Leveling the Playing Field: Fairness in the Cognitive Enhancement Debate

  • Greta WagnerEmail author
Part of the Trends in Augmentation of Human Performance book series (TAHP, volume 1)


One controversy within bioethics regards whether the use of potential cognitive enhancements would decrease fairness in society by giving advantages to the already privileged or increase fairness by enabling the worst off to compete with others. Both positions are based on a notion of society as competitive, in which fairness is the purpose of a certain degree of institutional intervention. In the context of cognitive enhancement, this intervention would be the regulation or deregulation of the use of certain drugs by schools, universities, employers or legislators with the goal to protect competition. In the context of neo-liberalism the state intervenes in the market to protect competition. In both contexts, the aim is to level the playing field and to provide equal opportunities to compete. Within the framework of Michel Foucault’s terminology, I will argue that the bioethical debate on fairness forms part of a neoliberal governmentality.


Cognitive enhancement: fairness Competition Neoliberalism Michel Foucault 



I would like to thank Nicolas Langlitz for many very inspiring discussions that have enriched this chapter and Thomas Biebricher, Georg Fischer and Isabell Trommer for valuable editing and comments.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social Sciences, Institute of SociologyGoethe-University Frankfurt am MainFrankfurtGermany

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