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On Cognitive and Moral Enhancement: A Reply to Savulescu and Persson


  • J. Adam Carter,

    Corresponding author
    • Address for correspondence: Dr. J. Adam Carter, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, Edinburgh University, Dugald Stewart Building, 3 Charles Street, Edinburgh EH8 9AD. E-mail:

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  • Emma C. Gordon

  • Conflict of interest statement: No conflicts declared


In a series of recent works, Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson insist that, given the ease by which irreversible destruction is achievable by a morally wicked minority, (i) strictly cognitive bio-enhancement is currently too risky, while (ii) moral bio-enhancement is plausibly morally mandatory (and urgently so). This article aims to show that the proposal Savulescu and Persson advance relies on several problematic assumptions about the separability of cognitive and moral enhancement as distinct aims. Specifically, we propose that the underpinnings of Savulescu's and Persson's normative argument unravel once it is suitably clear how aiming to cognitively enhance an individual will in part require that one aim to bring about certain moral goods we show to be essential to cognitive flourishing; conversely, aiming to bring about moral enhancement in an individual must involve aiming to improve certain cognitive capacities we show to be essential to moral flourishing. After developing these points in some detail, and their implication for Savulescu's & Persson's proposal, we conclude by outlining some positive suggestions.

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