Revisiting Moral Bioenhancement and Autonomy

Neuroethics 14 (3):529-539 (2021)
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Some have claimed that moral bioenhancement undermines freedom and authenticity – thereby making moral bioenhancement problematic or undesirable – whereas others have said that moral bioenhancement does not undermine freedom and authenticity – thereby salvaging its ethical permissibility. These debates are characterized by a couple of features. First, a positive relationship is assumed to hold between these agency-related concepts and the ethical permissibility of moral bioenhancement. Second, these debates are centered around individualistic conceptions of agency, like free choice and authenticity, which hail from an atomistic tradition of autonomy. My view is that emphasizing individualistic conceptions of autonomy do not provide particularly strong foundations on which to argue about the issue of the permissibility of moral bioenhancement. This is because individualistic autonomy is not the kind of agency-related consideration we ought to value. Instead, I propose that we investigate the relationship between moral bioenhancement and a more relational kind of autonomy. Focusing on this latter relationship, on my view, clarifies the potential for moral bioenhancement to support or enhance people’s autonomy.

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Ji-Young Lee
University of Copenhagen


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