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Scientific and Philosophical Perspectives in Neuroethics.

SCIENTIFIC AND PHILOSOPHICAL PERSPECTIVES IN NEUROETHICS by James J. Giordano and Bert Gordijn, eds. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010. 374 pages. Paperback; $50.00. ISBN: 9780521703031.

Giordano is a Fellow of the Centre for Philosophical Psychology, University of Oxford; and Gordijn, a professor of ethics and secretary of the European Society for Philosophy of Medicine and Health Care. Their eighteen-chapter anthology contains reflections and beliefs involving the conceptualization and application of neuroethics to our ever present desire to live longer, healthier, or even enhanced, earthly lives.

The book states that it is written for researchers and graduate students in neuroscience and bioethics; however, without a sound and extensive knowledge base in the discipline of philosophy, including recognition of the ideas, terminology, and historical contexts of the world's greatest philosophers, a reader would be trudging through the chapters with a dictionary, encyclopedia, and/or internet access in order to appreciate what Walter Glannon describes in the afterword as "fascinating perspectives on multiple dimensions of basic and applied neuroscience." Upon acquiring or having some semblance of the necessary background knowledge in biology, neurology, psychology, sociology and philosophy (the forte of the branch of medicine called psychiatry), the reader will find that the book is a compilation of opinions or statements that were presented as factual, but were, in several cases, specious or at least subject to argument.

The introduction states that the purpose of the book is to examine three core questions: the direction of neuroscientific inquiry, how neuroscience has, to date, affected scientific and philosophical ideas, and what the potential ethical issues are now and in the future. After slowly, painstakingly, and diligently reading the book, I still cannot answer these questions any differently than I would have before I read the book. What I can say is that I have refreshed my undergraduate learning related to epistemology, empiricism, ontology, Kant, material reductionism, Cartesian interactionism, exigency, interiority, heuristic, hermeneutics, deontic logic, idealism, emergentism, physicalism, reductionism, and phrenology; all of these I had to research on my own as the book has no glossary to assist the reader. I can also say that I learned a new word, "exjuvantibus," which means making an inference about a disease cause from an observed response to treatment.

The book was divided into four domains: (1) the history of neuroscience, chapters 1-3; (2) issues of ethics, chapters 4-8; (3) development of neurotechnology, chapters 9-14; and (4) neuroethics in the worldview, chapters 15-18. Each chapter has its own contributor or contributors. The credentials, degrees, or qualifications of the contributors are not included; therefore readers must again either do their own research or depend on a previous knowledge of the authors. The contributions are all over the place in presentation, ranging from simple statements such as defining a nerve cell to very complicated discussions of neuroimaging techniques. The reader is constantly having to reset reading pace--from trudging through tedious discussions of "details" to racing past what seems obviously simple.

What was missing of greatest importance for the titled themes was any succinct or memorable discussion of the purpose of life. This teleological discussion is absolutely necessary in any discussion of ethics as it pertains to human health and well-being. The book covered topics ranging widely from medical interventions for pain, paralysis, and brain injury, all the way to aesthetic enhancements and the potential to engineer a "super mind"; yet what was missing was a forthright discussion of the commonly accepted principles of health-care ethics and, most importantly, the essence of faith, hope, and love in directing humankind in the pursuit of knowledge and ultimate wisdom. I end by saying that I do respect the contributors for their knowledge and effort.

Reviewed by Sharon Winters, Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, Daytona Beach, FL 32129.
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Author:Winters, Sharon
Publication:Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 1, 2011
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