Drugs and Hugs: Stimulating Moral Dispositions as a Method of Moral Enhancement

In Michael Hauskeller & Lewis Coyne (eds.), Moral Enhancement: Critical Perspectives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press (2018)
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Advocates of moral enhancement through pharmacological, genetic, or other direct interventions sometimes explicitly argue, or assume without argument, that traditional moral education and development is insufficient to bring about moral enhancement. Traditional moral education grounded in a Kohlbergian theory of moral development is indeed unsuitable for that task; however, the psychology of moral development and education has come a long way since then. Recent studies support the view that moral cognition is a higher-order process, unified at a functional level, and that a specific moral faculty does not exist. It is more likely that moral cognition involves a number of different mechanisms, each connected to other cognitive and affective processes. Taking this evidence into account, we propose a novel, empirically informed approach to moral development and education, in children and adults, which is based on a cognitive-affective approach to moral dispositions. This is an interpretative approach that derives from the cognitive-affective personality system (Mischel and Shoda, 1995). This conception individuates moral dispositions by reference to the cognitive and affective processes that realise them. Conceived of in this way, moral dispositions influence an agent's behaviour when they interact with situational factors, such as mood or social context. Understanding moral dispositions in this way lays the groundwork for proposing a range of indirect methods of moral enhancement, techniques that promise similar results as direct interventions whilst posing fewer risks.

Author Profiles

Lily Frank
Eindhoven University of Technology
Michał Klincewicz
Tilburg University


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