Neuroethics and Society


Course Objective

At the end of this course the student is better able

in terms of knowledge.....:
- to identify and address a number of ethical issues at the interface
between neuroscience and society (the topic list gives an impression of
which issues will be discussed)

in terms of skills...:...
- to address and discuss these issues in professional and public

in terms of attitude......:
- to appreciate the responsibilities of the neuroscientist as scientist
in communication with the general public.

Course Content

Neuroethics is the field in which the moral, legal, societal and
philosophical implications of brain research are investigated.
Neuroscience has an impact on how we think about ourselves (namely as
free, rational, and autonomous agents). It affects practices like law
and psychiatry. It confronts us with moral concerns about certain
applications: enhancement of normal functioning, mind-reading and
lie-detection, military applications, and far-reaching forms of health
surveillance, just to name a few. On the other hand, neuroscientific
insights can be instrumental in promoting dignity, equal treatment and
protecting rights of people who are ‘diverse’ in some way (for example,
those with mild autism, ADHD, instable mood). Finally, neuroscience
affects our view on human nature. This course investigates the intricate
ramifications in the interaction between neuroscience, society, and our
view on human nature.
Topics to be included are
a. Neuroethics introduction: impact of neuroscience on moral philosophy
b. Neurolaw: impact on the law and on legal practices
(i) Revision of law and legal practices (e.g., adolescent brain
(ii) Assessment of people (e.g., brain-based mind-reading/lie-detection)
(iii) Intervention (e.g., deep brain stimulation and the law)
c. Enhancement (enhancing brain/mind capacities using neuro-technology)
d. Neuroscience and the public image (with a contribution by Brein in
e. Big data and the brain; health surveillance
f. The future (neuro)society – where are we heading to? Opportunities,
challenges, risks; afforded by our increased understanding of

Teaching Methods

- lectures
- study of literature
- assignments
- group discussion

Method of Assessment

- Oral summaries + discussions in class (20%)
- Final paper (3000 words) (80%)

The summaries and discussions in the classroom are evaluated on the
basis of the following points:
- Overall quality of summaries (clarity, succinctness, focus)
- Relevance (questions, remarks)
- Presentation (skills, use of digital media, quality of discussion)

The final presentation is assessed on the basis of the following points:
- Clarity of research question/topic
- Clear description of the way the question/topic is methodically
- Relevant, succinct and focused summary of findings and arguments in
the literature
- Quality of the argumentation
- Is the conclusion based on the preceding findings and reasoning?

Entry Requirements

Meeting of general admission criteria for the program as a whole; no
additional requirements.


To be announced on Canvas

Target Audience

The course is open for students of the master Philosophy of Neuroscience
and of the research master Neuroscience as well all those who don’t
follow the (entire) program but qualify for a master study. In case of
doubt, ask the coordinator whether you are eligible for the course.

General Information

Course Code W_MA_NSNS
Credits 6 EC
Period P5
Course Level 500
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator dr. E. Koster
Examiner prof. dr. G. Glas
Teaching Staff dr. P. Robichaud
prof. dr. G. Glas

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar, Lecture
Target audiences

This course is also available as: