Neurotechnologies, personal identity, and the ethics of authenticity

Catriona Mackenzie, Mary Walker

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review

41 Citations (Scopus)


In the recent neuroethics literature, there has been vigorous debate concerning the ethical implications of the use of neurotechnologies that may alter a person’s identity. Much of this debate has been framed around the concept of authenticity. The argument of this chapter is that the ethics of authenticity, as applied to neurotechnological treatment or enhancement, is conceptually misleading. The notion of authenticity is ambiguous between two distinct and conflicting conceptions: self-discovery and self-creation. The self-discovery conception of authenticity is based on a problematic conception of a static, real inner self. The notion of self-creation, although more plausible, blurs the distinction between identity and autonomy. Moreover, both conceptions are overly individualistic and fail sufficiently to account for the relational constitution of personal identity. The authors propose that a relational, narrative understanding of identity and autonomy can incorporate the more plausible aspects of both interpretations of authenticity, while providing a normatively more illuminating theoretical framework for approaching the question of whether and how neurotechnologies threaten identity.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Neuroethics
EditorsJens Clausen, Neil Levy
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9789400747074
ISBN (Print)9789400747067
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

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