Call for commentators: “Personal Identity, Direction of Change, and Neuroethics”

Brains invites philosophers and academics in other relevant disciplines to act as a commentator for our upcoming symposium, the second in our series on papers published in the journal Neuroethics. The target paper by Kevin Tobia (Yale) is titled “Personal Identity, Direction of Change, and Neuroethics” (abstract below). We are looking for short (1,000-2,000 words) commentaries that engage the substance of the paper. The symposium will include an introduction to the paper, the comments, and Kevin’s responses to the comments.

A full copy of the paper is available upon emailed request to Katrina Sifferd (  Anyone interested in acting as a commentator may submit a short abstract of their proposed commentary (less than 500 words) to Katrina via email ( by March 4. The symposium will run in the middle of April.

For reference, our first Neuroethics symposium can be found here.

Here is an abstract of the target paper:

“The personal identity relation is of great interest to philosophers, who often consider fictional scenarios to test what features seem to make persons persist through time. But often real examples of neuroscientific interest also provide important tests of personal identity. One such example is the case of Phineas Gage – or at least the story often told about Phineas Gage. Many cite Gage’s story as example of severed personal identity; Phineas underwent such a tremendous change that Gage “survived as a differ-ent man.” I discuss a recent empirical finding about judgments about this hypothetical. It is not just the magnitude of the change that affects identity judg-ment; it is also the negative direction of the change. I present an experiment suggesting that direction of change (improvement or deterioration) also affects neuroethical judgments. I conclude we should consider carefully the way in which improvements and deteriorations affect attributions of personal identity. This is particularly important since a number of the most crucial neuroethical decisions involve varieties of cognitive enhancements (improvements) or deteriorations.”


Back to Top