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« PEBS Neuroethics Roundup (JHU) | Main | "Pain as Fact and Heuristic: How Pain Neuroimaging Illuminates Moral Dimensions of Law" »

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Thanks for the reply - I pretty much agree with all of this, and I think we agree on all the major points.

I didn't intend to suggest that just because someone had chosen to become a rescue worker, they ought to be excluded from a hypothetical memory-wiping treatment. My concern was over the question of identity which you touched on in the article

"They worry that giving people too much power to alter their life stories could ultimately weaken their sense of identity and make their lives less genuine.

These arguments are not persuasive. Some memories, such as those of rescue workers who clean up scenes of mass destruction, may have no redeeming value."

My point was that while rescue workers may be a good example of the kind of people who would benefit from these treatments, they're perhaps not the best example as a counter to the identity concerns, because in this case being-a-rescue-worker is part of their identity (if they're a professional).

Now you might well say, being a rescue worker is one thing, being a traumatized one is another, and that's not part of their identity. Which I would agree with.

But it's tricky because - assuming this were possible and it became widespread - it might lead to a weakening of the concept of identity. If you could decide to do something, but you knew you would be able to erase all memory of it (or knew that you could block long-term memories in the first place - which would be technically more feasible), it raises questions about how much it's "you" doing it.

Whereas I think those kinds of objections fail, more obviously, in the case of a random car crash. The traumatic memories of that event could stop someone from living their life as they intend and as they normally do, and if you could erase them, that would restore them to their original identity. It is very hard to see how anyone could object to that.

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