Since 2008, the so-called ‘moral enhancement debate’ asks whether we should actively pursue the development of moral enhancement technologies, and whether it would be permissible – or even obligatory – to put them to use, provided that these interventions would be effective and safe?
Whereas ‘traditional methods’ of moral betterment (such as upbringing, socialization and education) are arguably as old as humanity itself, the debate on moral bioenhancement focuses on the desirability of methods based on novel biomedical insights and the use of biomedical methods. The debate follows a significant rise in fundamental research on the (neuro)biological and genetic underpinnings of morality. Potential interventions that are being discussed range from various types of psychopharmaceuticals, neurostimulation, and genetic selection and engineering.
Until now, the theoretical debate on moral (bio)enhancement has a strong speculative character and mostly precedes and runs ahead of realistic scientific possibilities. Moreover, to date, the debate risks lacking focus and real world impact, as different commentators fail to agree on how to understand and define moral enhancement.
This under-examination of potential practices of moral enhancement is significant because without specifying intended users, contexts of implementation, and the goals and objectives of developing and applying potential biomedical possibilities for optimizing morally relevant capacities, it is not clear who should be concerned about this debate.
At the same time, existing or emerging practices that already contain elements of ‘moral enhancement’ but as yet lack ethical attention and ethical scrutiny, risk staying out of sight.
In order to address this problem, this thesis focuses on (present and emerging) moral enhancement practices, in order to identify ethical issues that are not necessarily part of the current debate on moral enhancement. Rather than distinguishing in a blanket fashion desirable from undesirable moral enhancement technologies, this thesis intends to formulate conditions and ethical requirements for ethically justifiable moral enhancement practices.

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M.H.N. Schermer (Maartje) , I.D. de Beaufort (Inez)
Erasmus University Rotterdam
Department of Medical Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine

Specker, J. (2018, June 28). Imagining Moral Enhancement Practices. Retrieved from