Visions and Ethics in Current Discourse on Human Enhancement

NanoEthics 6 (3):215-229 (2012)
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Abstract

Since it is now broadly acknowledged that ethics should receive early consideration in discourse on emerging technologies, ethical debates tend to flourish even while new fields of technology are still in their infancy. Such debates often liberally mix existing applications with technologies in the pipeline and far-reaching visions. This paper analyses the problems associated with this use of ethics as “preparatory” research, taking discourse on human enhancement in general and on pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement in particular as an example. The paper will outline and discuss the gap between the scientific and technological state of the art and the ethical debates, pointing out epistemic problems in this context. Furthermore, it will discuss the future role of genuine ethical reflection in discourse on human enhancement, arguing also that such discourse needs to include a technology assessment—in the broad sense of the term—which encompasses, inter alia, anthropological perspectives and aspects of social theory.

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