Ethical Reflections on Genetic Enhancement with the Aim of Enlarging Altruism

Health Care Analysis 24 (3):180-195 (2016)
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When it comes to caring about and helping those in need, our imaginations tend to be weak and our motivation tends to be parochial. This is a major moral problem in view of how much unmet need there is in the world and how much material capacity there is to address that need. With this problem in mind, the present paper will focus on genetic means to the enhancement of a moral capacity—a disposition to altruism—and of a cognitive capacity that facilitates use of the moral capacity: the ability to grasp vividly the needs of individuals who are unknown and not present. I will address two questions, with more extensive attention to the first question. First, assuming we had excellent reason to believe that the enhancements were safe, effective, and available to all who desired them, would seeking these enhancements be inherently morally acceptable—that is, free of inherent wrongness? Second, would it be wise for a society to pursue these enhancements? I will defend an affirmative answer to the first question while leaving the second question open.
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