The Ethical Brain

Michael S. Gazzaniga

Cloth • $25.00 • 232 pages 
ISBN: 978-1932594010
Published April 2005

Also available an an e-book.

Which would be acceptable: the athlete who may one day get “neuro-enhancement” to boost his or her performance, or the SAT-taking student who does the same thing before the test? How will increasingly powerful brain imaging technologies affect the ideas of privacy and of self-incrimination? Such thought-provoking questions are rapidly emerging as new discoveries in neuroscience raise difficult personal and societal ethical dilemmas. Michael Gazzaniga, widely considered to be the father of cognitive neuroscience, investigates with an expert eye some of these controversial and complex issues in The Ethical Brain.


Part I Life-Span Neuroethics

  1. Conferring Moral Status on an Embryo
  2. The Aging Brain

Part II Brain Enhancement

  1. Better Brains Through Genes
  2. Training the Brain
  3. Shaping the Smart Brain with Drugs

Part III Free Will, Personal Responsibility, and the Law

  1. My Brain Made Me Do It
  2. Antisocial Thoughts and the Right to Privacy
  3. The Brain Produces a Poor Autobiography

Part IV The Nature of Moral Beliefs and the Concept of Universal Ethics

  1. The Believing Brain
  2. Toward a Universal Ethics



"A book that’s part science and part philosophy, making a convincing plea for an ethical code informed by scientific understanding."
    –Psychology Today

"The Ethical Brain delivers its message with... wit, and there is much to learn from its discourses on such topics as increased longevity and how aging works in the brain, the prospects for enhancing natural intelligence through genetics or drugs, and the reliability of lie detectors and other ''mind-reading'' devices."
    –Lynn Yarris, Mercury News      

“If it is the case... that all of our thoughts, feelings, and actions are reducible to the level of brain physiology and biochemistry, what becomes of ethics? This is the central question that Michael Gazzaniga addresses in this readable, well-informed, and provocative book."
    –Stephan L. Chorover, The Lancet

"Interesting and enjoyable . . . the strength of the book is the author''s perspective as a neuroscientist, which will introduce the reader to complex aspects of neuroscience in relation to behavior in society... The problems highlighted and illuminated by this highly readable book are worth considering."

    –Richard Camicioli, M.D., Journal of the American Medical Association

"Michael Gazzaniga, a leading neuroscientist and member of President Bush''s bioethics council, takes readers on a tour of neuroethics, a moral minefield created by our exploding understanding of the brain. Gazzaniga eschews easy answers in exploring the potential and limits of neuroscience."
    –USA Today  

"A lively and generally accessible book... The strengths of the book are the gems about neuroscience research and research in general, that often go unstated and unrecognized in tehe rush to apply scientific findings to numerous social problems... Especially valuable are points Gazzaniga raises that are well developed and on target in considering the implications of neuroscience for the criminal justice system... Exciting."
    –Stephanie J. Bird, New England Journal of Medicine


"The study of the brain is the 21st century's hottest subject not only in science but also in philosophy. If, as science now tells us, we are nothing more than robots controlled by a chemical analog computer called the brain, where does that leave such quaint notions as ethical behavior? Who better to say than one of the two most brilliant experimental neuroscientists in the world, Michael Gazzaniga? This is a provocative and highly readable book."
    –Tom Wolfe, author of I Am Charlotte Simmons and Bonfire of the Vanities 

"If it were possible for this book to have been written a couple of thousand years ago, we might have avoided a lot of misery. What an important question it raises: what is known about the brain that can guide us in forming a set of rational ethical principles? The great frontier before us is the question of how we will deal with one another, and this fascinating book gets us on our way."
     Alan Alda, Emmy-winning actor, writer, and director, and host of Scientific American Frontiers

"...This is a witty, well written, highly informed account of how our brain forms our beliefs and how we can determine what beliefs serve us best."
    –Robert Bazell, chief health and science correspondent, NBC News

"Wonderfully nourishing food for thought. Gazzaniga tackles some of the toughest ethical issues of our time with vigor, intelligence, and insight."
    –Diane Ackermanauthor of An Alchemy of Mind 

"A thoughtful and accessible introduction to an entirely new domain of moral concern. Gazzaniga writes with verve and expertise about the fascinating issues that will confront us as our knowledge of the brain expands."
    –Steven Pinker, Johnstone Professor of Psychology and author of The Blank Slate and How the Mind Works