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. (shrink)
Some argue that humans should enhance their moral capacities by adopting institutions that facilitate morally good motives and behaviour. I have defended a parallel claim: that we could permissibly use biomedical technologies to enhance our moral capacities, for example by attenuating certain counter-moral emotions. John Harris has recently responded to my argument by raising three concerns about the direct modulation of emotions as a means to moral enhancement. He argues that such means will be relatively ineffective in bringing about moral (...) improvements, that direct modulation of emotions would invariably come at an unacceptable cost to our freedom, and that we might end up modulating emotions in ways that actually lead to moral decline. In this article I outline some counter-intuitive potential implications of Harris' claims. I then respond individually to his three concerns, arguing that they license only the very weak conclusion that moral enhancement via direct emotion modulation is sometimes impermissible. However I acknowledge that his third concern might, with further argument, be developed into a more troubling objection to such enhancements. (shrink)
In some jurisdictions, the institutions of criminal justice may subject individuals who have committed crimes to preventive detention. By this, I mean detention of criminal offenders (i) who have already been punished to (or beyond) the point that no further punishment can be justified on general deterrent, retributive, restitutory, communicative or other backwardlooking grounds, (ii) for preventive purposes—that is, for the purposes of preventing the detained individual from engaging in further criminal or otherwise socially costly conduct. Preventive detention, thus understood, (...) shares many features with the quarantine measures sometimes employed in the context of infectious disease control. Both interventions involve imposing (usually severe) constraints on freedom of movement and association. Both interventions are standardly undeserved: in quarantine, the detained individual deserves no detention (or so I will, for the moment, assume), and in preventive detention, the individual has already endured any detention that can be justified by reference to desert. Both interventions are, in contrast to civil commitment under mental health legislation, normally imposed on more-or-less fully autonomous individuals. And both interventions are intended to reduce the risk that the constrained individual poses to the public. Yet despite these similarities, preventive detention and quarantine have received rather different moral report cards. (shrink)
Criminal offenders are sometimes required, by the institutions of criminal justice, to undergo medical interventions intended to promote rehabilitation. Ethical debate regarding this practice has largely proceeded on the assumption that medical interventions may only permissibly be administered to criminal offenders with their consent. In this article I challenge this assumption by suggesting that committing a crime might render one morally liable to certain forms of medical intervention. I then consider whether it is possible to respond persuasively to this challenge (...) by invoking the right to bodily integrity. I argue that it is not. (shrink)
It is plausible that we have moral reasons to become better at conforming to our moral reasons. However, it is not always clear what means to greater moral conformity we should adopt. John Harris has recently argued that we have reason to adopt traditional, deliberative means in preference to means that alter our affective or conative states directly—that is, without engaging our deliberative faculties. One of Harris’ concerns about direct means is that they would produce only a superficial kind of (...) moral improvement. Though they might increase our moral conformity, there is some deeper kind of moral improvement that they would fail to produce, or would produce to a lesser degree than more traditional means. I consider whether this concern might be justified by appeal to the concept of moral worth. I assess three attempts to show that, even where they were equally effective at increasing one’s moral conformity, direct interventions would be less conducive to moral worth than typical deliberative alternatives. Each of these attempts is inspired by Kant’s views on moral worth. Each, I argue, fails. (shrink)
Recent advances in stem cell research suggest that in the future it may be possible to create eggs and sperm from human stem cells through a process that we term in vitro gametogenesis (IVG). IVG would allow treatment of some currently untreatable forms of infertility. It may also allow same-sex couples to have genetically-related children. For example, cells taken from one man could potentially be used to create an egg, which could then be fertilised using naturally produced sperm from another (...) man to create a genetically-related child with half of its DNA from each of the men. In this chapter, we consider whether this technology could justifiably be denied to same-sex couples if it were made available as a fertility treatment to different-sex couples. We argue that it could not. (shrink)
On a Parfit-inspired account of culpability, as the psychological connections between a person’s younger self and older self weaken, the older self’s culpability for a wrong committed by the younger self diminishes. Suppose we accept this account and also accept a culpability-based upper limit on punishment severity. On this combination of views, we seem forced to conclude that perpetrators of distant past wrongs should either receive discounted punishments or be exempted from punishment entirely. This article develops a strategy for resisting (...) this conclusion. I propose that, even if the perpetrators of distant past wrongs cannot permissibly be punished for the original wrongs, in typical cases they can permissibly be punished for their ongoing and iterated failures to rectify earlier wrongs. Having set out this proposal, I defend it against three objections, before exploring how much punishment it can justify. (shrink)
The publication of the first study to use gene editing techniques in human embryos (Liang et al., 2015) has drawn outrage from many in the scientific community. The prestigious scientific journals Nature and Science have published commentaries which call for this research to be strongly discouraged or halted all together (Lanphier et al., 2015; Baltimore et al., 2015). We believe this should be questioned. There is a moral imperative to continue this research.
While many public health threats are now widely appreciated by the public, the risks from asbestos exposure remain poorly understood, even in high-risk groups. This article makes the case that asbestos exposure is an important, ongoing global health threat, and argues for greater policy efforts to raise awareness of this threat. It also proposes the extension of asbestos bans to developing countries and increased public subsidies for asbestos testing and abatement.
According to a number of influential views in penal theory, 1 one of the primary goals of the criminal justice system is to rehabilitate offenders. Rehabilitativemeasures are commonly included as a part of a criminal sentence. For example, in some jurisdictions judges may order violent offenders to attend anger management classes or to undergo cognitive behavioural therapy as a part of their sentences. In a limited number of cases, neurointerventions — interventions that exert a direct biological effect on the brain (...) — have been used as aids to rehabilitation, typically being imposed as part of criminal sentences, separate treatment orders, or conditions of parole. Examples of such interventions include medications intended to attenuate addictive desires in substance-abusing offenders and agents intended to suppress libido in sex offenders.This chapter reviews some of the ethical issues raised by the use of neurointerventions as aids to rehabilitation. (shrink)
A number of concerns have been raised about the possible future use of pharmaceuticals designed to enhance cognitive, affective, and motivational processes, particularly where the aim is to produce morally better decisions or behavior. In this article, we draw attention to what is arguably a more worrying possibility: that pharmaceuticals currently in widespread therapeutic use are already having unintended effects on these processes, and thus on moral decision making and morally significant behavior. We review current evidence on the moral effects (...) of three widely used drugs or drug types: propranolol, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and drugs that effect oxytocin physiology. This evidence suggests that the alterations to moral decision making and behavior caused by these agents may have important and difficult-to-evaluate consequences, at least at the population level. We argue that the moral effects of these and other widely used pharmaceuticals warrant further empirical research and ethical analysis. (shrink)
Reproductive genetic technologies allow parents to decide whether their future children will have or lack certain genetic predispositions. A popular model that has been proposed for regulating access to RGTs is the ‘genetic supermarket’. In the genetic supermarket, parents are free to make decisions about which genes to select for their children with little state interference. One possible consequence of the genetic supermarket is that collective action problems will arise: if rational individuals use the genetic supermarket in isolation from one (...) another, this may have a negative effect on society as a whole, including future generations. In this article we argue that RGTs targeting height, innate immunity, and certain cognitive traits could lead to collective action problems. We then discuss whether this risk could in principle justify state intervention in the genetic supermarket. We argue that there is a plausible prima facie case for the view that such state intervention would be justified and respond to a number of arguments that might be adduced against that view. (shrink)
This chapter sets the scene for the subsequent philosophical discussions by surveying a number of biological interventions that have been used, or might in the future be used, for the purposes of crime prevention. These interventions are pharmaceutical interventions intended to suppress libido, treat substance abuse or attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or modulate serotonin activity; nutritional interventions; and electrical and magnetic brain stimulation. Where applicable, we briefly comment on the historical use of these interventions, and in each case we discuss (...) the evidence that they are effective, or might become so with further refinement. The chapter concludes with a comment on some potentially significant differences between the varieties of intervention that we canvass. (shrink)
In several jurisdictions, sex offenders may be offered chemical castration as an alternative to further incarceration. In some, agreement to chemical castration may be made a formal condition of parole or release. In others, refusal to undergo chemical castration can increase the likelihood of further incarceration though no formal link is made between the two. Offering chemical castration as an alternative to further incarceration is often said to be partially coercive, thus rendering the offender’s consent invalid. The dominant response to (...) this objection has been to argue that any coercion present in such cases is compatible with valid consent. In this article, we take a different tack, arguing that, even if consent would not be valid, offering chemical castration will often be supported by the very considerations that underpin concerns about consent: considerations of autonomy. This is because offering chemical castration will often increase the offender’s autonomy, both at the time the offer is made and in the future. (shrink)
We seek to develop a plausible conception of genetic parenthood, taking a recent discussion by Heidi Mertes as our point of departure. Mertes considers two conceptions of genetic parenthood—one invoking genetic resemblance, and the other genetic inheritance—and presents counter-examples to both conceptions. We revise Mertes’ second conception so as to avoid these and related counter-examples.
When we applied for the editorship of the JME 7 years ago, we said that we considered the JME to be the most important journal in medicine. The most profound questions that health professionals face are not scientific or technical, but ethical. Our enormous scientific and medical progress already outstrips our capability to provide treatment. Life can be prolonged at enormous cost, sometimes far beyond the point that the individual appears to be gaining a net benefit from that life. Science (...) can tell us how to achieve something, but it cannot tell us whether we should achieve that end—whether it is good. For that, we need ethics. Ethics grows in importance as our technology creates new possibilities. Where there are no options, there are no ethical questions. However, once there are options, there arise pressing questions about whether to pursue them. We require values and principles to decide how to use medicine and science. During the last 7 years, issues like the creation of brain organoids, human non-human chimeras, mitochondrial transfer, gene editing of embryos and in vitro gametogenesis have grown in prominence. These raise deep questions about moral status and how it should be determined, the limits of modification of humans, and what is good in life. As editors of the JME, we are proud of our small contribution to thinking about these challenges. We are grateful to the hard work of our associate editors and administrative staff, but there is still much more to do. During our term as editors, we have published papers from diverse perspectives, on a wide range of topics. We have seen vigorous debate within the pages of the journal and have often sought to deliberately encourage that debate …. (shrink)
Prospective parents are sometimes partial towards their future children, engaging in what I call ‘pre-parental partiality’. Common sense morality is as permissive of pre-parental partiality as it is of ordinary parental partiality—partiality towards one’s existing children. But I argue that existing justifications for partiality typically establish weaker reasons in support of pre-parental partiality than in support of parental partiality. Thus, either these existing justifications do not fully account for our reasons of parental partiality, or our reasons to engage in pre-parental (...) partiality are indeed typically weaker than our reasons to engage in parental partiality. (shrink)
This chapter reviews recent philosophical and neuroethical literature on the morality of moral neuroenhancements. It first briefly outlines the main moral arguments that have been made concerning moral status neuroenhancements. These are neurointerventions that would augment the moral status of human persons. It then surveys recent debate regarding moral desirability neuroenhancements: neurointerventions that augment that the moral desirability of human character traits, motives or conduct. This debate has contested, among other claims (i) Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu’s contention that there (...) is a moral imperative to pursue the development of moral desirability neuroenhancements, (ii) Thomas Douglas’ claim that voluntarily undergoing moral desirability neuroenhancements would often be morally permissible, and (iii) David DeGrazia’s claim that moral desirability neuroenhancements would often be morally desirable. The chapter discusses a number of concerns that have been raised regarding moral desirability neuroenhancements, including concerns that they would restrict freedom, would produce only a superficial kind of moral improvement, would rely on technologies that are liable to be misused, and would frequently misfire, resulting in moral deterioration rather than moral improvement. (shrink)
Selection against embryos that are predisposed to develop disabilities is one of the less controversial uses of embryo selection technologies. Many bio-conservatives argue that while the use of ESTs to select for non-disease-related traits, such as height and eye-colour, should be banned, their use to avoid disease and disability should be permitted. Nevertheless, there remains significant opposition, particularly from the disability rights movement, to the use of ESTs to select against disability. In this article we examine whether and why the (...) state could be justified in restricting the use of ESTs to select against disability. We first outline the challenge posed by proponents of ‘liberal eugenics’. Liberal eugenicists challenge those who defend restrictions on the use of ESTs to show why the use of these technologies would create a harm of the type and magnitude required to justify coercive measures. We argue that this challenge could be met by adverting to the risk of harms to future persons that would result from a loss of certain forms of cognitive diversity. We suggest that this risk establishes a pro tanto case for restricting selection against some disabilities, including dyslexia and Asperger's syndrome. (shrink)
Much disease and disability is the result of lifestyle behaviours. For example, the contribution of imprudence in the form of smoking, poor diet, sedentary lifestyle, and drug and alcohol abuse to ill-health is now well established. More importantly, some of the greatest challenges facing humanity as a whole – climate change, terrorism, global poverty, depletion of resources, abuse of children, overpopulation – are the result of human behaviour. In this chapter, we will explore the possibility of using advances in the (...) cognitive sciences to develop strategies to intentionally manipulate human motivation and behaviour. While our arguments apply also to improving prudential motivation and behaviour in relation to health, we will focus on the more controversial instance: the deliberate targeted use of biomedicine to improve moral motivation and behaviour. We do this because the challenge of improving human morality is arguably the most important issue facing humankind (Persson and Savulescu, forthcoming). We will ask whether using the knowledge from the biological and cognitive sciences to influence motivation and behaviour erodes autonomy and, if so, whether this makes it wrong. (shrink)
It is sometimes claimed that those who succeed with the aid of enhancement technologies deserve the rewards associated with their success less, other things being equal, than those who succeed without the aid of such technologies. This claim captures some widely held intuitions, has been implicitly endorsed by participants in social-psychological research, and helps to undergird some otherwise puzzling philosophical objections to the use of enhancement technologies. I consider whether it can be provided with a rational basis. I examine three (...) arguments that might be offered in its favor and argue that each either shows only that enhancements undermine desert in special circumstances, or succeeds only under assumptions that deprive the appeal to desert of much of its dialectic interest. (shrink)
Opponents of biomedical enhancement frequently adopt what Allen Buchanan has called the “Personal Goods Assumption.” On this assumption, the benefits of biomedical enhancement will accrue primarily to those individuals who undergo enhancements, not to wider society. Buchanan has argued that biomedical enhancements might in fact have substantial social benefits by increasing productivity. We outline another way in which enhancements might benefit wider society: by augmenting civic virtue and thus improving the functioning of our political communities. We thus directly confront critics (...) of biomedical enhancement who argue that it will lead to a loss of social cohesion and a breakdown in political life. (shrink)
Existing debate on procreative selection focuses on the well-being of the future child. However, selection decisions can also have significant effects on the well-being of others. Moreover, these effects may run in opposing directions; some traits conducive to the well-being of the selected child may be harmful to others, whereas other traits that limit the child’s well-being may preserve or increase that of others. Prominent selection principles defended to date instruct parents to select a child, of the possible children they (...) could have, likely to have a good (or nonbad) life, but they do not instruct parents to independently take the well-being of others into account. We refer to these principles as individualistic selection principles. We propose a new selection principle—Procreative Altruism—according to which parents have significant moral reason to select a child whose existence can be expected to contribute more to (or detract less from) the well-being of others than any alternative child they could have. We present the case for adopting Procreative Altruism alongside any of the major individualistic selection principles proposed to date and defend this two-principle model against a range of objections. (shrink)
This article presents a model for regulating cognitive enhancement devices. Recently, it has become very easy for individuals to purchase devices which directly modulate brain function. For example, transcranial direct current stimulators are increasingly being produced and marketed online as devices for cognitive enhancement. Despite posing risks in a similar way to medical devices, devices that do not make any therapeutic claims do not have to meet anything more than basic product safety standards. We present the case for extending existing (...) medical device legislation to cover CEDs. Medical devices and CEDs operate by the same or similar mechanisms and pose the same or similar risks. This fact coupled with the arbitrariness of the line between treatment and enhancement count in favour of regulating these devices in the same way. In arguing for this regulatory model, the paper highlights potential challenges to its implementation, and suggests solutions. (shrink)
A central tenet of medical ethics holds that it is permissible to perform a medical intervention on a competent individual only if that individual has given informed consent to the intervention. However, in some circumstances it is tempting to say that the moral reason to obtain informed consent prior to administering a medical intervention is outweighed. For example, if an individual’s refusal to undergo a medical intervention would lead to the transmission of a dangerous infectious disease to other members of (...) the community, one might claim that it would be morally permissible to administer the intervention even in the absence of consent. Indeed, as we shall discuss below, there are a number of examples of public health authorities implementing compulsory or coercive measures for the purposes of infectious disease control (IDC). The plausibility of the thought that non-consensual medical interventions might be justified when performed for the purpose of IDC raises the question of whether such interventions might permissibly be used to realize other public goods. In this article we focus on one possibility: whether it could be permissible to non-consensually impose certain interventions that alter brain states or processes through chemical or physical means on serious criminal offenders. We shall suggest that some such interventions might be permissible if they safely and effectively serve to facilitate the offender’s rehabilitation and thereby prevent criminal recidivism. (shrink)
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global public health disaster driven largely by antibiotic use in human health care. Doctors considering whether to prescribe antibiotics face an ethical conflict between upholding individual patient health and advancing public health aims. Existing literature mainly examines whether patients awaiting consultations desire or expect to receive antibiotic prescriptions, but does not report views of the wider public regarding conditions under which doctors should prescribe antibiotics. It also does not explore the ethical significance of public views (...) or their sensitivity to awareness of AMR risks or the standpoint (self-interested or impartial) taken by participants. Methods: An online survey was conducted with a sample of the U.S. public (n = 158). Participants were asked to indicate what relative priority should be given to individual patients and society-at-large from various standpoints and in various contexts, including antibiotic prescription. Results: Of the participants, 50.3% thought that doctors should generally prioritize individual patients over society, whereas 32.0% prioritized society over individual patients. When asked in the context of AMR, 39.2% prioritized individuals whereas 45.5% prioritized society. Participants were significantly less willing to prioritize society over individuals when they themselves were the patient, both in general (p = .001) and in relation to AMR specifically (p = .006). Conclusions: Participants’ attitudes were more oriented to society and sensitive to collective responsibility when informed about the social costs of antibiotic use and when considered from a third-person rather than first-person perspective. That is, as participants came closer to taking the perspective of an informed and impartial “ideal observer,” their support for prioritizing society increased. Our findings suggest that, insofar as antibiotic policies and practices should be informed by attitudes that are impartial and well-informed, there is significant support for prioritizing society. (shrink)
Violence risk assessment tools are increasingly used within criminal justice and forensic psychiatry, however there is little relevant, reliable and unbiased data regarding their predictive accuracy. We argue that such data are needed to (i) prevent excessive reliance on risk assessment scores, (ii) allow matching of different risk assessment tools to different contexts of application, (iii) protect against problematic forms of discrimination and stigmatisation, and (iv) ensure that contentious demographic variables are not prematurely removed from risk assessment tools.
Sport is one of the first areas in which enhancement has become commonplace. It is also one of the first areas in which the use of enhancement technologies has been heavily regulated. Some have thus seen sport as a testing ground for arguments about whether to permit enhancement. However, I argue that there are fairness-based objections to enhancement in sport that do not apply as strongly in some other areas of human activity. Thus, I claim that there will often be (...) a stronger case for permitting enhancement outside of sport than for permitting enhancement in sport. I end by considering some methodological implications of this conclusion. (shrink)
In an empirical study, we compared how lay people judge motivation enhancement as opposed to cognitive enhancement. We found alienation is not seen as a danger associated with either form of enhancement. Cognitive enhancement is seen as more morally wrong than motivation enhancement, and users of cognitive enhancement tend to be judged as less deserving of praise and success than users of motivation enhancement. These more negative judgments of cognitive enhancement may be driven by differences in perceived fairness rather than (...) differences in effort exerted by the user, although lay people generally see effort as necessary to deservingness of praise and success. (shrink)
The Principle of Procreative Beneficence (PB) holds that when a couple plans to have a child, they have significant moral reason to select, of the possible children they could have, the child who is most likely to experience the greatest wellbeing – that is, the most advantaged child, the child with the best chance at the best life.1 PB captures the common sense intuitions of many about reproductive decisions. PB does not posit an absolute moral obligation – it does not (...) dictate what people must do. Instead it holds that there is a significant moral reason to select the best child, but one that must be weighed against other reasons.Recent research suggests that it may become possible to derive gametes (eggs and sperm) from human stem cells in vitro, a process which we will term in vitro gametogenesis (IVG). The ability to create large numbers of eggs or sperm through IVG greatly increases our capacity to select the best child possible. (shrink)
In some situations a number of agents each have the ability to undertake an initiative that would have significant effects on the others. Suppose that each of these agents is purely motivated by an altruistic concern for the common good. We show that if each agent acts on her own personal judgment as to whether the initiative should be undertaken, then the initiative will be undertaken more often than is optimal. We suggest that this phenomenon, which we call the unilateralist’s (...) curse, arises in many contexts, including some that are important for public policy. To lift the curse, we propose a principle of conformity, which would discourage unilateralist action. We consider three different models for how this principle could be implemented, and respond to an objection that could be raised against it. (shrink)
In this issue, Elizabeth Shaw and Gulzaar Barn offer a number of replies to my arguments in ‘Criminal Rehabilitation Through Medical Intervention: Moral Liability and the Right to Bodily Integrity’, Journal of Ethics. In this article I respond to some of their criticisms.
We address the issue of whether, why and under what conditions, quarantine and isolation are morally justified, with a particular focus on measures implemented in the developing world. We argue that the benefits of quarantine and isolation justify some level of coercion or compulsion by the state, but that the state should be able to provide the strongest justification possible for implementing such measures. While a constrained form of consequentialism might provide a justification for such public health interventions, we argue (...) that a stronger justification is provided by a principle of State Enforced Easy Rescue: a state may permissibly compel individuals to engage in activities that entail a small cost to them but a large benefit to others, because individuals have a moral duty of easy rescue to engage in those activities. The principle of State Enforced Easy Rescue gives rise to an Obligation Enforcement Requirement: the state should create the conditions such that submitting to coercive or compulsive measures becomes a fundamental moral duty of individuals, i.e. a duty of easy rescue. When the state can create such conditions, it has the strongest justification possible for implementing coercive or compulsive measures, because individuals have a moral duty to temporarily relinquish the rights that such measures would infringe. Our argument has significant implications for how public health emergencies in the developing world should be tackled. Where isolation and quarantine measures are necessary, states or the international community have a moral obligation to provide certain benefits to those quarantined or isolated. (shrink)
In 2010, the Venter lab announced that it had created the first bacterium with an entirely synthetic genome. This was reported to be the first instance of ‘artificial life,’ and in the ethical and policy discussions that followed it was widely assumed that the creation of artificial life is in itself morally significant. We cast doubt on this assumption. First we offer an account of the creation of artificial life that distinguishes this from the derivation of organisms from existing life (...) and clarify what we mean in asking whether the creation of artificial life has moral significance. We then articulate and evaluate three attempts to establish that the creation of artificial life is morally significant. These appeal to the claim that the creation of artificial life involves playing God, as expressed in three distinct formulations; the claim that the creation of artificial life will encourage reductionist attitudes toward the living world that undermine the special moral value accorded to life; and the worry that artificial organisms will have an uncertain functional status and consequently an uncertain moral status. We argue that all three attempts to ground the moral significance of the creation of artificial life fail, because none of them establishes that the creation of artificial life is morally problematic in a way that the derivation of organisms from existing life forms is not. We conclude that the decisive moral consideration is not how life is created but what non-genealogical properties it possesses. (shrink)
Several authors have speculated that (1) the pharmaceutical, genetic or other technological enhancement of human mental capacities could result in the creation of beings with greater moral status than persons, and (2) the creation of such beings would harm ordinary, unenhanced humans, perhaps by reducing their immunity to permissible harm. These claims have been taken to ground moral objections to the unrestrained pursuit of human enhancement. In recent work, Allen Buchanan responds to these objections by questioning both (1) and (2). (...) I argue that Buchanan’s response fails. However, I then outline an alternative response. This response starts from the thought that, though moral status-increasing human enhancements might render ordinary, unenhanced humans less immune to permissible harm, they need not worsen the overall distribution of this immunity across beings. In the course of the argument I explore the relation between mental capacity and moral status and between moral status and immunity to permissible harm. (shrink)
Interventions that modify a person’s motivations through chemically or physically influencing the brain seem morally objectionable, at least when they are performed nonconsensually. This chapter raises a puzzle for attempts to explain their objectionability. It first seeks to show that the objectionability of such interventions must be explained at least in part by reference to the sort of mental interference that they involve. It then argues that it is difficult to furnish an explanation of this sort. The difficulty is that (...) these interventions seem no more objectionable, in terms of the kind of mental interference that they involve, than certain forms of environmental influence that many would regard as morally innocuous. The argument proceeds by comparing a particular neurointervention with a comparable environmental intervention. The author argues, first, that the two dominant explanations for the objectionability of the neurointervention apply equally to the environmental intervention, and second, that the descriptive difference between the environmental intervention and the neurointervention that most plausibly grounds the putative moral difference in fact fails to do so. The author concludes by presenting a trilemma that falls out of the argument. (shrink)
In this chapter I examine how expected-value theory might inform responses to what I call the dual-use problem. I begin by defining that problem. I then outline a procedure, which invokes expected-value theory, for tackling it. I first illustrate the procedure with the aid of a simplified schematic example of a dual-use problem, and then describe how it might also guide responses to more complex real-world cases. I outline some attractive features of the procedure. Finally, I consider whether and how (...) the procedure might be amended to accommodate various criticisms of it. (shrink)
Comment on "The ethical 'elephant' in the death penalty 'room'". Arguments in defense of the death penalty typically fall into one of two groups. Consequentialist arguments point out beneficial aspects of capital punishment, normally focusing on deterrence, while non-consequentialist arguments seek to justify execution independently of its effects, for example, by appealing to the concept of retribution. Michael Keane's target article "The ethical 'elephant' in the death penalty 'room'" should, we believe, be read as an interesting new consequentialist defense of (...) physician involvement in capital punishment. (shrink)
Principles of procreative beneficence (PPBs) hold that parents have good reasons to select the child with the best life prospects. Sparrow (2010) claims that PPBs imply that we should select only female children, unlesswe attach normative significance to “normal” human capacities. We argue that this claim fails on both empirical and logical grounds. Empirically, Sparrow’s argument for greater female wellbeing rests on a selective reading of the evidence and the incorrect assumption that an advantage for females would persist even when (...) a serious gender imbalance is obtained. Logically, PPBs cite only pro tanto reasons and allow that the good of an individual child could be outweighed by other morally relevant considerations, such as those which take collectively suboptimal outcomes into account. There is thus no need to attach value to the “normal.”. (shrink)
We ask why pharmacological cognitive enhancement (PCE) is generally deemed morally unacceptable by lay people. Our approach to this question has two core elements. First, we employ an interdisciplinary perspective, using philosophical rationales as base for generating psychological models. Second, by testing these models we investigate how different normative judgments on PCE are related to each other. Based on an analysis of the relevant philosophical literature, we derive two psychological models that can potentially explain the judgment that PCE is unacceptable: (...) the “Unfairness-Undeservingness Model” and the “Hollowness-Undeservingness Model.” The Unfairness-Undeservingness Model holds that people judge PCE to be unacceptable because they take it to produce unfairness and to undermine the degree to which PCE-users deserve reward. The Hollowness-Undeservingness Model assumes that people judge PCE to be unacceptable because they find achievements realized while using PCE hollow and undeserved. We empirically test both models against each other using a regression-based approach. When trying to predict judgments regarding the unacceptability of PCE using judgments regarding unfairness, hollowness, and undeservingness, we found that unfairness judgments were the only significant predictor of the perceived unacceptability of PCE, explaining about 36% of variance. As neither hollowness nor undeservingness had explanatory power above and beyond unfairness, the Unfairness-Undeservingness Model proved superior to the Hollowness-Undeservingness Model. This finding also has implications for the Unfairness-Undeservingness Model itself: either a more parsimonious single-factor “Fairness Model” should replace the Unfairness-Undeservingness-Model or fairness fully mediates the relationship between undeservingness and unacceptability. Both explanations imply that participants deemed PCE unacceptable because they judged it to be unfair. We conclude that concerns about unfairness play a crucial role in the subjective unacceptability of PCE and discuss the implications of our approach for the further investigation of the psychology of PCE. (shrink)
Response to commentary. We are grateful to Crockett and Craigie for their interesting remarks on our paper. We accept Crockett’s claim that there is a need for caution in drawing inferences about patient groups from work on healthy volunteers in the laboratory. However, we believe that the evidence we cited established a strong presumption that many of the patients who are routinely taking a medication, including many people properly prescribed the medication for a medical condition, have morally significant aspects of (...) their cognition and behavior modified in a way that is unintended and may sometimes be unwelcome. Crockett notes that in some cases the effects of long-term drug use may differ, sometimes markedly, from the effects of short-term use. However, if acute use of a drug affects a neural system involved in mediating moral cognition or behavior, this nevertheless provides some evidence that chronic use of the drug may affect that same system and thus have morally significant effects. It is also plausible, in some cases, that an acute moral effect would give rise to a chronic moral effect via cognitive mechanisms. ... (shrink)
Birks and Buyx (2018) claim that, at least in the foreseeable future, nonconsensual neurointerventions will almost certainly suppress some valuable mental states and will thereby impose an objectionable harm to mental integrity—a harm that it is pro tanto wrong to impose. Of course, incarceration also interferes with valuable mental states, so might seem to be objectionable in the same way. However, Birks and Buyx block this result by maintaining that the negative mental effects of incarceration are merely foreseen, whereas those (...) of neurointerventions are intended. We dispute Birks and Buyx’s characterization of the descriptive difference between these effects. In both cases, the negative effects are caused, not constituted, by the act in question. (shrink)
Traditional means of crime prevention, such as incarceration and psychological rehabilitation, are frequently ineffective. This collection considers how crime preventing neurointerventions could present a more humane alternative but, on the other hand, how neuroscientific developments and interventions may threaten fundamental human values.
It is sometimes claimed that those who succeed with the aid of enhancement technologies deserve the rewards associated with their success less, other things being equal, than those who succeed without the aid of such technologies. This claim captures some widely held intuitions, has been implicitly endorsed by participants in social–psychological research and helps to undergird some otherwise puzzling philosophical objections to the use of enhancement technologies. I consider whether it can be provided with a rational basis. I examine three (...) arguments that might be offered in its favour and argue that each either shows only that enhancements undermine desert in special circumstances or succeeds only under assumptions that deprive the appeal to desert of much of its dialectic interest. (shrink)
Summary: Edward Lanphier and colleagues contend that human germline editing is an unethical technology because it could have unpredictable effects on future generations. In our view, such misgivings do not justify their proposed moratorium.
Kelly Sorensen defends a model of the relationship between effort and moral worth in which the effort exerted in performing a morally desirable action contributes positively to the action’s moral worth, but the effort required to perform the action detracts from its moral worth. I argue that Sorensen’s model, though on the right track, is mistaken in three ways. First, it fails to capture the relevance of counterfactual effort to moral worth. Second, it wrongly implies that exerting unnecessary effort confers (...) moral worth on an action. Third, it fails to adequately distinguish between cases in which effort is required because of defects of moral character and those in which effort is required because of barriers external to moral character, such as social pressures or non-moral cognitive deficits. I suggest three amendments to Sorensen’s model that correct these three defects. (shrink)