If you’re smart, we’ll make you smarter: Applying the reasoning behind the development of honours programmes to other forms of cognitive enhancement

In Federica Lucivero & Anton Vedder (eds.), Beyond Therapy v. Enhancement? Multidisciplinary analyses of a heated debate. Pisa University Press. pp. 117-142 (2013)
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Students using Ritalin in preparation for their exams is a hotly debated issue, while meditating or drinking coffee before those same exams is deemed uncontroversial. However, taking Ritalin, meditating and drinking coffee or even education in general, can all be considered forms of cognitive enhancement. Although social acceptance might change in the future, it is interesting to examine the current reasons that are used to distinguish cases deemed problematic or unproblematic. Why are some forms of cognitive enhancement considered problematic, while others are not? In this paper, we consider cognitive enhancement as the amplification or extension of core capacities of the mind, using augmentation or improvements of our information-processing systems. We will analyse cognitive enhancement in an educational setting in order to clarify the fuzzy distinction between problematic and unproblematic forms of cognitive enhancement. We will show that the apparent distinction made by many people between problematic and unproblematic enhancement is not based on any fundamental difference between these two categories.

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Anco Peeters
Radboud University


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