Against Paternalistic Views on Neuroenhancement: A Libertarian Evolutionary Account

Gilberto Corbellini, Elisabetta Sirgiovanni


The term enhancement has come to represent a very precise form of improving individual skills. By means of pharmaceutics, surgery, and reproductive technology, all originally intended for clinical use, healthy individuals may improve their cognitive and emotional capacities for many reasons, such as to gain a competitive edge. In todays society, cognitive performance and mood assume a more relevant role than physical ability if one aspires to emerge above the average. In this paper, we present and discuss common views on neuroenhancement, a term often used to describe the use of artificial means that interfere with brain function to improve cognitive skills. Most philosophical arguments and beliefs on the topic are based on some inappropriate distinctions and definitions which favour unfruitful alarmist attitudes and may obscure the complexity of the issue. In particular, we point out that both radical prohibitionist and libertarian approaches are affected by paternalistic ideas which we refute.
We also show that even though enhancement nowadays is occurring at an impressive rate, we cannot infer that it is a present-day phenomenon, because enhancement is a human disposition, shared between most species and has always existed. We argue against moralistic views on neuroenhancement and defend a reasoned libertarian perspective. We believe that case-by-case evolutionary-medical heuristics is the best approach to help individuals in their autonomous choices.

Key words: Enhancement - Paternalistic

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