Neurotechnologies, personal identity, and the ethics of authenticity

Catriona Mackenzie, Mary Walker

    Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

    49 Citations (Scopus)


    In the recent neuroethics literature, there has been vigorous debate concerning the ethical implications of the use of neurotechnologies that may alter a person's identity. Much of this debate has been framed around the concept of authenticity. In this article, we argue that the ethics of authenticity, as applied to neurotechnological treatment or enhancement, is conceptually misleading. The notion of authenticity is ambiguous between two distinct and conflicting conceptions: self-discovery and self-creation. The self-discovery conception of authenticity is based on a problematic conception of a static, real inner self. The notion of self-creation, although more plausible, blurs the distinction between identity and autonomy. Moreover, both conceptions are overly individualistic and fail sufficiently to account for the relational constitution of personal identity. We propose that a relational, narrative understanding of identity and autonomy can incorporate the more plausible aspects of both interpretations of authenticity, while providing a normatively more illuminating theoretical framework for approaching the question of whether and how neurotechnologies threaten 'identity'.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHandbook of Neuroethics
    EditorsJens Clausen, Neil Levy
    Place of PublicationDordrecht
    Number of pages20
    ISBN (Electronic)9789400747074
    ISBN (Print)9789400747067
    Publication statusPublished - 2015

    Publication series

    NameSpringer reference


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