Forget Me Not: The Neuroethical Case Against Memory Manipulation

by Peter A. DePergola II (University of Massachusetts Medical School; College of Our Lady of the Elms)

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Treats a timely topic in a compelling inter-disciplinary manner, bridging a robust account of moral personhood with a treatment of the complex issues of treatment of PTSD, addiction, etc. by pharmacological memory manipulation. DePergola’s presentation is exceptionally well-informed both in science and moral philosophy and articulated elegantly in ways that both experts and non-experts alike can grasp and follow. The book helps expand our understanding of moral identity and personal autonomy.

James T. Bretzke, S.J., S.T.D.
Professor of Moral Theology, Boston College


A bold stance that challenges received wisdom is a difficult endeavor for the best of writers. DePergola sets out on an exciting pathway to write an imaginative and original analysis of the relation between memory, emotion, identity, and ethical decision making. In this breathtaking view of over fifty years of memory research, the reader not only evidences brinkmanship on the cutting edge of neuroscience, but also a tour de force on moral normativity. The creativity and perspicacity of the analysis is woven together with a treasure trove of classical writers, whose time-tested insights shed light on this topic in a way that most could never have imagined. The list of giants is extensive, including Plato and Aristotle, Hume and Descartes, Dostoyevsky and Shakespeare, Freud and Heidegger, Husserl and James, Kant and Locke, Nietzsche and Nussbaum, Pascal and Rawls, Ricoeur and Rorty, Sartre and Scheler, Taylor and Wittgenstein, MacIntyre and McCormick. Here is a master ethicist at work, balancing each side, presenting fair and accurate perspectives of the debate, perceptively seeing difficulties that have gone unnoticed, and pivoting to a conclusion that was as startling to the author as it may be to the reader.

Gerard Magill, Ph.D.
Vernon F. Gallagher Chair & Professor of Healthcare Ethics, Duquesne University


An impressive and timely contribution to the study of ethical questions surrounding memory manipulation, Peter DePergola’s rich insights into narrative identity and its relationship to moral agency provide an invaluable framework within which to evaluate clinical practice. DePergola’s work offers pertinent insights for clinicians and scholars alike.

Mark S. Stelzer, S.T.D.
Associate Professor of Humanities, Elms College


In this highly original book, Peter DePergola offers an insightful new way of looking at memory manipulation. His final assessment that memory manipulation is unethical is based on a careful critical evaluation of the pros and the cons of the practice, integrating an assessment of its use for substance addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder. In essence, this work is an ethical analysis that revolves around the role of memory towards moral behavior. However, the interdisciplinary nature of this study guarantees that it will appeal to a very diverse readership: philosophers, ethicists, neuroscientists, as well as healthcare professionals caring for people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse will find this work a fascinating read.

Joris Gielen, S.T.D.
Director, Center for Healthcare Ethics, Duquesne University

The first philosophical monograph on the ethics of memory manipulation (MM), "Forget Me Not: The Neuroethical Case Against Memory Manipulation" contends that any attempt to directly and intentionally erase episodic memories poses a grave threat to the human condition that cannot be justified within a normative moral calculus. Grounding its thesis in four evidential effects – namely, (i) MM disintegrates autobiographical memory, (ii) the disintegration of autobiographical memory degenerates emotional rationality, (iii) the degeneration of emotional rationality decays narrative identity, and (iv) the decay of narrative identity disables one to seek, identify, and act on the good – DePergola argues that MM cannot be justified as a morally licit practice insofar as it disables one to seek, identify, and act on the good. A landmark achievement in the field of neuroethics, this book is a welcome addition to both the scholarly and professional community in philosophical and clinical bioethics.

ABSTRACT 
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS 
FOREWORD: NEUROETHICS & MEMORY MANIPULATION 
1. INTRODUCTION: THE FALSE HOPE OF DELIBERATE FORGETTING 
1.1. Status Quaestionis 
1.2. Argument and Method 
1.3. Clarification of Terms 
1.4. Notes 
2. THE NEUROSCIENCE OF MM: PRACTICES AND POSSIBILITIES, PROPONENTS, AND PROBLEMS 
2.1. Practices and Possibilities of MM 
2.1.1. Beta-Adrenergic Receptor-Blocking Pharmacologicals
2.1.2. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) 
2.1.3. False Memory Creation (FMC) 
2.1.4. Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) 
2.2. Proponents of Limited-Use Memory Manipulation (LUMM) 
2.2.1. LUMM for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) 
2.2.1.1. The Neurobiology of PTSD 
2.2.1.2. The Case in Favor of LUMM for PTSD 
2.2.2. LUMM for Substance Addiction 
2.2.2.1. The Neurobiology of Substance Addiction 
2.2.2.2. The Case in Favor of LUMM for Substance Addiction 
2.3. Problems of MM: A Preliminary Response to LUMM Proponents 
2.3.1. Biomedicalization and the Codification of New Diseases 
2.3.2. The Myth of Global Autonomy Loss 
2.4. Conclusion 
2.5. Notes 
3. THE CASE AGAINST EPISODIC DISINTEGRATION: THE MORAL SIGNIFICANCE OF AUTOBIOGRAPHICAL MEMORY FOR ETHICAL DECISION MAKING 
3.1. Autobiography, Memory, and Judgment 
3.1.1. The Metaphysics of Autobiographical Memory 
3.1.2. Autobiographical Memory as Pillar of Moral Judgment 
3.2. Autobiographical Memory and Rationality 
3.2.1. Imaging and Socialization of Autobiographical Memory 
3.2.2. The Functional and Developmental Ontology of Rational Autobiographical Memory 
3.2.3. The Phenomenology of Autobiographical Reasoning 
3.2.4. Autobiographical Meta-Memory and Rational Prospection 
3.3. Autobiographical Memory and the Narrative of Human Emotion 
3.3.1. The Empirical Effects of Emotion on Autobiographical Memory 
3.3.2. The Contextual Effects of Emotion on Autobiographical Memory 
3.3.3. The Cognitive Effects of Autobiographical Memory on Empathic Intentionality 
3.3.4. Emotional Memory Specificity and Autobiographical Narrative Centrality 
3.4. Autobiographical Memory and the Emotional Nature of Rational Ethical Decision Making 
3.4.1. Integrated Affective Foresight and Autobiographical Context Prediction 
3.4.2. The Affective Structure of Autobiographical Moral Thought 
3.4.3. The Primacy of Autobiographical Memory in Emotionally Rational Choice 
3.4.4. Autobiographical Prospection and Rational Ethical Decision Making 
3.5. Conclusion 
3.6. Notes 
4. THE CASE AGAINST AFFECTIVE DEGENERATION: THE MORAL SIGNIFICANCE OF EMOTIONAL RATIONALITY FOR ETHICAL DECISION MAKING 
4.1. Emotion, Reason, and Choice 
4.1.1. Emotion and Reason in Ancient Greek Philosophy 
4.1.2. The Emotional and Rational Tenets of Choice 
4.2. Emotion and Rationality 
4.2.1. The Functional Ontology of Rational Emotion 
4.2.2. The Epistemology of Rational Emotion 
4.2.3. The Phenomenology of Rational Affective Awareness 
4.2.4. Emotional Rationality as Necessary Condition for Evaluative Judgment 
4.3. Emotional Rationality and Morality 
4.3.1. The Cognitive Dimensions of Emotionally Rational Moral Intuition
4.3.2. The Psychology of Emotionally Rational Moral Value
4.3.3. The Rationality of Affective Moral Objectivity
4.3.4. Emotional Rationality as Canon of Moral Motivation
4.4. Emotional Rationality and Ethical Decision Making
4.4.1. The Cognitive Neuroscience of Emotionally Rational Ethical Decision Making
4.4.2. Emotional Rationality as Ethical Insight and Practical Reason
4.4.3. Emotionally Rational Moral Reflection as Ethical Problem Solving
4.4.4. The Normative Logic of Emotionally Rational Ethical Decision Making
4.5. Conclusion
4.6. Notes
5. THE CASE AGAINST NARRATIVE DECAYING: THE MORAL SIGNIFICANCE OF NARRATIVE IDENTITY FOR ETHICAL DECISION MAKING
5.1. Narrative, Identity, and Development
5.1.1. The Evolution of Narrative in History
5.1.2. The Ontology of Narrative Identity
5.1.3. Narrative Identity and Moral Development
5.2. Narrative Identity as Product of Autobiographical Memory and Emotional Rationality
5.2.1. The Autobiographical and Emotionally Rational Ontology of Narrative Identity
5.2.2. Narrative Identity as Moral Education, Moral Methodology, and Moral Discourse
5.2.3. Narrative Identity as Ground and Object of Normative Ethical Principles
5.2.4. Rigor in Narrative Judgment and Ethical Justification
5.3. The Requisite Unpredictability of Narrative Identity
5.3.1. The Cognitive Correlates of Narrative Values
5.3.2. The Variable and Creative Evolution of Narrative, Identity, and Agency
5.3.3. The Developmental and Redemptive Metaphysics of Narrative Identity
5.3.4. The Narrative Objectivity of Subjective Identity
5.4. The Threat of Manipulation to Narrative, Authenticity, and Ethical Decision Making
5.4.1. Manipulation as Splintering of the Narrative Self
5.4.2. Manipulation as Corrosive of Narrative Authenticity
5.4.3. Manipulation as Destructive of Narrative Self-Control, Narrative Growth, and Narrative Responsibility
5.4.4. Manipulation as Disabling of Narrative-Based Ethical Decision Making
5.5. Conclusion
5.6. Notes
6. CONCLUSION: THE TERMINAL NORMLESSNESS OF MEMORY MANIPULATION
6.1. The Case Against MM: The Normative Demands of Proportionate Reason
6.2. Implications
6.3. Notes
BIBLIOGRAPHY
INDEX

Peter A. DePergola II, Ph.D., M.T.S., is Assistant Professor of Medicine at University of Massachusetts Medical School, Assistant Professor of Medical Humanities at the College of Our Lady of the Elms, and Director of Clinical Ethics at Baystate Health. An acclaimed author, educator, and speaker, he holds secondary appointments at Tufts University School of Medicine, Sacred Heart University, and the American Academy of Neurology. Dr. DePergola’s many publications span the fields of philosophy, theology, medicine, bioethics, and medical humanities.

Bibliographic Information

Book Title
Forget Me Not: The Neuroethical Case Against Memory Manipulation
ISBN
978-1-62273-364-4
Edition
1st
Number of pages
312
Physical size
236mm x 160mm
Illustrations
1 BW
Publication date
February 2018
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