Neurofeedback-Based Moral Enhancement and the Notion of Morality

The Annals of the University of Bucharest - Philosophy Series 66 (2):25-41 (2017)
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Some skeptics question the very possibility of moral bioenhancement by arguing that if we lack a widely acceptable notion of morality, we will not be able to accept the use of a biotechnological technique as a tool for moral bioenhancement. I will examine this skepticism and argue that the assessment of moral bioenhancement does not require such a notion of morality. In particular, I will demonstrate that this skepticism can be neutralized in the case of recent neurofeedback techniques. This goal will be accomplished in four steps. First, I will draw an outline of the skepticism against the possibility of moral bioenhancement and point out that a long-lasting dispute among moral philosophers nourishes this skepticism. Second, I will survey recent neurofeedback techniques and outline their three features: the variety of the target human faculties, such as emotion, cognition, and behavior; the flexibility or personalizability of the target brain state; and the nonclinical application of neurofeedback techniques. Third, I will argue that, by virtue of these three unique features, neurofeedback techniques can be a tool for moral bioenhancement without adopting any specific notion of morality. Fourth, I will examine the advantages and threats that neurofeedback-based moral enhancement may have. Finally, I will conclude that neurofeedback-based moral enhancement can become a new and promising tool for moral bioenhancement and requires further ethical investigations on its unique features.

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Koji Tachibana
Chiba University


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