Moral Enhancement – And the Opposite: Making People More or Less Moral

Abstract

‘Moral enhancement’ refers to the possibility of using biomedical means for making individuals morally better in practice. It has generated a heated debate, especially in terms of the strategies for enhancement, the means that provide the desired enhancement effects and the populations that are supposed to be enhanced. It is important to note the history of moral enhancement, reasons that have been given in the recent discussions for engaging in moral enhancement and possible targets of intervention (cognition, volition or effect). There is some evidence that suggests that psychopharmacological (Oxytocin and stimulant drugs), electromagnetic (noninvasive brain stimulation) and genetic means (selective reproduction and direct genome editing) could be used for such a purpose. However, no safe and effective means of moral enhancement are available at this time.

Key Concepts

  • Moral enhancement refers to the (speculative) possibility of using biomedical means for making individuals morally better.
  • Bioliberals typically emphasise the importance of morphological and reproductive freedom in a liberal state.
  • Transhumanists do not merely want to enhance humanity but overcome the limits of humankind and guide evolution towards a ‘posthuman’ age.
  • Moral malleability refers to the idea that moral cognition is amenable to pharmacological, electromagnetic and possibly even genetic interventions.
  • Psychopathic individuals have impaired capacity for empathy, guilt and remorse, and consequently commit a disproportionate amount of immoral acts, thus they are considered the key population in need of moral enhancement.

Keywords: moral enhancement; human enhancement; neurostimulation; psychopharmacological enhancement; pre‐implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD); CRISPR

Figure 1. Events of the enhancement debate.
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Dubljević, Veljko, and Ranisch, Robert(Oct 2018) Moral Enhancement – And the Opposite: Making People More or Less Moral. In: eLS. John Wiley & Sons Ltd, Chichester. http://www.els.net [doi: 10.1002/9780470015902.a0027993]