How (not) to Argue For Moral Enhancement: Reflections on a Decade of Debate

Topoi 38 (1):95-109 (2019)
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The controversy over moral bioenhancement has fallen into a stalemate between advocates and critics. We wish to overcome this stalemate by addressing some of the key challenges any moral enhancement project has to meet. In particular, we shall argue that current proposals are unpersuasive as they, first, fail to diagnose the often complex causes of contemporary moral maladies and, second, are premised on methodological individualism. Focusing on brains and minds neglects social and environmental factors. Solving the mega-problems of today very likely requires more than transforming individual brains, it requires structural and higher-level changes. By itself, moral bioenhancement is thus insufficient for solving these problems. Moreover, we outline some of the yet unresolved problems of legitimacy a mandatory state-run bioenhancement project faces and show why they cannot be defused through analogies with moral education. Finally, normatively less worrisome means of enhancing morality, such as psychotherapies affording self-exploration, are already available. Moral bioenhancement may thus not even be necessary for solving today’s mega problems. The overemphasis on speculative future technological fixes may cloud the view on possibilities to tackle pressing problems instantly.



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Norbert Paulo
University of Salzburg

References found in this work

Thinking, Fast and Slow.Daniel Kahneman - 2011 - New York: New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Political Liberalism.J. Rawls - 1995 - Tijdschrift Voor Filosofie 57 (3):596-598.
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.Thomas Douglas - 2008 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (3):228-245.

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