Article Text

Download PDFPDF
What is morally salient about enhancement technologies?
  1. Auke J K Pols,
  2. Wybo Houkes
  1. Philosophy & Ethics, Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Auke J K Pols, Philosophy & Ethics, Eindhoven University of Technology, IPO 1.09, PO Box 513, 5600 MB Eindhoven, The Netherlands; a.j.k.pols{at}


The human enhancement debate typically centres on moral issues regarding changes in human nature, not on the means for these changes. We argue that one cannot grasp what is morally salient about human enhancement without understanding how technologies affect human action and practical reasoning. We present a minimalist conception of human agents as bounded practical reasoners. Then, we categorise different effects of technologies on our possibilities for action and our evaluation of these possibilities. For each, we discuss whether enhancement technologies have morally salient effects; which technologies show these effects; and whether these differ significantly from those of other, non-enhancement technologies. We conclude that enhancement technologies are morally salient in several respects, that not all enhancement technologies share all those morally salient respects, and that continuities with traditional technologies may be found in all morally salient respects.

  • Bioethics
  • enhancement
  • philosophical ethics

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.


  • Funding Research by Wybo Houkes was made possible by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO).PO Box 93138, NL-2509 AC The Hague, The Netherlands.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

Other content recommended for you