The Cosmetic Pull of Neuroscience
Many laypersons already believe that neuroscience can now answer fundamental and age-old questions about our aesthetic, moral, religious, and other human experiences. But such reductionist claims are controversial, and rest on shaky empirical grounds. If taken seriously they lead to some disturbing conclusions, notably the loss of moral agency. This chapter argues that the popularity of neuroscientific explanations owes less to scientific progress than to sociomedical factors, including the increasing medicalization of everyday experience; the reduction in practice of “principlist” bioethical principles to patient autonomy; and the joining of medicine with cultural preoccupations of enhancement and cosmetic alteration. If neurocentric claims are rapidly becoming part of our social imagination, Echarte argues, it is because of new practices in the “therapeutic culture,” not new scientific discoveries.
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