Article Text

Download PDFPDF
‘My child will never initiate Ultimate Harm’: an argument against moral enhancement
  1. Ryan Tonkens
  1. Correspondence to Dr Ryan Tonkens, Centre for Human Bioethics, Monash University, Clayton, VIC 3168, Australia; ryan.tonkens{at}


Recently, there has been a lot of philosophical work published on the morality of moral enhancement. One thing that tends to get overlooked in this literature is that there are many different potential methods of morally enhancing humans, and a blanket moral assessment of them may not be warranted. Here I focus on one mode of moral enhancement, namely, prenatal genetic moral enhancement, and offer a normative assessment of it. I argue that there is good reason to adopt a parent-centred perspective (as opposed to a social or state-centred perspective) towards the ethics of prenatal genetic moral enhancement, and, once we do so, that there is good reason to argue that prenatal genetic attempts at moral enhancement are morally problematic and ought not to be pursued. The main reasons for this have to do with the nature of moral enhancement research, and the idea that prospective parents are justified in not assuming that their children will be morally depraved. I leave it open as to whether other modes of morally enhancing humans fare better, morally speaking.

  • Genetic Engineering
  • Enhancement
  • Research Ethics
  • Minors/Parental Consent

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.

Other content recommended for you