, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp 109–119 | Cite as

Too Much of a Good Thing? Enhancement and the Burden of Self-Determination

Original Paper


There is a remedy available for many of our ailments: Psychopharmacology promises to alleviate unsatisfying memory, bad moods, and low self-esteem. Bioethicists have long discussed the ethical implications of enhancement interventions. However, they have not considered relevant evidence from psychology and economics. The growth in autonomy in many areas of life is publicized as progress for the individual. However, the broadening of areas at one’s disposal together with the increasing individualization of value systems leads to situations in which the range of options asks too much of the individual. I scrutinize whether increased self-determination and unbound possibilities are really in a person’s best interests. Evidence from psychology and economics challenges the assumption that unlimited autonomy is best in all cases. The responsibility for autonomous self-formation that comes with possibilities provided by neuro-enhancement developments can be a burden. To guarantee quality of life I suggest a balance of beneficence, support, and respect for autonomy.


Neuroenhancement Psychopharmacology Choice Autonomy Well-being 



The German National Merit Foundation supported research for this paper. I kindly thank Erik Parens and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Neurobiopsychology, Institute of Cognitive ScienceUniversity of OsnabrückOsnabrückGermany

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