On Cognitive and Moral Enhancement: A Reply to Savulescu and Persson

J. Adam Carter, Emma Gordon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In a series of recent works, Julian Savulescu and Ingmar Persson insist that,
given the ease by which irreversible destruction is achievable by a morally wicked minority, (i) strictly cognitive bio-enhancement is currently too risky, while (ii) moral bioenhancement is plausibly morally mandatory (and urgently so). This paper aims to show that the proposal Savulescu & Persson advance relies on several problematic assumptions about the separability of cognitive and moral enhancement as distinct aims. Specifically, we propose that the underpinnings of Savulescu’s & Persson’s normative argument unravel once it is suitably clear how aiming to cognitively enhance an individual will in part require that one aim to bring about certain moral goods we show to be essential to cognitive flourishing; conversely, aiming to bring about moral enhancement in an individual must involve aiming to improve certain cognitive capacities we show to be essential to moral flourishing. After developing these points in some detail, and their implication for Savulescu’s & Persson’s proposal, we conclude by outlining some positive suggestions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)153–161
Issue number3
Early online date23 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • cognitive enhancement
  • moral enhancement
  • epistemic value
  • epistemic aims


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