How Moral Bioenhancement Affects Perceived Praiseworthiness

Bioethics 38 (2):129–137 (2024)
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Abstract

Psychological literature indicates that actions performed with the assistance of cognition‐enhancing biomedical technologies are often deemed to be less praiseworthy than similar actions performed without such assistance. This study examines (i) whether this result extends to the bioenhancement of moral capacities, and (ii) if so, what explains the effect of moral bioenhancement on perceived praiseworthiness. The findings indicate that actions facilitated by morally bioenhanced individuals are considered less deserving of praise than similar actions facilitated by ‘traditional’ moral enhancement—for example, moral self‐education. This diminished praise does not seem to be driven by an aversion to (moral) bioenhancement per se. Instead, it appears to be primarily attributable to a perceived lack of effort exerted by bioenhanced individuals in the course of their moral enhancement. Our findings advance the philosophical discourse on the foundations of praise in the context of moral bioenhancement by elucidating the empirical basis underlying some assumptions commonly employed to argue for or against the permissibility of moral bioenhancement.

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Thomas Douglas
University of Oxford

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