Paediatric Neuro-enhancement and Natural Goodness

  • Martin HähnelEmail author
Part of the Advances in Neuroethics book series (AIN)


In this paper I give an overview about the general implications of issues of human nature within the field of human enhancement, especially paediatric neuro-enhancement. The first section of my contribution deals with a certain intertwining of human enhancement and the intrinsic claims of human nature showing that the concept of human nature still plays a crucial role in the debate on human enhancement. Subsequently, I take a step towards analysing of several childhood-related influences on those claims of human nature. After that, my aim is to validate the view that paediatric neuro-enhancement is a special case of human enhancement that falls under the same normative criteria as “normal enhancement”, requiring a special contextual awareness to get along with it ethically. Methodically, my intention is to draw on naturalistic approaches, which argue that our human nature is not a “mixed bag” but seems to be wholly constituted by its species-related characteristics. Against this backdrop, I finally hope to give rise to the view that paediatric neuro-enhancement is no part of a countable set of therapeutic practices prescribed by the life form and its natural goodness.


  1. Anscombe E (2008) Faith in a hard ground. Imprint Academic, St. AndrewsGoogle Scholar
  2. Buchanan A (2009) Human nature and human enhancement. Bioethics 23(3):141–150CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Buchanan A (2011) Better than human. The promise and perils of enhancing ourselves. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  4. Crary A (2016) Inside ethics. On the demands of moral thought. Harvard University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Devitt M (2008) Resurrecting biological essentialism. Philos Sci 75:344–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Foot P (2001) Natural goodness. Oxford University Press, OxfordCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Freiman C (2013) Goodness and moral twin earth. Erkenntnis 79:445–460CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gopnik A (2009) The philosophical baby. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Graf W et al (2013) Pediatric neuroenhancement: ethical, legal, social, and neurodevelopmental implications. Neurology 80:1251–1256CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Groll D, Lott M (2015) Is there a role for ‘human nature’ in debates about human enhancement? Philosophy 90(4):623–651CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Habermas J (2003) The future of human nature. Polity Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  12. Hacker-Wright J (2013) Philippa foot’s moral thought. Bloomsbury, LondonGoogle Scholar
  13. Hähnel M (2017) Blurring nature at its boundaries. Vague phenomena in current stem cell debate. Med Health Care Philos 20(3):373–381. Online first: Scholar
  14. Harcourt E (2013) Attachment theory, character, and naturalism. In: Peters J (ed) Aristotelian ethics in contemporary perspective. Routledge, London/New York, pp 114–129Google Scholar
  15. Harris J (2007) Enhancing evolution. The ethical case for making better people. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  16. Kamm F (2009) What is and is not wrong with enhancement. In: Savulescu J, Bostrom N (eds) Human enhancement. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 91–130Google Scholar
  17. Kass L (2002) Life, liberty, and defense of dignity: the challenge for bioethics. Encounter Books, San FranciscoGoogle Scholar
  18. Kittay EF (2005) At the margins of moral personhood. Ethics 116(1):100–131CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. LeBar M, Russell D (2014) Well-being and eudaimonia: a reply to haybron. In: Peters J (ed) Aristotelian ethics in contemporary perspective. Routledge, London/New York, pp 69–82Google Scholar
  20. Lewens T (2015) Human nature: the very idea. In: Lewens T (ed) The biological foundations of bioethics. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 39–59CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Liao M (2006a) The right of children to be loved. J Polit Philos 14(4):420–440CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Liao M (2006b) The idea of a duty to love. J Value Inq 40(1):1–22CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Machery E (2008) A plea for human nature. Philos Psychol 21(3):321–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McDowell J (1994) Mind and world. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  25. McKibben B (2004) Enough: staying human in an engineered age. St. Martin’s Griffin, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Mulders J (2016) A vital challenge to materialism. Philosophy 91(2):153–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nagel S, Stephan A (2009) Was bedeutet Neuro-Enhancement? Potentiale, Konsequenzen, ethische Dimensionen. In: Schöne-Seifert B et al (eds) Neuroenhancement. Ethik vor neuen Herausforderungen. Mentis, Paderborn, pp 19–48Google Scholar
  28. Parens E (1995) The goodness of fragility: on the prospect of genetic technologies aimed at the enhancement of human capacities. Kennedy Inst Ethics J 5(2):141–153CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Sandel M (2007) The case against perfection. Harvard University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  30. Thompson M (2004) Apprehending human form. In: O’Hear A (ed) Modern moral philosophy. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 47–74CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Thompson M (2008) Life and action. Harvard University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ghiselin M (1997) Metaphysics and the origin of species. State University of New York Press, AlbanyGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Chair of Bioethics, Catholic University Eichstätt-Ingolstadt, Eichstätt-IngolstadtGermany

Personalised recommendations