, Volume 8, Issue 2, pp 139–151 | Cite as

Moral Enhancement: Do Means Matter Morally?

  • Farah FocquaertEmail author
  • Maartje Schermer
Original Paper


One of the reasons why moral enhancement may be controversial, is because the advantages of moral enhancement may fall upon society rather than on those who are enhanced. If directed at individuals with certain counter-moral traits it may have direct societal benefits by lowering immoral behavior and increasing public safety, but it is not directly clear if this also benefits the individual in question. In this paper, we will discuss what we consider to be moral enhancement, how different means may be used to achieve it and whether the means we employ to reach moral enhancement matter morally. Are certain means to achieve moral enhancement wrong in themselves? Are certain means to achieve moral enhancement better than others, and if so, why? More specifically, we will investigate whether the difference between direct and indirect moral enhancement matters morally. Is it the case that indirect means are morally preferable to direct means of moral enhancement and can we indeed pinpoint relevant intrinsic, moral differences between both? We argue that the distinction between direct and indirect means is indeed morally relevant, but only insofar as it tracks an underlying distinction between active and passive interventions. Although passive interventions can be ethical provided specific safeguards are put in place, these interventions exhibit a greater potential to compromise autonomy and disrupt identity.


Moral enhancement Enhancement Bioenhancement Biomedical enhancement Identity Autonomy 



The research for this paper was funded by the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO) and the Scientific Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) as part of the project Our brain as capital.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bioethics Institute Ghent, Department of Philosophy and Moral SciencesGhent UniversityGentBelgium
  2. 2.Department of Medical Ethics and PhilosophyRotterdamThe Netherlands

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