Statistics from Altmetric.com
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.
Moral enhancement is a topic that has sparked much current interest in the world of bioethics. The possibility of making people ‘better,’ not just in the conventional enhancement sense of improving health and other desirable (and desired) qualities and capacities, but by making them somehow more moral, more decent, altogether better people, has attracted attention from both advocates1 2 and sceptics3 alike. The concept of moral enhancement, however, is fraught with difficult questions, theoretical and practical. What does it actually mean to be ‘more moral’? How would moral enhancement be defined and would it necessarily, as some have claimed, make the world a better or safer place? How would or could such enhancement be achieved safely and without undue constraint on personal liberty and autonomy?
On this subject, a recent paper by Crockett et al4 investigating the effects of the neurotransmitter serotonin on moral decision-making provides an intriguing scientific basis for examining what might or might not constitute moral enhancement. The study involved treatment with citalopram, a drug that increases the action of serotonin in the brain, and subsequent analysis of participants' decision-making behaviour in two different situations involving moral dilemmas: the well-known ‘Trolley Problem’5 and the ‘Ultimatum Game’.6 The researchers found that citalopram promoted what they call ‘prosocial behaviour’, increasing the participants' aversion to causing direct harm to others: in the first scenario, they were less likely to select the option that required killing one in order to save five, and in the second, less likely to reject unfair offers at the expense of others.
The Crockett study is fascinating both for its insight into human behaviour (though not moral behaviour per se) and because it appears to demonstrate that, at least on some accounts of moral behaviour, serotonin may in fact be a …
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; not externally peer reviewed.
Read the full text or download the PDF:
Other content recommended for you
- Moral bioenhancement: a neuroscientific perspective
- ‘My child will never initiate Ultimate Harm’: an argument against moral enhancement
- Taking liberties with free fall
- Moral enhancement, freedom, and what we (should) value in moral behaviour
- Current knowledge in moral cognition can improve medical ethics
- Amoral enhancement
- Reply to commentators on Unfit for the Future
- Why is it possible to enhance moral status and why doing so is wrong?
- Technological moral enhancement or traditional moral progress? Why not both?
- Why we can't really say what post-persons are