Week 7: Ethics and Cognitive Science

Ethical Issues in Cognitive Science Research

Is it better if we do not know how minds work?

Should people and animals be used in psychological and neurological experiments?

Is it legitimate to deceive people in social psychological experiments?

Should there be research based on sex, race, and ethnicity?

Ethical Implications of Cognitive Science

Do mechanistic explanations of mind imply that free will is an illusion?

If free will is an illusion, is morality meaningless?

What kinds of mental operations are consistent with holding people responsible for their actions?

How do brains make moral judgments? Does it matter for ethics?

Are psychopaths responsible for their actions? Is psychopathy a mental illness?

Does the existence of psychopaths undermine contractarian approaches to morality?

What do empirical findings about the mind tell us about the nature of a person?

Does cognitive science support or undermine utilitarian approaches to ethics?

Does the plasticity of human behavior (i. e. variability based on situation rather than personality) undermine virtue ethics?

Does evolution tell us anything about ethics?


Bibliography of Cognitive Science and Ethics


Discussion Questions for Week 8

  1. How do mental illnesses differ from other diseases?
  2. Do Graham and Stevens give a good definition of mental illness?
  3. What are the most important causes of mental illness?
  4. Does consciousness matter to mental illness?
  5. Is mental illness a social construction?
  6. What are the implications of a scientific understanding of mental illness for ethical issues about free will and responsibility?


Life, Mind, and Disease

Computational Epistemology Laboratory.

Paul Thagard

This page updated Oct. 25, 2004