Home > Uncategorized > John R. Shook – The Current Relevance of Pragmatism for (Neuro)ethics and Society

John R. Shook – The Current Relevance of Pragmatism for (Neuro)ethics and Society

January 14, 2016 Leave a comment Go to comments

Le réseau neuroéthique de Montréal

The Montréal Neuroethics Network



John R. Shook, Ph.D.,

University of Buffalo, United States

Thursday, January 21st, 12:00pm – 1:00pm

Jeudi le 21 janvier, 12:00 – 13:00 h


The Current Relevance of Pragmatism for (Neuro)ethics and Society



Neuroethics must anticipate and address rapid advances in neuroscience and neurotechnology, in two ways: (1) by discerning how human agency, sociality, and morality are cognitively processed and performed; and (2) by evaluating how proposed applications of neurotechnologies may (or may not) survive evaluations against standards of morality. Severe theoretical challenges confront neuroethics, requiring resolutions in order for neuroethics to participate in practical deliberations about finding morality somewhere within brains and upholding morality while modifying brains. Pragmatism is urgently needed to anticipate and resolve these theoretical issues. Four key issues are discussed in this talk. First, if cognitive neuroscience won’t confirm that brains are actually doing anything like what one would expect from moral cognition, must neuroethics agree that no one is really moral – so applied ethics, and especially neuroethics, should stop making “moral” recommendations?

Pragmatism cannot agree with scientifically ‘eliminating’ morality.

Second, if morality is real enough at the socially conventional level and neuroethics helps to situate moral cognition in the brain, wouldn’t that mean that neuroethics is helping to “confirm” that one society’s conventions are “right” about how brains morally work? Pragmatism can guide neuroethics away from installing one society as the arbiter of morality for the planet. Third, if neuroethics instead helps to discern universal moral cognition in all brains, has it become the ultimate arbiter of “real” human morality in all brains? Pragmatism can guide neuroethics away from scientific imperialism over ordinary morality.

Fourth, since neuroethics will at least be able to tell where folk moralities and ethical theories are disconfirmable, should neuroethics assemble its own ethical theory and its own normative principles?

Pragmatism can guide neuroethics towards formulating its own metaethics and grounded moral principles so it can drop its dependency on traditional or philosophical ethics.



Room/Salle André-Barbeau, Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM)

110 Avenue des Pins Ouest


Pease see attached poster for details.

Veuillez consulter les affiches ci-jointes pour de plus amples renseignements.


All are welcome but please note that there are limited spaces. Please RSVP by January 20th at veljko.dubljevic@ircm.qc.ca.

Tous sont les bienvenus mais veuillez noter qu’il y a un nombre de places limité. SVP réservez d’ici le 2 janvier auprès veljko.dubljevic@ircm.qc.ca afin de vous inscrire.

The Montreal Neuroethics Network promotes neuroethics training, education and dialogue by exposing various audiences to neuroethics issues; fostering collaboration and mutual learning; and ensure Montreal’s leadership in addressing ethical and social issues in neuroscience and healthcare delivery through inter-institutional collaborations.

For additional information, please contact Dr. Eric Racine at: Neuroethics Research Unit
Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal
Tel: +1 514 987-5723

Le Réseau neuroéthique de Montréal promeut la formation, l’éducation et le dialogue neuroéthiques en exposant divers publics aux enjeux neuroéthiques; en facilitant les collaborations et les apprentissages mutuels afin de développer le leadership à Montréal pour aborder les questions éthiques et sociales associées aux neurosciences et aux soins de santé dans un contexte de collaboration interinstitutionnelle.

Pour de plus amples renseignements, veuillez communiquer avec Éric Racine

Unité de recherche en neuroéthique

Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal
Tél. : +1 514 987-5723
Courriel :

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