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Enhancing Future Children: How It Might Happen, Whether It Should

  • Susan B. LevinEmail author
Conference paper

Abstract

If Savulescu and Kahane’s (Bioethics 23(5): 274–90, 2009) Principle of Procreative Beneficence were implemented regarding cognitive enhancement, the result would be highly impoverishing for future children. For, apart from being inadequate to rationality itself, advocates’ accounts of cognitive enhancement sever reason from the input to judgments and decision-making that other faculties provide. When handling desire, supporters of cognitive enhancement frame conflicts between reason and the nonrational in terms of self-governance or akratic failure, depending on which one triumphs. Further, so-called negative emotions are treated as simply deleterious and hostile to the rational. Alliances of the nonrational with reason toward shared ends are hence unthinkable. Having critiqued advocates’ views directly, I amplify my assessment through engagement with Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics. Per Savulescu and Kahane (Bioethics 23(5), 289, 2009), to know how to direct enhancement endeavors, “we need to form reasonable opinions on difficult questions about the nature of well-being and the good life.” Thus far, however, enhancement supporters have been largely silent on this crucial matter. Because the debate over enhancement is ultimately over what values our views of flourishing embody, it should be recast so that this crux is squarely at the fore. What is more, for our own and our children’s sakes, as we embark on this reframing, we would do well to bear in mind Aristotle’s insights about the nonrational in relation to reason and his unwavering focus on the human “that for the sake of which” (hou heneka) all that we do is, perforce, undertaken.

Keyword

Aristotle Cognitive enhancement Principle of procreative beneficence Reason Nonrational 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I wish to thank audience members at the conference for their feedback on the presentation given there. In addition, I am grateful to Fabrice Jotterand, Jill de Villiers, Julie Ward, and Katie Wing for valuable input.

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophySmith CollegeNorthamptonUSA

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