Moral Performance Enhancement

Moral pharmacology is an evolving field that advocates using specific medications to enhance your ability to make moral decisions.

In this month's British Journal of Psychiatry, psychiatrist Sean Spence argues that while the most attention has been paid to attention-deficit-related drugs, we might want to choose to be more moral as well.

Recent considerations of the ethics of cognitive enhancement have specifically excluded consideration of social cognitions (such as empathy, revenge or deception), on the grounds that they are less amenable to quantification. Nevertheless, it would be regrettable if this limitation entirely precluded consideration of what must be an important question for humanity: can pharmacology help us enhance human morality? Might drugs not only make us smarter but also assist us in becoming more ‘humane’?

When voiced in such a way, this proposal can sound absurd, not least since we may suspect that such mental manipulation would render us ‘artificially’ moral. Where would be the benefit of being kinder or more humane as a consequence of medication? This is an understandable (though reflexive) response. However, if we stop to consider what is actually happening in certain psychiatric settings, then we may begin to interrogate this proposal more systematically. I shall argue that within many clinical encounters there may already be a subtle form of moral assistance going on, albeit one that we do not choose to describe in these terms. I argue that we are already deploying certain medications in a way not totally dissimilar to the foregoing proposal: whenever humans knowingly use drugs as a means to improving their future conduct.

For example, people may take medications to help with impulsive or irresponsible decisions, or to reduce their level of aggression or anger.

In a related vein, take a look at medications under development to block bad memories or to erase memories completely. Also, Yossi points out that this idea is similar to what Stanislaw Lem called betrization.

From Drugs for Optimising Morality.

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