A Biomedical Shortcut to (Fraudulent) Happiness? An Analysis of the Notions of Well-Being and Authenticity Underlying Objections to Mood Enhancement

  • Birgit BeckEmail author
  • Barbara Stroop
Part of the Happiness Studies Book Series book series (HAPS)


The increasing administration of so-called ‘mood enhancers’ such as antidepressants which are taken for non-therapeutic purposes in order to promote feelings ‘better than well’ has stimulated a bioethical debate on the moral and legal permissibility of their use. In these discussions it is pointed out that people are likely to view mood enhancing technologies as a useful means for directly increasing their well-being with lesser effort compared to traditional means—as a ‘biomedical shortcut’ to happiness. However, this view has received fierce criticism. Opponents of mood enhancement such as the President’s Council on Bioethics argue that there is a danger of a ‘fraudulent happiness’. This paper provides an attempt to disentangle various presumptions underlying the charge in order to analyze whether mood enhancement inevitably leads to ‘fraudulent happiness’. Thereby, it focuses primarily on the examination of two concepts, namely the notions of well-being and authenticity. The results of the analysis illustrate that giving credibility to the charge requires the assumption of specific notions of well-being and authenticity, which are not the only ones possible. When reflecting upon the assertion from a new perspective this article closes by concluding that mood enhancement does not inevitably lead to fraudulent happiness.


Mood enhancement Fraudulent happiness Well-Being and authenticity Notions of well-being Promoting feelings Pharmacological road to happiness 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.INM-8: Ethics in the NeurosciencesResearch Centre JülichJülichGermany
  2. 2.Center for Advanced Study in BioethicsUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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