, Volume 9, Issue 2, pp 173–185

Deep Brain Stimulation, Historicism, and Moral Responsibility

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s12152-016-9260-0

Cite this article as:
Sharp, D. & Wasserman, D. Neuroethics (2016) 9: 173. doi:10.1007/s12152-016-9260-0


Although philosophers have explored several connections between neuroscience and moral responsibility, the issue of how real-world neurological modifications, such as Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS), impact moral responsibility has received little attention. In this article, we draw on debates about the relevance of history and manipulation to moral responsibility to argue that certain kinds of neurological modification can diminish the responsibility of the agents so modified. We argue for a historicist position - a version of the history-sensitive reflection view - and defend that account against a rival, relational view of responsibility. We conclude that DBS can, under certain conditions, diminish responsibility, and explore the circumstances under which this might be so. We conclude by suggesting that philosophical debates about moral responsibility, manipulation, and history have greater practical relevance than is sometimes thought, and that attention to practical cases can help inform and deepen this body of scholarship.


Deep brain stimulation Moral responsibility Historicism Manipulation argument Compatibilism Neuroethics 

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of BioethicsNational Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA

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