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On the Permissibility of Creating Enhanced People

Published by Admin in Philosophy & Religion

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Ingmar Persson, Professor of Practical Philosophy, University of Gothenburg; Research Fellow, Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, University of OxfordAbstract: In Unfit for the Future: The Need for Moral Enhancement (OUP, forthcoming 2012) Julian Savulescu and I argue that in order to solve the greatest moral problems of the present time, like anthropogenic climate and environmental deterioration and global inequality, it is necessary to morally enhance human beings, not only by traditional means but also, if possible, by biomedical means. Some, like John Harris, have replied that moral enhancement by biomedical means would undercut our freedom and, so, would not really increase our moral value. I believe that this objection is mistaken, that these means would undercut neither our freedom nor our rationality. However, what I shall mainly discuss in my presentation is a reply which grants that this is so, that genuine moral enhancement could be produced by biomedical means. What I shall discuss is Nicholas Agar's argument in Humanity's End (MIT, 2010) to the effect that it is morally permissible for human beings to prevent the creation of morally enhanced people because this could harm the interests of the unenhanced. I argue that this argument fails because it overlooks the distinction between morally permissible and impermissible harm. The harm that the enhanced would cause the unenhanced would be permissible harm, and it is not permissible to prevent such harm.

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