscience, in particular, the philosophical issues related to new neuroimaging results and technologies, including increasingly pressing neuroethical issues about privacy and cognitive enhancement. Another project involves combining neuroscience research with philosophical inquiry to better understand the nature of motivation and its philosophical roles. Her interest in motivation extends to metaethics, and the relation of moral judgment to moral motivation. Roskies has an ongoing interest in understanding the nature of animal thought, theories of concepts, and conceptual representation.

Abstract

Neuroethics beyond genethics

Many issues that are raised by neuroethics have counterparts in genethics. Because of the significant overlap in the two fields, research in genethics can be fruitfully applied to many questions in neuroethics.

For example, many issues regarding privacy and enhancement raised by neuroscientific technologies and knowledge have analogs in genethics, and our approaches to dealing with these neuroethical problems can be informed by current research in genethics. However, despite the many parallels between genethics and neuroethics, the two fields are not coextensive, for there are ethical issues raised by neuroscience, which cannot be informed by genethics.

For instance, some aspects of the ethical issues raised by cognitive enhancement and challenges to privacy seem to outstrip the issues raised by genetics. In addition, some areas of neuroethics seem to have no parallels in genethics. In particular, novel neuroethical issues arise when neuroscientific advances threaten to require revision of concepts intimately connected with our notions of personhood and humanity, including selfhood and personal identity, morality, and freedom.

As neuroscientific understanding evolves, we must expect many of our commonsense concepts to be informed – and possibly radically altered – by our scientific perspective. The changes engendered may significantly affect our view of ourselves and of our moral outlook. These areas therefore pose unique problems for neuroethics.

Roskies has published articles in numerous scholarly journals in neurosciences and philosophy, among which are several devoted to exploring and articulating issues in neuroethics. For one of these she was awarded the William James Prize by the Society of Philosophy and Psychology. She was recently awarded a three-year fellowship from the Australian Research Council.