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Neuroethics, Painience, and Neurocentric Criteria for the Moral Treatment of Animals



Neuroscience affords knowledge that can be leveraged in the ontological valuation of individuals, groups, and species. Sociocultural sentiments, norms, and mores may impede embracing such knowledge to revise moral attitudes, ethics, and policies. We argue that the practices of neuroethics will be valuable in that they ground ethico-legal discourse in (1) naturalistic philosophy; (2) the current epistemological capital of neuroscience; (3) the issues, problems, and solutions arising in and from neuroscientific research and its applications; and 4) the use of neurocentric criteria—such as painience—to define and resolve ethical decisions regarding attitudes toward and treatment of nonhuman animals.



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41. This speaks to Thomas Nagel’s existential question, “What is it like to be a bat?” reflecting the essential subjective and solely self-transparent qualities of consciousness. In the absence of some ability to explicitly communicate first-person experience, interpreting the phenomenological conditions of others becomes something of a hermeneutical exercise. Attempts to bridge the subjectivity-objectivity gap (e.g., through the use of neurotechnology) remain largely unsuccessful and are a focus of much of current pain and consciousness research; see Nagel, T. Mortal Questions. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press; 1979; Giordano, J. Pain: Mind, Meaning and Medicine. Glen Falls, PA: PPM Press; 2009;Giordano, J The neuroscience of pain, and the neuroethics of pain care. Neuroethics 2009;3(1):8994; Giordano, J, Benedikter, R, Boswell, MV. Pain medicine: Biotechnology, and market effects: Tools, tekne, and moral responsibility. Ethics in Biology, Engineering and Medicine 2010;1(2):133–40.

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58. See note 53, Ryder 2001, at 119.

59. See note 53, Ryder 2001, at 30.

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This work was supported, in part, by the J. W. Fulbright Foundation (JG); the William H. and Ruth Crane Schaefer Endowment (JG); and funding from the Center for Neurotechnology Studies of the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies (SEL), from the Human Science Center of the Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, Munich, Germany (JG), and from the Animal Behavior and Conservation Program, Department of Psychology, Hunter College, City University of New York, New York (SEL). The authors acknowledge the assistance of Rachel Landsberg on this project.


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Neuroethics, Painience, and Neurocentric Criteria for the Moral Treatment of Animals



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