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On the argument that enhancement is “cheating”


One frequently used argument in the discussion on human enhancement is that enhancement is a form of cheating. This argument is well-known in relation to doping in sports, but recently it has also been used with regard to cognitive enhancement in the context of education and exams. This paper analyses the enhancement-is-cheating argument by comparing sports and education, and by evaluating how the argument can be interpreted in both contexts. If cheating is understood as breaking the rules in order to gain an unfair advantage over others, it can be argued that some enhancements are a form of cheating. This problem of cheating is, however, relatively easy to remedy by either changing the rules, or by instituting controls and sanctions. This does not, therefore, constitute a categorical objection to enhancement. A further analysis of the intuitions behind the enhancement-is-cheating argument, however, shows that if sports and education are understood as “practices”, with their own internal goods and standards of excellence, some potential problems of enhancement can be articulated. These concern the internal goods and standards of excellence that are characteristic of specific practices. Seen from this perspective, the important question is how enhancement technologies might be embedded in specific practices—or how they might corrode them.

  • cheating
  • cognitive enhancement
  • doping in sports
  • psychopharmacology
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