Are You Morally Modified?: The Moral Effects of Widely Used Pharmaceuticals

Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 21 (2):111-125 (2014)
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Abstract

A number of concerns have been raised about the possible future use of pharmaceuticals designed to enhance cognitive, affective, and motivational processes, particularly where the aim is to produce morally better decisions or behavior. In this article, we draw attention to what is arguably a more worrying possibility: that pharmaceuticals currently in widespread therapeutic use are already having unintended effects on these processes, and thus on moral decision making and morally significant behavior. We review current evidence on the moral effects of three widely used drugs or drug types: propranolol, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and drugs that effect oxytocin physiology. This evidence suggests that the alterations to moral decision making and behavior caused by these agents may have important and difficult-to-evaluate consequences, at least at the population level. We argue that the moral effects of these and other widely used pharmaceuticals warrant further empirical research and ethical analysis.

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Author Profiles

Neil Levy
University of Oxford
Guy Kahane
University of Oxford
Thomas Douglas
University of Oxford

Citations of this work

Virtue Theory for Moral Enhancement.Joao Fabiano - 2021 - American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience 12 (2-3):89-102.
The Medicalization of Love.Brian D. Earp, Anders Sandberg & Julian Savulescu - 2016 - Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 25 (4):759-771.
Oxytocin, Empathy and Human Enhancement.Francisco Lara - 2017 - Theoria. An International Journal for Theory, History and Foundations of Science 32 (3):367.

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