Neuroethics is a dynamic and still rather young interdisciplinary field involving neuroscience, philosophy, or bioethics, among other academic specialties. It is under a process of institutionalization on a global scale, although not at the same pace in every country. Much literature has been devoted to the discussion of the purpose and relevance of neuroethics as a field, but few attempts have been made to analyze its local conditions of development. This paper describes the advancement of neuroethics in Japan as a case study on the ups and downs of the institutionalization of a new academic field. As one of the peculiarities of neuroethics is the diversity of its constituent subject areas, which range from ethics of neuroscience to neuroscience of ethics, the analysis relies on a framework delineating its different aspects. The discussion of the Japanese case study is embedded in several interpretations of the significance of the field proposed by various actors, proponents, or detractors of neuroethics. The history of neuroethics in Japan can be read as a contribution to meta-neuroethics by those interested in definitions of neuroethics, and as a study in science policy by those interested in the Japanese system of research.
KeywordsMeta-neuroethics History of neuroethics Japan Science and society
This research was conducted thanks to a postdoctoral fellowship of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science awarded to Maxence Gaillard and hosted by Osamu Sakura at the Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies, The University of Tokyo. This article would not have been possible without the time and ideas of the scholars engaging in interviews and sharing documents—they are thanked warmly.
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