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Can advances in neuroscience be harnessed to enhance human moral capacities? And if so, should they? De Grazia explores these questions in ‘Moral Enhancement, Freedom, and What We (Should) Value in Moral Behaviour’.1 Here, I offer a neuroscientist's perspective on the state of the art of moral bioenhancement, and highlight some of the practical challenges facing the development of moral bioenhancement technologies.
The science of moral bioenhancement is in its infancy. Laboratory studies of human morality usually employ highly simplified models aimed at measuring just one facet of a cognitive process that is relevant for morality. These studies have certainly deepened our understanding of the nature of moral behaviour, but it is important to avoid overstating the conclusions of any single study. De Grazia cites several purported examples of ‘non-traditional means of moral enhancement’, including one of my own studies. According to De Grazia, we showed that ‘selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (can be used) as a means to being less inclined to assault people’. In fact, our findings are a bit more subtle and nuanced than implied in the target article, as is often the case in neuroscientific studies of complex human behaviour. In …
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