Improving our Ethical Debates on Moral Enhancement Technologies: Acknowledging the Role of Virtue and Justice in the Good Life

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Guiho, Jennifer R.
moral enhancement , virtue ethics , NEST-ethics , virtue engineering
The objective of this dissertation is to improve the quality of our ethical discussions on moral enhancement technologies. This is a worthwhile goal, as our normative perceptions and judgments about these technologies will ultimately shape their development, and subsequently, the eventual way in which they are used and regulated in our societies. My dissertation is therefore purposed with answering the following question: How have we typically engaged in ethical discussions about moral enhancement technologies, and how can we improve the quality of these discussions? In my second chapter, I explore how the current state of our ethical discussions maps on to the typical patterns found in the ethics of new and emerging science and technology (NEST-Ethics), and question whether this framework fails to capture any considerations that are deserving of further reflection. I conclude that while concerns about consequences have dominated our ethical debates, reflections about justice are largely absent from the literature. Further, I conclude that although NEST-Ethics readily captures bio-conservative arguments related to the good life, it fails to account for virtue ethical conceptions, which have the potential to be highly instructive in guiding our judgements and perceptions on moral enhancement technologies. In my third chapter, I focus on how justice can guide our normative theorizing about moral enhancement, concluding that principles of justice urge us to shift our perceptions about the goals of moral enhancement from interventions able to solve some of the most complex global social problems (e.g. terrorism or climate change) to something that individuals may choose to access for the purpose of self-improvement. In my fourth chapter, I explore the merits and shortcomings of using a virtue ethics framework in evaluating the ethical use of moral enhancement technologies, concluding that virtue ethics offers us a worthwhile alternative to typical consequentialists frameworks that naturally supports the framing of moral enhancement as a tool for self-improvement. These insights both improve our discussions about moral enhancements and help us to avoid repeating injustices of the past while creating a future where the development and use of these technologies does not automatically lead us to sacrifice other things of value.
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