Is there a need for clinical neuroskepticism?

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8 Scopus citations


Clinical neuroethics and neuroskepticism are recent entrants to the vocabulary of neuroethics. Clinical neuroethics has been used to distinguish problems of clinical relevance arising from developments in brain science from problems arising in neuroscience research proper. Neuroskepticism has been proposed as a counterweight to claims about the value and likely implications of developments in neuroscience. These two emergent streams of thought intersect within the practice of neurology. Neurologists face many traditional problems in bioethics, like end of life care in the persistent vegetative state, determination of capacity in progressive dementia, and requests for assisted suicide in cognition-preserving neurodegenerative disease (like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis). Neurologists also look to be at the forefront of downstream clinical applications of neuroscience, like pharmacological enhancement of mental life. At the same time, the practice of neurology, concerned primarily with the structure, function, and treatment of the nervous system, has historically fostered a kind of skeptical attitude toward its own subject matter. Not all problems that appear primarily neurological are primarily neurological. This disciplinary skepticism is generally clinical in orientation and limited in scope. The rise of interest in clinical neuroethics and in neuroskepticsim generally suggests a possible broader application. The clinical skepticism of neurology provides impetus for thinking about the appropriate role for skepticism in clinical areas of neuroethics. After a brief review of neuroskepticism and clinical neuroethics, a taxonomy of clinical neuroskepticism is offered and reasons why a stronger rather than weaker form of clinical neuroskepticism is currently warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)251-259
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Nov 2011


  • Clinical ethics
  • Clinical neuroethics
  • Neuroethics
  • Neurology
  • Neuroscience
  • Neuroskepticism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Health Policy
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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