Commentary: The moral bioenhancement of psychopaths

Frontiers in Psychology 10:1-3 (2020)
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Baccarini and Malatesti (2017) defend the idea that we must use coercively biomedical means to enhance the morality of a specific group of individuals: psychopaths, diagnosed through the Psychopathy Checklist-Revised (PCL-R) standards (Hare, 2003). Their argument is theoretical, thus it goes independently from the actual effectiveness of existent treatments, and it is based on a logical reasoning. Moral bioenhancement (MB) means include psychotropic drugs, brain stimulations, neurosurgeries, genetic editing, etc. In short, the authors apply Gerald Gaus' account of open justification (Gaus, 1996, 2011), according to which “a prescription addressed to an agent is a reasoning that includes premises that consider the system of reasons (such as beliefs, preferences, etc.) of that agent” (Baccarini and Malatesti, 2017, p. 1). In their view, coercive MB of psychopaths is morally sound and deducible by reasons within the psychopath's cognitive-affective system—even if the psychopath needs not to be able to consciously or sincerely endorse them. We believe that this argument is flawed. In sum, we argue that the psychopath's cognitive-affective system would consistently justify reasons against mandatory MB to herself, even if she wishes differently for others, and that the prescription cannot be extended.



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Elisabetta Sirgiovanni
Università degli Studi di Roma La Sapienza