Biomedical Moral Enhancement in the Face of Moral Particularism

Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 83:189-208 (2018)
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Biomedical moral enhancement, or BME for short, aims to improve people’s moral behaviors through augmenting, via biomedical means, their virtuous dispositions such as sympathy, honesty, courage, or generosity. Recently, it has been challenged, on particularist grounds, however, that the manifestations of the virtuous dispositions can be morally wrong. For instance, being generous in terrorist financing is one such case. If so, biomedical moral enhancement, by enhancing people’s virtues, might turn out to be counterproductive in terms of people’s moral behaviors. In this paper, we argue, via a comparison with moral education, that the case for the practice of biomedical moral enhancement is not weakened by the particularists’ stress on the variable moral statuses of the manifestations of our virtues. The real challenge from the particularists, we argue, lies elsewhere. It is that practical wisdom, being essentially context-sensitive, cannot be enhanced via biomedical means. On the basis of this, we further argue that BME ought to be used with great caution, for it may wrongly enhance, for instance, a terrorist financier’s generosity, a robber’s courage, or an undercover detective’s honesty. Finally, we sketch how boundaries can be set on the use of BME, and address some potential objections to our position.



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Author Profiles

Pei-Hua Huang
University of Adelaide
Peter Shiu-Hwa Tsu
National Chung Cheng University

Citations of this work

Moral Enhancement, Self-Governance, and Resistance.Pei-Hua Huang - 2018 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 43 (5):547-567.

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