Recently there has been some discussion concerning a particular type of enhancement, namely ‘moral enhancement’. However, there is no consensus on what precisely constitutes moral enhancement, and as a result the concept is used and defined in a wide variety of ways. In this article, we develop a clarificatory taxonomy of these definitions and we identify the criteria that are used to delineate the concept. We think that the current definitions can be distinguished from each other by the criteria used (...) for determining whether an intervention is indeed moral enhancement. For example, some definitions are broad and include moral enhancement by any means, while other definitions focus only on moral enhancement by means of specific types of intervention. Moreover, for some definitions it suffices for an intervention to be aimed or intended to morally enhance a person, while other definitions only refer to ‘moral enhancement’ in relation to interventions that are actually effective. For all these differences in definitions we discuss some of their implications. This shows that definitions are significantly less descriptive and more normative than they are regularly portrayed to be. We therefore hope that the taxonomy developed in this paper and the comments on the implications for the normative debate of the variety of definitions will provide conceptual clarity in a complex and highly interesting debate. (shrink)
The debate on the ethical aspects of moral bioenhancement focuses on the desirability of using biomedical as opposed to traditional means to achieve moral betterment. The aim of this paper is to systematically review the ethical reasons presented in the literature for and against moral bioenhancement.
:In this article, we consider contexts or domains in which moral bioenhancement interventions possibly or most likely will be implemented. By looking closely at similar or related existing practices and their relevant ethical frameworks, we hope to identify ethical considerations that are relevant for evaluating potential moral bioenhancement interventions. We examine, first, debates on the proper scope of moral education; second, proposals for identifying early risk factors for antisocial behaviour; and third, the difficult balancing of individual freedom and third party (...) concerns in psychiatry. In imagining moral bioenhancement in practice, we observe that unlike other forms of enhancement, moral enhancement fundamentally asks how the interests and preferences of the individual and the interests of others should be weighed. Highly diverse domains such as education, mental health, and the judicial domain might be involved, and moral bioenhancement might challenge existing institutional settings. Given these highly varied contexts and domains, it appears unlikely that there will be a distinct set of practices that will be referred to as “moral bioenhancement.”. (shrink)
To gain insight into the reasons that the public may have for endorsing or eschewing pharmacological moral enhancement for themselves or for others, we used empirical tools to explore public attitudes towards these issues. Participants from the United States were recruited via Amazon’s Mechanical Turk and were randomly assigned to read one of several contrastive vignettes in which a 13-year-old child is described as bullying another student in school and then is offered an empathy-enhancing program. The empathy-enhancing program is described (...) as either involving taking a pill or playing a video game on a daily basis for four weeks. In addition, participants were asked to imagine either their own child bullying another student at school, or their own child being bullied by another student. This resulted in a 2 × 2 between-subjects design. In an escalating series of morally challenging questions, we asked participants to rate their overall support for the program; whether they would support requiring participation; whether they would support requiring participation of children who are at higher risk to become bullies in the future; whether they would support requiring participation of all children or even the entire population; and whether they would be willing to participate in the program themselves. We found that people were significantly more troubled by pharmacological as opposed to non-pharmacological moral enhancement interventions. The results indicate that members of the public for the greater part oppose pharmacological moral bioenhancement, yet are open to non-biomedical means to attain moral enhancement. [248 words]. (shrink)
In the context of debates on psychiatry issues pertaining to moral dimensions of psychiatric health care are frequently discussed. These debates invite reflection on the question whether forensic practitioners have a role in stimulating patients’ moral development and moral growth in the context of forensic psychiatric and psychological treatment and care. We conducted a qualitative study to examine to what extent forensic practitioners consider moral development and moral growth to be a part of their current professional practices and to what (...) extent they think that stimulating moral development is a legitimate objective in the context of forensic psychiatric treatment. In addition, we asked how forensic practitioners balance pubic safety and risk management concerns with the interests and wellbeing of the individual patient. We conclude that: elements of moral development and moral growth in forensic psychiatric care practices are to a certain extent inevitable and not necessarily questionable or undesirable; yet, as in similar debates these elements need to be made explicit in order to discuss the accompanying ethical challenges and boundaries. An open academic, professional and public debate on aspects of stimulating moral betterment within current practices is therefore desirable. (shrink)