In “Moral Enhancement” (Philosophy Now, July-August 2012), Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson argue that “artificial moral enhancement is now essential if humanity is to avoid catastrophe.”
Modern technology provides us with many means to cause our downfall, and our natural moral psychology does not provide us with the means to prevent it. The moral enhancement of humankind is necessary for there to be a way out of this predicament. If we are to avoid catastrophe by misguided employment of our power, we need to be morally motivated to a higher degree (as well as adequately informed about relevant facts). A stronger focus on moral education could go some way to achieving this, but as already remarked, this method has had only modest success during the last couple of millennia. Our growing knowledge of biology, especially genetics and neurobiology, could deliver additional moral enhancement, such as drugs or genetic modifications, or devices to augment moral education.
The development and application of such techniques is risky – it is after all humans in their current morally-inept state who must apply them – but we think that our present situation is so desperate that this course of action must be investigated.
Note this in particular:
Biomedical means of moral enhancement may turn out to be
no more effective than traditional means of moral education or social reform, but they should not be rejected out of hand.
Oh yes they should be! If they may be no more effective than pulpit-bashing, but – quite obviously – risk an additional suite of evils, that is a perfectly good reason for rejecting them out of hand.
By the way, our learned philosophers don’t directly say “the government,” but everything about their project sounds like just the thing a certain sort of government would be interested in. (The sort that goes to the guillotine every now and then, but we do digress.)
See also: It doesn’t matter whether you like David Brooks’ “Social Animal”; your moral and intellectual superiors do
Hat tip: Stephanie West Allan at Brains on Purpose