, Volume 10, Issue 2, pp 243–254 | Cite as

Why Enhancing Autonomy Is Not a Question of Improving Single Aspects of Reasoning Abilities through Neuroenhancement

Original Article


In a recent paper, Schaefer et al. proposed to enhance autonomy via improving reasoning abilities through (genetic) cognitive enhancement [1]. While initially their idea additionally seems to elegantly avoid objections against genetic enhancements based on the value of autonomy, we want to draw attention to several problems their approach poses. First, we will show that it is not at all clear that safe and meaningful methods to genetically or pharmaceutically enhance cognition will be feasible any time soon. Second, we want to provide a deeper discussion of the role of cognition and reasoning abilities in philosophical concepts of autonomy, as discussed in the mentioned paper. In doing so, we wish to demonstrate that using reasoning abilities as the common denominator in different accounts of autonomy in the context of enhancement does not do justice to the highly complex interrelations between cognition, reasoning abilities and autonomy. Neither should this way of arguing be accepted as a basis to call for practical outcomes, such as funding research into e. g. genetic cognitive enhancements, if the examined concepts of autonomy are taken seriously.


Autonomy Genetic enhancement Neuroenhancement Reasoning abilities Cognition 



We want to thank one of the anonymous reviewers who suggested to use the term “isolationism” instead of “reductionism”, which can be confusing given its common philosophical use. Our intention is to describe a problem encountered by the overlapping consensus method used by Schaefer et al. By extracting reasoning abilities as a core feature of very different accounts of autonomy, other relevant properties, conceptual ramifications, and potential real life consequences of these accounts can easily be blurred and disregarded.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Ethics, History and Theory of MedicineLudwig-Maximilians-University MunichMunichGermany

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