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AJOB Neuroscience.

Virtue Essentialism, Prototypes, and the Moral Conservative Opposition to Enhancement Technologies: A Neuroethical Critique

Moral conservatives such as the ones who served on George W. Bush’s President’s Councils on Bioethics are known to be cautious about if not categorically opposed to enhancement technologies. This article examines the argumentative styles of two of the best known of these scholars, Leon Kass and Michael Sandel, as gleaned from essays they authored while serving on Bush’s councils. The goal of this essay is to evaluate their argumentative approach opposing enhancement, which I call “virtue essentialism.” Using a critical perspective informed by prototype theory, I argue that the “virtue essentialist” approach of Kass and Sandel, despite its popularity among moral conservatives and the electorate, is remarkably underpowered. I conclude by arguing that despite my reservations, the likelihood of virtue essentialism retaining its popularity nevertheless seems very good indeed.

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Volume 2, Issue 2
April 2011