Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy 17 (3):325-337 (2014)

In the debate on the ethics of the non-medical use of pharmaceuticals for cognitive performance enhancement in healthy individuals there is a clear division between those who view “cognitive enhancement” as ethically unproblematic and those who see such practices as fraught with ethical problems. Yet another, more subtle issue, relates to the relevance and quality of the contribution of scholarly bioethics to this debate. More specifically, how have various forms of speculation, anticipatory ethics, and methods to predict scientific trends and societal responses augmented or diminished this contribution? In this paper, we use the discussion of the ethics of cognitive enhancement to explore the positive and negative contribution of speculation in bioethics scholarship. First, we review and discuss how speculation has relied on different sets of assumptions regarding the non-medical use of stimulants, namely: terminology and framing; scientific aspects such as efficacy and safety; estimates of prevalence and consequent normalization; and the need for normative reflection and regulatory guidelines. Second, three methodological guideposts are proposed to alleviate some of the pitfalls of speculation: acknowledge assumptions more explicitly and identify the value attributed to assumptions; validate assumptions with interdisciplinary literature; and adopt a broad perspective to promote more comprehensive reflection. We conclude that, through the examination of the controversy about cognitive enhancement, we can employ these methodological guideposts to enhance the value of contributions from bioethics and minimize potential epistemic and practical pitfalls in this case and perhaps in other areas of bioethical debate.
Keywords No keywords specified (fix it)
Categories (categorize this paper)
DOI 10.1007/s11019-013-9539-4
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

Upload a copy of this paper     Check publisher's policy     Papers currently archived: 57,199
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

Cognitive Enhancement: Methods, Ethics, Regulatory Challenges. [REVIEW]Nick Bostrom - 2009 - Science and Engineering Ethics 15 (3):311-341.
How Medicine Saved the Life of Ethics.Stephen Toulmin - 1982 - Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 25 (4):736-750.

View all 39 references / Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

The Myth of Cognitive Enhancement Drugs.Hazem Zohny - 2015 - Neuroethics 8 (3):257-269.

View all 15 citations / Add more citations

Similar books and articles

The Right Not to Be Normal as the Essence of Freedom.Anita Silvers - 2008 - Journal of Evolution and Technology 18 (1):79-85.
Cognitive Enhancement: Methods, Ethics, Regulatory Challenges. [REVIEW]Nick Bostrom - 2009 - Science and Engineering Ethics 15 (3):311-341.
Integration of Cognitive and Moral Enhancement.Vojin Rakic - 2012 - Filozofija I Društvo 23 (2):91-103.
The Epistemology of Cognitive Enhancement.J. Adam Carter & Duncan Pritchard - 2016 - Journal of Medicine and Philosophy (2):220-242.
Cognitive Enhancement: Treating or Cheating?Leslie M. Whetstine - 2015 - Seminars in Pediatric Neurology 22 (3):172-176.
F. B. - unknown
Thinking Across Species—a Critical Bioethics Approach to Enhancement.Richard Twine - 2007 - Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics 28 (6):509-523.


Added to PP index

Total views
20 ( #514,415 of 2,411,829 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
1 ( #538,761 of 2,411,829 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes