Moral Deficits, Moral Motivation and the Feasibility of Moral Bioenhancement

Topoi 38 (1):63-71 (2019)
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Abstract

The debate over moral bioenhancement has incrementally intensified since 2008, when Persson and Savulescu, and Douglas wrote two separate articles on the reasons why enhancing human moral capabilities and sensitivity through technological means was ethically desirable. In this article, we offer a critique of how Persson and Savulescu theorize about the possibility of moral bioenhancement, including the problem of weakness of will, which they see as a motivational challenge. First, we offer a working definition of moral bioenhancement and underscore some of the challenges in determining whether moral bioenhancement, as conceptualized by Persson and Savulescu, falls into the category of enhancement or constitutes a type of therapeutic intervention. Second, we provide a critical analysis of the way Persson and Savulescu pathologize human behavior in relation to what they see as the main threat to the survival of the human species: weak moral motivation. Next, we critique the claim that the use of genetic manipulation and drug treatment will increase moral motivation. We argue that Persson and Savulescu mischaracterize the nature of human moral psychology because moral motivation includes affective and cognitive dimensions. The type of interventions they envision focus almost exclusively on the former. In the final two sections, we outline three main criticisms of moral bioenhancement and offer a more robust account of moral psychology and moral development than what Persson and Savulescu recommend, through the lens of Aristotle’s work on virtue ethics. Ultimately, we argue that what Persson and Savulescu, and Douglas consider as moral bioenhancement is a misnomer because they do not fully account for the complexity of moral agency.

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Citations of this work

Transhumanism, Moral Perfection, and Those 76 Trombones.Tom Koch - 2020 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 45 (2):179-192.
Losing Our (Moral) Self in the Moral Bioenhancement Debate.Fabrice Jotterand - 2021 - American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 12 (2-3):87-88.

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References found in this work

Unfit for the Future: The Need for Moral Enhancement.Ingmar Persson & Julian Savulescu - 2012 - Oxford, GB: Oxford University Press UK. Edited by Julian Savulescu.
Moral enhancement and freedom.John Harris - 2010 - Bioethics 25 (2):102-111.
Moral enhancement.Thomas Douglas - 2008 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (3):228-245.

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