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AJOB Neuroscience.

“Virtue Engineering” and Moral Agency: Will Post-Humans Still Need the Virtues?

It is not the purpose of this article to evaluate the techno-scientific claims of the transhumanists. Instead, I question seriously the nature of the ethics and morals they claim can, or soon will, be manipulated artificially. I argue that while the possibility to manipulate human behavior via emotional processes exists, the question still remains concerning the content of morality. In other words, neural moral enhancement does not capture the fullness of human moral psychology, which includes moral capacity and moral content. In this article, I revisit the debate between Hume and Kant concerning the role of emotions and reason in moral philosophy. I do so with reference to the work of philosopher Alasdair McIntyre. His moral philosophy has long stood as an essential text in virtue ethics, which constitutes the basis for my critique of the promise to engineer virtues (what I call “neural moral enhancement”). First, I outline three specific shifts that occurred in the history of Western moral philosophy in order to contextualize current debates on the nature of morality/moral agency. Second, I summarize MacIntyre’s critique of contemporary moral philosophy and show its relevance to an assessment of neural moral enhancement. Finally I argue that moral neuroenhancement is a one-dimensional conceptualization of moral agency that does not reflect the fullness of human moral psychology. It envisions a world in which individual moral capacities will be enhanced and controlled but says nothing about the nature of the morality.

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Volume 2, Issue 4
October 2011

Target Articles.

Deflating the Neuroenhancement Bubble Jayne C. Lucke, Stephanie Bell, Brad Partridge & Wayne D. Hall


Enhancing Neuroethics Paul Root Wolpe