View moral enhancement
The use of information technology, psychopharmaceuticals, genetic engineering, brain stimulation or nano-neurotechnologies to control immoral sentiments, reasoning and behavior, and/or enhance moral sentiments, reasoning and behavior.
Boire, Richard G. (2004). “Neurocops: The Politics of Prohibitions and the Future of Enforcing Social Policy from Inside the Body,” Journal of Law and Health 19:215-257.
Over the next decade an increasing number of new “pharmacotherapy” medications will become available with the potential to tremendously impact the use and abuse of illegal drugs and the overall direction of national and international drug policy. These pharmacotherapy medications are designed to block or significantly reduce the “highs” elicited by illegal drugs. Used as part of a drug treatment program, pharmacotherapy medications may provide valuable assistance for people voluntarily seeking a chemical aid in limiting or eliminating problem drug use. However, the tremendously politicized nature of the “drug war” raises substantial concerns that, in addition to those who voluntarily choose to use such medications, some people will be compelled to use them. This article concludes that in the absence of extraordinary circumstances, governmental action forcing or coercing a person to use a pharmacotherapy drug would violate a number of important legal rights. Among the rights implicated by compulsory use of pharmacotherapy drugs are the right to informed consent, the right to bodily integrity and privacy, the protection against cruel and unusual punishment, and the right to freedom of thought.
Bublitz, Janice C. & Merkel, R. (2009). “Autonomy and Authenticity of Enhanced Personality Traits.” Bioethics 23(6): 360-374.
There is concern that the use of neuroenhancements to alter character traits undermines consumer’s authenticity. But the meaning, scope and value of authenticity remain vague. However, the majority of contemporary autonomy accounts ground individual autonomy on a notion of authenticity. So if neuroenhancements diminish an agent’s authenticity, they may undermine his autonomy. This paper clarifies the relation between autonomy, authenticity and possible threats by neuroenhancements. We present six neuroenhancement scenarios and analyse how autonomy accounts evaluate them. Some cases are considered differently by criminal courts; we demonstrate where academic autonomy theories and legal reasoning diverge and ascertain whether courts should reconsider their concept of autonomy. We argue that authenticity is not an appropriate condition for autonomy and that new enhancement technologies pose no unique threats to personal autonomy.
Chan, Sarah and John Harris. (2011). “Moral enhancement and pro-social behavior,” Journal of Medical Ethics 2011;37:130-131.
Moral enhancement is a topic that has sparked much current interest in the world of bioethics. The possibility of making people better, not just in the conventional enhancement sense of improving health and other desirable (and desired) qualities and capacities, but by making them somehow more moral, more decent, altogether better people, has attracted attention from both advocates1 2 and sceptics3 alike. The concept of moral enhancement, however, is fraught with difficult questions, theoretical and practical. What does it actually mean to be more moral ? How would moral enhancement be defined and would it necessarily, as some have claimed, make the world a better or safer place? How would or could such enhancement be achieved safely and without undue constraint on personal liberty and autonomy?
de Araujo, Marcelo. (2014) “Moral Enhancement and Political Realism” Journal of Evolution and Technology24(2):29-43.
The possibility of morally enhancing the behavior of individuals by means of drugs and genetic engineering has been the object of intense philosophical discussion over the last few years. However, although moral enhancement may turn out to be useful to promote cooperation in some areas of human interaction, it will not promote cooperation in the domain of international relations in those areas that are critical to state security. Unlike some moral enhancement theorists, I argue that, because of the structure of the system of states, moral enhancement cannot be used to avert such major threats to humankind as terrorism and nuclear conflict. My analysis of the political implications of moral enhancement is pursued through a critical discussion of two different versions of political realism, namely human nature realism and structural realism. I conclude that, as far as major threats to the survival of humankind are concerned, moral enhancement can at most be used as a means to change the present structure of the system of states.
DeGrazia, David. (2013). “Moral enhancement, freedom, and what we (should) value in moral behavior,” Journal of Medical Ethics Feb 2, 2013. [10.1136/medethics-2012-101157].
The enhancement of human traits has received academic attention for decades, but only recently has moral enhancement using biomedical means – moral bioenhancement (MB) – entered the discussion. After explaining why we ought to take the possibility of MB seriously, the paper considers the shape and content of moral improvement, addressing at some length a challenge presented by reasonable moral pluralism. The discussion then proceeds to this question: Assuming MB were safe, effective, and universally available, would it be morally desirable? In particular, would it pose an unacceptable threat to human freedom? After defending a negative answer to the latter question – which requires an investigation into the nature and value of human freedom – and arguing that there is nothing inherently wrong with MB, the paper closes with reflections on what we should value in moral behaviour.
Douglas, Thomas. (2008). “Moral Enhancement,” Journal of Applied Philosophy 25(3):228-245.
Opponents of biomedical enhancement often claim that, even if such enhancement would benefit the enhanced, it would harm others. But this objection looks unpersuasive when the enhancement in question is a moral enhancement an enhancement that will expectably leave the enhanced person with morally better motives than she had previously. In this article I (1) describe one type of psychological alteration that would plausibly qualify as a moral enhancement, (2) argue that we will, in the medium-term future, probably be able to induce such alterations via biomedical intervention, and (3) defend future engagement in such moral enhancements against possible objections. My aim is to present this kind of moral enhancement as a counter-example to the view that biomedical enhancement is always morally impermissible.
Ehni, Hans-Joerg and Diana Aurenque. (2012). “On Moral Enhancement from a Habermasian Perspective,” Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics (2012), 21, 223 234.
The human being s mastery of itself, on which the self is founded, practically always involves the annihilation of the subject in whose service that mastery is maintained, because the substance which is mastered, suppressed, and disintegrated by self-preservation is nothing other than the living entity.
Faust, Halley S. (2008). “Should we select for genetic moral enhancement? A thought experiment using the MoralKinder (MK+) Haplotype,” Theor Med Bioeth 29: 397-416.
By using preimplantation haplotype diagnosis, prospective parents are able to select embryos to implant through in vitro fertilization. If we knew that the naturally-occurring (but theoretical) MoralKinder (MK+) haplotype would predispose individuals to a higher level of morality than average, is it permissible or obligatory to select for the MK+ haplotype? I.e., is it moral to select for morality? This paper explores the various potential issues that could arise from genetic moral enhancement.
Fr ding, Barbro and Elisabeth Esmeralda. 2010. “Cognitive Enhancement, Virtue Ethics and the Good Life,” Neuroethics 4(3): 223-234.
This article explores the respective roles that medical and technological cognitive enhancements, on the one hand, and the moral and epistemic virtues traditionally understood, on the other, can play in enabling us to lead the good life. It will be shown that neither the virtues nor cognitive enhancements (of the kind we have access to today or in the foreseeable future) on their own are likely to enable most people to lead the good life. While the moral and epistemic virtues quite plausibly are both necessary and sufficient for the good life in theory, virtue ethics is often criticised for being elitist and unachievable in practice for the vast majority. Some cognitive enhancements, on the other hand, might be necessary for the good life but are far from sufficient for such an existence. Here it will be proposed that a combination of virtue and some cognitive enhancements is preferable.
Harris, John. 2010. “Moral Enhancement and Freedom,” Bioethics 25(2):102-111.
This paper identifies human enhancement as one of the most significant areas of bioethical interest in the last twenty years. It discusses in more detail one area, namely moral enhancement, which is generating significant contemporary interest. The author argues that so far from being susceptible to new forms of high tech manipulation, either genetic, chemical, surgical or neurological, the only reliable methods of moral enhancement, either now or for the foreseeable future, are either those that have been in human and animal use for millennia, namely socialization, education and parental supervision or those high tech methods that are general in their application. By that is meant those forms of cognitive enhancement that operate across a wide range of cognitive abilities and do not target specifically ethical capacities. The paper analyses the work of some of the leading contemporary advocates of moral enhancement and finds that in so far as they identify moral qualities or moral emotions for enhancement they have little prospect of success.
Harris, John. (2012). “‘Ethics is for Bad Guys!’ Putting the ‘Moral’ into Moral Enhancement,” Bioethics. Response to Douglas 2011.
Morality necessarily involves the self-conscious examination of one’s actions and indeed one’s life. Only self-conscious reflection on conduct can deliver answers to the question as to whether what one feels is right is indeed right. It is only such an examination, and the resolve to put its conclusions into effect, that constitute a moral life and, a fortiori, a morally enhanced life.
Harrosh, Shlomit. (2012). “Moral Enhancement and the Duty to Eliminate Evildoing.” Talk delivered at Oxford University, February 1, 2012. (1hr12min Audio File)
Paper delivered at the Moral Evil in Practical Ethics Conference, Oxford 2012 Each of us has a moral obligation to refrain from evildoing. And yet evils persist in forms like child abuse, gay bashing, sexual and economic slavery, reckless dumping of toxic waste and fraudulent or risky financial practices that rob people of their homes and pensions. Scientific advances offer a possible solution to the challenge of eliminating evildoing: the moral enhancement of human beings through biomedical and biotechnological means. Assuming the efficacy and relative safety of moral enhancement, do we have a duty to use biomedical and biotechnological interventions to reduce the probability that we would become involved in evildoing? I address this question by teasing out and exploring different aspects of the problem. First, what is the target of moral enhancement? More precisely, what is being enhanced and to what extent? I argue against the perfectionist view that we should create moral saints or at least maximally improve people morally. The argument rests on the moral imperative to respect the separateness of persons and on the value of human freedom and autonomy. Second, I consider two alternatives regarding mandatory moral enhancement in society: universal enhancement and selective enhancement of specific groups like public office-holders and violent criminals. The question of who should be morally enhanced cannot be addressed without considering the ethical implications of different technological interventions. This is the third issue to be addressed. One important consideration is whether the intervention risks women’s reproductive autonomy or affects only the enhanced individual. Another consideration is the potential for abuse inherent in each enhancement technology. I conclude by commenting on the moral costs and benefits of reducing evildoing through moral enhancement relative to those of alternative programs and the current status quo. It turns out that the question of moral enhancement as a response to evildoing is too complex to allow for a single all-encompassing answer. Exploring this complexity is the aim of this paper.
Hughes, James J. (2006). “Virtue Engineering.” Lecture at TransVision 06, Helsinki Finland. Video
In the near future we will have many technologies that will allow us to modify and assist our emotions and reasoning. One of the purposes we will put these technologies to is to assist our adherence to self-chosen moral codes and citizenship obligations. For instance we will be able to suppress unwelcome desires, enhance compassion and empathy, and expand our understanding our social world and the consequences of actions. So, contrary to the bioconservative accusation that neurological self-determination and human enhancement will encourage more selfishness in society, it will probably permit people to be even more moral and responsible than they currently are.
Hughes, James J. (2011). “After Happiness, Cyborg Virtue,” Free Inquiry 32(1).
Although I have used a version of utilitarianism to argue for both transhumanism and social democracy, and for the technoprogressive hybrid of the two, research in hedonic psychology and emerging neurotechnologies make utilitarianism an unattractive moral logic. Instead, I now argue that a version of Sen and Nussbaum’s capabilities approach better supports the technoprogressive endeavor. The capabilities approach argues for both social and technological enablement of human abilities. When the capabilities approach is combined with the idea that virtues are social capabilities, one conclusion is that “moral enhancement,” the use of neurotechnologies to enhance moral sentiment, cognition and behavior, is a social obligation. A schema of virtues to be enhanced, and relevant therapeutic morally enhancing neurochemicals, are discussed.
Jebari, Karim. (2012). “Moderate bioconservatism and moral enhancement.”
Abstract: Moral enhancement, an instance of human enhancement, consists in the aim to alter a person s dispositions, emotions or behavior in order to make that person more moral. I will argue that moral enhancement could be carried out in three different ways. The first strategy, favored by prominent defenders of moral enhancement is emotional enhancement. The second strategy, well known from science fiction is behavioral enhancement. I will argue that only the third strategy, enhancement of empathy, is a plausible alternative. This conclusion should be, I argue, welcomed even by those skeptical to human enhancement in general.
Jotterand, Fabrice. (2011). Virtue Engineering and Moral Agency: Will Post-Humans Still Need the Virtues?” AJOB Neuroscience 2(4): 3-9.
It is not the purpose of this article to evaluate the techno-scientific claims of the transhumanists. Instead, I question seriously the nature of the ethics and morals they claim can, or soon will, be manipulated artificially. I argue that while the possibility to manipulate human behavior via emotional processes exists, the question still remains concerning the content of morality. In other words, neural moral enhancement does not capture the fullness of human moral psychology, which includes moral capacity and moral content. In this article, I revisit the debate between Hume and Kant concerning the role of emotions and reason in moral philosophy. I do so with reference to the work of philosopher Alasdair McIntyre. His moral philosophy has long stood as an essential text in virtue ethics, which constitutes the basis for my critique of the promise to engineer virtues (what I call neural moral enhancement ). First, I outline three specific shifts that occurred in the history of Western moral philosophy in order to contextualize current debates on the nature of morality/moral agency. Second, I summarize MacIntyre’s critique of contemporary moral philosophy and show its relevance to an assessment of neural moral enhancement. Finally I argue that moral neuroenhancement is a one-dimensional conceptualization of moral agency that does not reflect the fullness of human moral psychology. It envisions a world in which individual moral capacities will be enhanced and controlled but says nothing about the nature of the morality.
Comment: Schaefer, G. Owen. (2011). “What Is the Goal of Moral Engineering?” AJOB Neuroscience 2(4): 10-11.
Comment: Dees, Richard. (2011). “Moral Philosophy and Moral Enhancements,” AJOB Neuroscience 2(4): 12-13.
Comment: Tommaso Bruni. (2011). “The Ambivalence of Moral Psychology,” AJOB Neuroscience 2(4): 13-15.
Comment: David Trafimow & Stephen Rice. (2011) “Virtue Engineering Engenders Potential Benefits at a Fundamental Level” AJOB Neuroscience 2(4):15-17.
Kabasenche, Bill. (2011). “Enhancing for Virtue? Toward Holistic Moral Enhancement,” 2011 Workshop in Applied Philosophy at Northeastern University.
Pharmaceuticals aimed to support one s self-conscious efforts to embrace traditional virtues like justice, hospitality, and equanimity could serve an authentic role, assuming they are not thought to replace other traditional forms of moral development.
Kahane, Guy. (2011). “Would we swallow a morality pill?,” Globe and Mail July 05.
Even if moral pills are just science fiction, they raise deep questions. Will we want to take them if they ever become available? And what does it say about us if we won t?
Liao, Matthew. (2012). “Parental Love Pills: Some Ethical Considerations,” Bioethics 25(9): 489-494.
It may soon be possible to develop pills that allow parents to induce in themselves more loving behavior, attitudes and emotions towards their children. In this paper, I consider whether pharmacologically-induced parental love can satisfy reasonable conditions of authenticity; why anyone would be interested in taking such parental love pills at all, and whether inducing parental love pharmacologically promotes narcissism or results in self-instrumentalization. I also examine how the availability of such pills may affect the duty to love a child.
Liao, Matthew, Anders Sandberg, Rebecca Roache. (2012). “Human Engineering and Climate Change,” Ethics, Policy and the Environment.
Cognitive, moral and biological enhancement could increase human ecological sustainability.
Quigley, Muireann. (2008). “Enhancing Me, Enhancing You: Academic Enhancement as a Moral Duty.” Expositions: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities 2.2 (2008): 157-16.
Academics are undeniably engaged in the business of cognitive enhancement. It could even be argued that the business of cognitive enhancement is the raison d tre of our academic institutions and those who work in them. Accordingly, it may well be the case that we have a duty to enhance our cognitive abilities in any way possible, including by chemical means.
Pacholczyk, Anna. (2011). “Moral Enhancement: What Is It and Do We Want It?,” Law, Innovation and Technology, 3(2): 251-277.
Building on the achievements of disease-oriented research, the coming decades will witness an explosion of biomedical enhancements to make people faster, stronger, smarter, less easily distracted and forgetful, happier, prettier, and live even longer. Recently, there has been a new arrival on the enhancement scene - moral and social enhancement. In one of the most significant works on moral enhancement to date, Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu suggest that ‘the core moral dispositions have biological basis and, thus, in principle should be within the reach of biomedical and genetic treatment’ although they question to what extent these interventions can be done in practice. I explore what we mean by moral enhancement and draw some distinctions that will help us avoid confusion when talking about the matter. Next, I suggest that the pessimistic view of the plausibility of moral enhancement stems from having much higher expectations about the effectiveness of morally modifying interventions. However, if we make our expectations comparable to those we have of cognitive enhancement or pharmacological treatment, then current research in the field of neuroscience of morality suggests that relatively efficient interventions are already here or will be possible in the near future. Next, I draw our attention to the plethora of potential targets of enhancement and discuss oxytocin as a potential moral enhancer. Finally, I highlight and explore possible problems with morally enhancing interventions, such as the threat to freedom and problems of application stemming from the lack of consensus about what is morally permissible and obligatory. I suggest that even if we accept that there are cases of fundamental moral disagreement, the problem may be much less serious then it first appears.
Persson, Ingmar and Julian Savulescu. (2008). “The Perils of Cognitive Enhancement and the Urgent Imperative to Enhance the Moral Character of Humanity,” Journal of Applied Philosophy 25 (3):162-177.
As history shows, some human beings are capable of acting very immorally.1 Technological advance and consequent exponential growth in cognitive power means that even rare evil individuals can act with catastrophic effect. The advance of science makes biological, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction easier and easier to fabricate and, thus, increases the probability that they will come into the hands of small terrorist groups and deranged individuals. Cognitive enhancement by means of drugs, implants and biological (including genetic) interventions could thus accelerate the advance of science, or its application, and so increase the risk of the development or misuse of weapons of mass destruction. We argue that this is a reason which speaks against the desirability of cognitive enhancement, and the consequent speedier growth of knowledge, if it is not accompanied by an extensive moral enhancement of humankind. We review the possibilities for moral enhancement by biomedical and genetic means and conclude that, though it should be possible in principle, it is in practice probably distant. There is thus a reason not to support cognitive enhancement in the foreseeable future. However, we grant that there are also reasons in its favour, but we do not attempt to settle the balance between these reasons for and against. Rather, we conclude that if research into cognitive enhancement continues, as it is likely to, it must be accompanied by research into moral enhancement.
Persson, Ingmar and Julian Savulescu. (2010). “Moral Transhumanism,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy.
In its basic sense, the term “human” is a term of biological classification: an individual is human just in case it is a member of the species Homo sapiens . Its opposite is “nonhuman”: nonhuman animals being animals that belong to other species than H. sapiens . In another sense of human, its opposite is “inhuman,” that is cruel and heartless (cf. “humane” and “inhumane”); being human in this sense is having morally good qualities. This paper argues that biomedical research and therapy should make humans in the biological sense more human in the moral sense, even if they cease to be human in the biological sense. This serves valuable biomedical ends like the promotion of health and well-being, for if humans do not become more moral, civilization is threatened. It is unimportant that humans remain biologically human, since they do not have moral value in virtue of belonging to H. sapiens.
Persson, Ingmar and Julian Savulescu. (2011). “Unfit for the future? Human nature, scientific progress, and the need for moral enhancement.” In Enhancing Human Capabilities (pp. 486 500), ed. J. Savulescu, R. ter Meulen, and G. Kahane. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell.
Persson, Ingmar and Julian Savulescu. (2011). “Getting Moral Enhancement Right: The Desirability of Moral Bioenhancement,” Bioethics 1-8.
We respond to a number of objections raised by John Harris in this journal to our argument that we should pursue genetic and other biological means of morally enhancing human beings (moral bioenhancement). We claim that human beings now have at their disposal means of wiping out life on Earth and that traditional methods of moral education are probably insufficient to achieve the moral enhancement required to ensure that this will not happen. Hence, we argue, moral bioenhancement should be sought and applied. We argue that cognitive enhancement and technological progress raise acute problems because it is easier to harm than to benefit. We address objections to this argument. We also respond to objections that moral bioenhancement: (1) interferes with freedom; (2) cannot be made to target immoral dispositions precisely; (3) is redundant, since cognitive enhancement by itself suffices.
Persson, Ingmar and Julian Savulescu. (2011). “The Turn for Ultimate Harm: A Reply to Fenton,” Journal of Medical Ethics, 37: 441-4.
Elizabeth Fenton has criticised an earlier article by the authors in which the claim was made that, by providing humankind with means of causing its destruction, the advance of science and technology has put it in a perilous condition that might take the development of genetic or biomedical techniques of moral enhancement to get out of. The development of these techniques would, however, require further scientific advances, thus forcing humanity deeper into the danger zone created by modern science. Fenton argues that the benefits of scientific advances are undervalued. The authors believe that the argument rather relies upon attaching a special weight to even very slight risks of major catastrophes, and attempt to vindicate this weighting.
Persson, Ingmar and Julian Savulescu. (2012). Unfit for the Future: The Need for Moral Enhancement. Oxford University Press.
Unfit for the Future argues that the future of our species depends on our urgently finding ways to bring about radical enhancement of the moral aspects of our own human nature. We have rewritten our own moral agenda by the drastic changes we have made to the conditions of life on earth. Advances in technology enable us to exercise an influence that extends all over the world and far into the future. But our moral psychology lags behind and leaves us ill equipped to deal with the challenges we now face. We need to change human moral motivation so that we pay more heed not merely to the global community, but to the interests of future generations. It is unlikely that traditional methods such as moral education or social reform alone can bring this about swiftly enough to avert looming disaster, which would undermine the conditions for worthwhile life on earth forever. Persson and Savulescu maintain that it is likely that we need to explore the use of new technologies of biomedicine to change the bases of human moral motivation. They argue that there are in principle no philosophical or moral objections to such moral bioenhancement. Unfit for the Future challenges us to rethink our attitudes to our own human nature, before it is too late.
Rakic, Vojin. (2012). “From cognitive to moral enhancement: A possible reconciliation of religious outlooks and the biotechnological creation of a better human,” Journal for the Study of Religions and Ideologies 11(31): 113-128.
Religious outlooks on the use of new bio-technologies for the purpose of cognitive enhancement of humans are generally not favorably disposed to interventions in what is regarded as ordained by God or shaped by nature. I will present a number of perspectives that are derived from these outlooks and contrast them to the liberal standpoint. Subsequently, I will discuss two views that are compatible with religious outlooks, but that do not exclude cognitive enhancement altogether. They only pose significant moral limitations to it. These two views are: 1) cognitive enhancement of the human ought to be preceded by moral enhancement; 2) cognitive enhancement is morally permissible only as a means to moral enhancement. I will argue in favor of the superiority of the second view and assert that this view might be a sound platform for defining the relationship between religion(s) and bioethics in the decades and centuries to come.
Savulescu, Julian & Sandberg, Anders. (2008). “Neuroenhancement of Love and Marriage: The Chemicals between Us,” Neuroethics 1:31-44.
This paper reviews the evolutionary history and biology of love and marriage. It examines the current and imminent possibilities of biological manipulation of lust, attraction and attachment, so called neuroenhancement of love. We examine the arguments for and against these biological interventions to influence love. We argue that biological interventions offer an important adjunct to psychosocial interventions, especially given the biological limitations inherent in human love.
Schaefer, G. Owen. (2011). ” What is the Goal of Moral Engineering?” AJOB Neuroscience 2(4): 10-11, 2011.
As biomedicine and neurology continue their inexorable advancement, it is unsurprising that many have begun speculating that, just as various interventions have made people healthier, new technologies will be developed that can make people more moral. However, in Virtue engineering and moral agency: Will post-humans still need the virtues? Fabrice Jotterand (2011) argues that at least one sort of improvement moral neuro-enhancement is not actually possible because we can only become better, more moral people through careful, reflective exercise our moral agency, not through neural manipulation. Jotterand s compelling criticisms point towards a larger question: what is the goal of such moral neuro-enhancement? By examining this question carefully, two responses one from within a virtue ethics framework and one from without to Jotterand s argument against the possibility of moral neuro-enhancement emerge. However, further reflection reveals a deeper problem alluded to by Jotterand: disagreement and uncertainty about the precise goal of moral enhancement threaten to make such projects untenable. The result is that, while moral neuro-enhancement does in fact seem theoretically possible, epistemic limitations may make it practically infeasible.
Selinger, Evan. (2012). “Why It’s OK to Let Apps Make You a Better Person,” The Atlantic March 9.
While I worry about the ethical complications of digital-willpower enhancements, it’s clear that in the United States, traditional notions of willpower have failed in some key regards, especially in the health arena. New approaches to willpower, whatever their pitfalls, may provide a way forward. Perhaps the best way forward is to put a digital spin on the Socratic dictum of knowing myself and submit to the new freedom: the freedom of consuming digital willpower to guide me past the sirens.
Selinger, Evan, Thomas Seager, Jathan Sadowski. (2012). “When the Morality Pill Becomes a Thoughtless Experiment,” Ethical Technology March 26.
Along with researcher Agata Sagan, Princeton s Peter Singer perhaps the world s most well-known bioethicist recently wrote a NY Times article that asked readers to consider whether they re ready to endorse a hypothetical morality pill a drug that alters brain chemistry and prompts altruistic behavior. Singer and Sagan introduce this pharmacological idea to bring a new question to life: Will outdated conceptions of free will get in the way of sound moral reasoning? However interesting this question might at first sound, it is formulated in rhetorical terms that misrepresent medical science fiction as if it were a meditation on a provocative empirical scientific trajectory. Although Singer and Sagan might characterize their article as a classic thought experiment, their framing is so problematic that we introduce a new and deliberately provocative label called a thoughtless experiment.
Shook, John R. (2012). “Neuroethics and the Possible Types of Moral Enhancement,” AJOB Neuroscience, 3(4): 3-14.
Techniques for achieving moral enhancement will modify brain processes to produce what is alleged to be more moral conduct. Neurophilosophy and neuroethics must ponder what “moral enhancement” could possibly be, if possible at all. Objections to the very possibility of moral enhancement, raised from various philosophical and neuroscientific standpoints, fail to justify skepticism, but they do place serious constraints on the kinds of efficacious moral enhancers. While there won’t be a “morality pill,” and hopes for global moral enlightenment will remain hopes, there will be a large variety of behavioralmodifiers described as enhancers of some aspect of morality or another according to prevailing social norms. The most likely moral enhancers that will be designed, tested, and marketed in the near future will attempt to alleviate seriously immoral and illegal behavior. Some enhancers diminishing antisocial conduct and a few designed to elevate moral conduct above normal levels will also become available, although their widespread use is doubtful. There will also be specialized modifications for enhancing whatever an individual personally regards as moral, and for enabling better performance by a person in an operational role. A measure of skepticism toward all the proposed kinds of moral enhancement is advised, and where political implementation of moral enhancers is concerned, a healthy amount of cynicism as well.
Singer, Peter and Agata Sagan. (2012). “Are We Ready for a Morality Pill ?” New York Times Jan 28.
If our brain s chemistry does affect our moral behavior, the question of whether that balance is set in a natural way or by medical intervention will make no difference in how freely we act. If there are already biochemical differences between us that can be used to predict how ethically we will act, then either such differences are compatible with free will, or they are evidence that at least as far as some of our ethical actions are concerned, none of us have ever had free will anyway. In any case, whether or not we have free will, we may soon face new choices about the ways in which we are willing to influence behavior for the better.
Spence, Sean A. (2008). “Can pharmacology help enhance human morality?” The British Journal of Psychiatry 193: 179 180.
A responsible person, a moral agent, takes account of their future behaviour and its likely impact upon others. Such an agent may choose to influence their future by exogenous means. If so, might pharmacology help them to do this? Is it doing so already? I argue that it is.
Tennison, Michael N. (2012) “Moral Transhumanism: The Next Step,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 10.1093/jmp/jhs024
Although transhumanism offers hope for the transcendence of human biological limitations, it generates many intrinsic and consequential ethical concerns. The latter include issues such as the exacerbation of social inequalities and the exponentially increasing technological capacity to cause harm. To mitigate these risks, many thinkers have initiated investigations into the possibility of moral enhancement that could limit the power disparities facilitated by biotechnological enhancement. The arguments often focus on whether moral enhancement is morally permissible, or even obligatory, and remain largely in the realm of the hypothetical. This paper proposes that psilocybin may represent a viable, practical option for moral enhancement and that its further research in the context of moral psychology could comprise the next step in the development of moral transhumanism.
Verbeek, Peter-Paul. (2009). “Ambient Intelligence and Persuasive Technology: The Blurring Boundaries Between Human and Technology,” Nanoethics 3:231:242.
The currently developing fields of Ambient Intelligence and Persuasive Technology bring about a convergence of information technology and cognitive science. Smart environments that are able to respond intelligently to what we do and that even aim to influence our behaviour challenge the basic frameworks we commonly use for understanding the relations and role divisions between human beings and technological artifacts. After discussing the promises and threats of these technologies, this article develops alternative conceptions of agency, freedom, and responsibility that make it possible to better understand and assess the social roles of Ambient Intelligence and Persuasive Technology. The central claim of the article is that these new technologies urge us to blur the boundaries between humans and technologies also at the level of our conceptual and moral frameworks.
Walker, Mark. 2009. “Enhancing Genetic Virtue,” Politics Life Sci. 2009 Sep;28(2):27-47.
The Genetic Virtue Project (GVP) is a proposed interdisciplinary effort between philosophers, psychologists and geneticists to discover and enhance human ethics using biotechnology genetic correlates of virtuous behavior. The empirical plausibility that virtues have biological correlates is based on the claims that (a) virtues are a subset of personality, specifically, personality traits conceived of as “enduring behaviors,” and (b) that there is ample evidence that personality traits have a genetic basis. The moral necessity to use the GVP for moral enhancement is based on the claims that we should eliminate evil (as understood generically, not religiously), as some evil is a function of human nature. The GVP is defended against several ethical and political criticisms.
Comment: Arnhart, Larry. (2010). “Can virtue be genetically engineered?” PLS. 2010 Mar;29(1):79-81.
Comment: Andreadis, Athena. (2010). “The tempting illusion of genetic virtue.” PLS. 2010 Mar;29(1):76-8.
Comment: Agar, Nicholas. (2010). “Enhancing genetic virtue?” PLS. 2010 Mar;29(1):73-5.
Comment: Bucy, EP. (2010). “Reconsidering genetic virtue.” PLS. 2010 Mar;29(1):72.
Comment: Bronstein, J. (2010). “Objecting to the Genetic Virtue Program.” PLS. 2010 Mar;29(1):85-7.
Comment: Sprinkle, RH. (2010). “Moral suasion, installed” PLS. 2010 Mar;29(1):88-9.
Comment: Blackford, Russell. (2010). “Genetically engineered people” PLS. 2010 Mar;29(1):82-4.
Wright, Janet. (2008). “SuperB,” Nature 451: 498.