Cognitive Self-Enhancement as a Duty to Oneself: A Kantian Perspective
Recently some bioethicists and neuroscientists have argued for an imperative of chemical cognitive enhancement. This imperative is usually based on consequentialist grounds. In this paper, the topic of cognitive self-enhancement is discussed from a Kantian point of view in order to shed new light on the controversial debate. With Kant, it is an imperfect duty to oneself to strive for perfecting one's own natural and moral capacities beyond one's natural condition, but there is no duty to enhance others. A Kantian approach does not directly lead to a duty of chemical cognitive self-enhancement, but it also does not clearly rule out that this type of enhancement can be an appropriate means to the end of self-improvement. This paper shows the benefits of a Kantian view, which offers a consistent ideal of self-perfection and teaches us a lesson about the crucial relevance of the attitude that underlies one's striving for cognitive self-improvement: the lesson of treating oneself as an end in itself and not as mere means to the end of better output.