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Taking liberties with free fall
  1. John Harris
  1. Correspondence to Professor John Harris, The Institute for Science,Ethics and Innovation, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Manchester, Stopford Building, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK; john.harris{at}

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In his ‘Moral Enhancement, Freedom, and What We (Should) Value in Moral Behaviour’,1 David DeGrazia sets out to defend moral bioenhancement (MB) from a number of critics, me prominently among them. Here he sets out his stall: Many scholars doubt what I assert: that there is nothing inherently wrong with MB. Some doubt this on the basis of a conviction that there is something inherently wrong with biomedical enhancement technologies in general. Chief among their objections are the charges that (1) biomedical enhancement is unnatural, (2) use of biomedical enhancements evinces an insufficient appreciation for human “giftedness”, and (3) biomedical enhancements pose a threat to personal identity. Elsewhere I have attempted to neutralize these objections. Here I will address a set of concerns that are directed at MB in particular and appeal to the nature and value of human freedom.

Let me make clear at once that I do not believe there is anything inherently wrong with MB. I have been an advocate for human enhancement for over 30 years writing four books defending such enhancements.24 The most recent of these published in 2007 covers much the same ground as Allen Buchanan's 2011 book cited by DeGrazia,5 but, unlike Buchanan, I do not define enhancements in terms of the intention or the motivation of those who produce them but rather in terms of their effect. I must also make clear that, like DeGrazia, I have also, for a very long time, attempted to neutralise objections 1–3 listed in the above passage.24

DeGrazia introduces his critique of my approach like this: I will construe Harris’ argument and similar arguments as directed entirely at motivation-based MB—though I will hereafter omit the qualifier, “motivation-based.” (Certainly, these arguments do not apply to embryo selection, which …

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  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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