, Volume 6, Issue 3, pp 215–229 | Cite as

Visions and Ethics in Current Discourse on Human Enhancement

  • Arianna FerrariEmail author
  • Christopher Coenen
  • Armin Grunwald
Original Paper


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.


Visions Human enhancement Ethics Speculative ethics Pharmaceutical cognitive enhancement 



This article was written with the support of the European Commission FP7 Science in Society funded project, Ethics in Public Policy Making: The Case of Human Enhancement (EPOCH), grant number SIS-CT-2010-266660 ( We would like to warmly thank two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and Hannah Weinhardt for her important support in a recent update of EPOCH results concerning the state of the art in PCE.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arianna Ferrari
    • 1
    Email author
  • Christopher Coenen
    • 1
  • Armin Grunwald
    • 1
  1. 1.Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)Institute for Technology Assessment and System Analysis (ITAS)KarlsruheGermany

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