Advertisement

Topoi

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 29–36 | Cite as

Would Moral Enhancement Limit Freedom?

  • Antonio DiéguezEmail author
  • Carissa Véliz
Article

Abstract

The proposal of moral enhancement as a valuable means to face the environmental, technological and social challenges that threaten the future of humanity has been criticized by a number of authors. One of the main criticisms has been that moral enhancement would diminish our freedom. It has been said that moral enhancement would lead enhanced people to lose their ‘freedom to fall’, that is, it would prevent them from being able to decide to carry out some morally bad actions, and the possibility to desire and carry out these bad actions is an essential ingredient of free will, which would thus be limited or destroyed—or so the argument goes. In this paper we offer an answer to this criticism. We contend that a morally enhanced agent could lose (to a large extent) the ‘freedom to fall’ without losing her freedom for two reasons. First, because we do not consider that a morally well-educated person, for whom the ‘freedom to fall’ is a remote option, is less free than an evildoer, and there is no reason to suppose that bioenhancement introduces a significant difference here. Second, because richness in the amount of alternative possibilities of action may be restored if the stated loss is compensated with an improvement in sensitivity and lucidity that can lead to seeing new options and nuances in the remaining possible actions.

Keywords

Moral enhancement Free will Freedom to fall Human bioenhancement 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We are very grateful to an anonymous referee for very helpful comments. Research for this work has been supported by the research projects FFI2012-37354 (Spanish Government), HUM-0264 and HUM-7248 (Junta de Andalucía), and project PAPIIT-UNAM  IN403613 (Mexico).

References

  1. Agar N (2013) Why is it possible to enhance moral status and why doing so is wrong? J Med Ethics 39:67–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agar N (2015) Moral bioenhancement is dangerous. J Med Ethics 41(4):343–345CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Aristotle (1999) Nicomachean Ethics. Terence Irwin (trans.). Indianapolis: HackettGoogle Scholar
  4. Beauchamp TL (2015) Are we unfit for the future? J Med Ethics 41:346–348CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Beck B (2015) Conceptual and practical problems of moral enhancement. Bioethics 29(4):233–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bublitz C (2016) Moral enhancement and mental freedom. J Appl Philos 33(1):88–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Casal P (2015) On not taking men as they are: reflections on moral bioenhancement. J Med Ethics 41:340–342CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. De Melo-Martin I, Salles A (2015) Moral bioenhancement: much ado about nothing? Bioethics 29(4): 223–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. DeGrazia D (2014) Moral enhancement, freedom, and what we (should) value in moral behavior. J Med Ethics 40:361–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Douglas T (2008) Moral enhancement. J Appl Philos 25(3):228–245CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Douglas T (2013) Moral enhancement via direct emotion modulation: a reply to John Harris. Bioethics 27(3):160–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Ekstrom LW (2012) Free will is not a mystery. In: Kane R (ed) The oxford handbook of free will: second edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 366–380Google Scholar
  13. Fischer JM (2006) My way: essays on moral responsibility. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  14. Fischer JM, Ravizza M (1998) Responsibility and control: a theory of moral responsibility. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Frankfurt H (1969) Alternate possibilities and moral responsibility. J Philos 66:829–839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fuster JM (2013) The neuroscience of freedom and creativity. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Harris J (2011) Moral enhancement and freedom. Bioethics 25(2):102–111CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Harris J (2013) Moral progress and moral enhancement. Bioethics 27(5):285–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Harris J (2014) Taking liberties with free fall. J Med Ethics 40(6):371–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hauskeller M (2015) Being good enough to prevent the worst. J Med Ethics 41(4):289–290CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Levy N (2017) Implicit bias and moral responsibility: probing the data. Research 94(1):3–26Google Scholar
  22. McKenna M (2012) Contemporary compatibilism: mesh theories and reasons responsive theories. In: Kane R (ed) The oxford handbook of free will: second edition. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 175–198Google Scholar
  23. McKenna M, Pereboom D (2016) Free will. A contemporary introduction. Routledge, New YorkCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Persson I, Savulescu J (2008) The perils of cognitive enhancement and the urgent imperative to enhance the moral character of humanity. J Appl Philos 25(3):162–177CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Persson I, Savulescu J (2012) Unfit for the future. The need for moral enhancement. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Persson I, Savulescu J (2013) Getting moral enhancement right: the desirability of moral bioenhancement. Bioethics 27(3):124–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Raus K et al (2014) On defining moral enhancement: a clarificatory taxonomy. Neuroethics 7(3): 263–273CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Savulescu J, Persson I (2012) Moral enhancement, freedom and the god machine. Monist 95(3):399–421CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sellaro R et al (2015) Reducing prejudice through brain stimulation. Brain Stimul 8:891–897CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Shaefer GO, Kahane G, Savulescu J (2014) Autonomy and Enhancement. Neuroethics 7:123–136CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Sparrow R (2014) Better living through chemistry? A reply to Savulescu and Persson on ‘moral enhancement’. J Appl Philos 31(2):23–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Specker J et al (2014) The ethical desirability of moral bioenhancement: a review of reasons. BMC Med Ethics 15(67):1–17Google Scholar
  33. Tokens R (2015) ‘My Child will never initiate ultimate harm’: an aargument against moral enhancement. J Med Ethics 41:245–251CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Wegner DM (2002) The illusion of conscious will. The MIT Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Departamento de Filosofía, Facultad de Filosofía y LetrasUniversidad de MálagaMálagaSpain
  2. 2.Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Faculty of PhilosophyUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK

Personalised recommendations