Political Implications of Moral Bioenhancement

Political Implications of Moral Bioenhancement


Christoph Bublitz (christoph.bublitz@uni-hamburg.de)

Norbert Paulo (norbert.paulo@sbg.ac.at)

Social orders have always striven to enhance the moral behavior of their members in order to ensure social cooperation and security. Education, legal systems, religion and psychiatry are prime example of these traditional moral enhancements. It can hardly be denied that the promotion of pro-social behavior is a legitimate goal for governments to pursue. On the contrary, moral enhancement in this broad sense is urgently needed. The philosophical debate over moral enhancement is, however, focused on biotechnological means of moral enhancement, especially those that—like pharmaceuticals or electro-stimulation—directly target emotional dispositions of persons. Empirical findings suggest that, in the future, it might be possible to enhance individuals’ morality by, e.g., increasing their empathy or by decreasing their tendencies for aggression. Some philosophers—above all Tom Douglas, Ingmar Persson, and Julian Savulescu—argue forcefully that in face of apparently insurmountable global problems such as economic injustice, global warming, and perils from weapons of mass destruction, the only feasible way to save humankind and the planet is to shift the research focus from (potentially risky) high technology to moral bioenhancement (MBE). Up to now, the debate around MBE was focused on its effectiveness and its compatibility with common understandings of freedom. This workshop aims at broadening this debate by engaging with the political implications of MBE.

Suggested topics:

Contributions are welcome on conceptual and general normative issues in the political realm raised by MBE. Examples for possible questions are: Does MBE pose a threat to egalitarianism? Could MBE bring about better political decisions? Does MBE expand or limit freedom, and which dimensions of freedom are affected? Is it possible to make a democratically legitimate decision to impose MBE on all members of a society? Would the normative force of peoples’ opinions and votes be the same before and after MBE? Do state-run programs of altering moral properties conflict with principles of deliberative democracy?  Does MBE away with the distinction between ideal and non-ideal theory?



Papers will be circulated two weeks prior to the workshop. Please send an abstract of 500 words (max.) in DOC or PDF format to both convenors until May 31, 2014.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *