Moral enhancement and freedom

Bioethics. 2011 Feb;25(2):102-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8519.2010.01854.x. Epub 2010 Dec 7.


This paper identifies human enhancement as one of the most significant areas of bioethical interest in the last twenty years. It discusses in more detail one area, namely moral enhancement, which is generating significant contemporary interest. The author argues that so far from being susceptible to new forms of high tech manipulation, either genetic, chemical, surgical or neurological, the only reliable methods of moral enhancement, either now or for the foreseeable future, are either those that have been in human and animal use for millennia, namely socialization, education and parental supervision or those high tech methods that are general in their application. By that is meant those forms of cognitive enhancement that operate across a wide range of cognitive abilities and do not target specifically 'ethical' capacities. The paper analyses the work of some of the leading contemporary advocates of moral enhancement and finds that in so far as they identify moral qualities or moral emotions for enhancement they have little prospect of success.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biomedical Technology / ethics*
  • Freedom*
  • Humans
  • Moral Development*
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Religion and Science
  • Violence / prevention & control*