Journal of Cognitive Enhancement

, Volume 2, Issue 4, pp 348–355 | Cite as

Enhanced Cognition, Enhanced Self? On Neuroenhancement and Subjectivity

  • Agata FerrettiEmail author
  • Marcello Ienca
Original Article


This paper investigates the implications of neuroenhancement from a first-person and phenomenological perspective that focuses on the role of the human brain and body as mediators of subjective experience. This analysis is conducted both on historical-philosophical and empirical grounds. At the historical-philosophical level, this article examines the frameworks of phenomenology and embodied cognition to explore how these theoretical approaches link the materiality of the body (including that of exogenous integrations such as implants) to the way in which subjects perceive themselves and experience reality. At the empirical level, the article attempts to corroborate this philosophical stance by critically assessing the emerging body of scientific evidence on the phenomenological effects of neuroenhancement technologies. Based on a narrative mini-review, this paper will argue that the quantitative enhancement of a cognitive or other physical function of the human body does not necessarily result in an equal qualitative improvement of a subject’s phenomenological experience. Indeed, a physical alteration designed to quantitatively augment a specific human capability may have ambivalent effects on how the subject experientially perceives that modification. This indeterminacy between the quantitative and qualitative dimension of neuroenhancement seems to challenge the thesis that any objectively measured improvement of a cognitive or other physical function of the human body directly corresponds to better personal and psychological well-being.


Enhancement Neuroenhancement Subjectivity First person Embodied cognition Phenomenology Deep brain stimulation 



This study was funded by Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Förderung der Wissenschaftlichen Forschung (407540_167223) and Schweizerische Akademie der Medizinischen Wissenschaften (KZS 20/17).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Health Ethics and Policy Lab, Department of Health Sciences and TechnologySwiss Federal Institute of Technology - ETH ZurichZürichSwitzerland

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