Morality and Freedom: a critical investigation of the relatedness of morality and freedom, and its significance for the moral justification of the practice of biomedical moral enhancement

Mantovani, Beatrice S. A. (2018-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH SUMMARY: Recent scientific developments in areas such as biotechnology and biomedicine have led to a revolution in the field of biomedical enhancement and to the emergence of innovative and revolutionary possibilities of human enhancement. Biomedical scientists have been able to discover ways in which human beings could not only be enhanced in terms of their physiological make up, but also possibly with regard to their moral convictions and inclinations. Several advocates of this new possibility, referred to as biomedical moral enhancement, have maintained that biomedical moral enhancement could alter the current generally irresponsible and self-centred practices of people throughout the world today, create a sustainable future for forthcoming generations and the planet and make people morally better. Other scholars, on the other hand, have pointed out that the possibility of biomedical moral enhancement raises a number of important philosophical questions that require us to explore, understand and critically evaluate the practice as well as its possible implications. This study focuses on two of those important questions raised by the possibility of interventions of biomedical moral enhancement. The first question has to do with the nature and content of the norms in terms of which moral enhancements could be measured. The second, even more pertinent, issue is the question as to whether morality or a true moral disposition can be reconciled with the social determination that seems to inevitably follow from moral enhancement projects. In other words, does the fact of being morally better come at the cost of the exercise of individuals’ freedom? Will people be morally better just because they have been “programmed” or “determined” to be so? And if this is the case, how can a true moral disposition, which seemingly inevitably involves the agent’s freedom to choose the less moral choice or behaviour, be reconciled with the social determinism that seems to inevitably follow from interventions of moral enhancement? In the attempt to find an answer to the question raised above, this study investigates whether interventions of biomedical moral enhancement would curtail individuals’ freedom and, if this is the case, whether this might affect individuals’ ability to behave morally. This study is going to argue that a specific type of interventions of biomedical moral enhancement, namely behaviouroriented interventions might pose a threat to individuals’ freedom to fall and to conclude that, although interventions of biomedical moral enhancement might make people behave so as to bring about the morally desirable outcome, they will fail to make people morally better and also make the very notion of morality meaningless and worthless. This is because the curtailment of the freedom to fall, i.e. to behave immorally, also involves the curtailment of the freedom to stand, i.e. to behave morally.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Onlangse wetenskaplike ontwikkeling op die gebied van biotegnologie en biogeneeskunde het gelei tot ʼn revolusie in die veld van biomediese verbetering, en tot die verskyning van vernuwende en revolusionêre moontlikhede vir menslike verbetering. Biomediese wetenskaplikes kon maniere ontdek waarop mense nie slegs ten opsigte van hulle fisiologiese samestelling verbeter kon word nie, maar ook ten opsigte van hulle morele oortuigings en neigings. Verskeie voorstanders van hierdie nuwe moontlikheid, waarna verwys word as biomediese morele verbetering, redeneer dat biomediese morele verbetering die huidige algemeen onverantwoordelike en selfgesentreerde praktyke van mense regoor die wêreld kan wysig, ʼn volhoubare toekoms vir toekomstige generasies en die planeet kan skep, en mense moreel verbeter. Ander geleerdes, daarenteen, het uitgewys dat die moontlikheid van biomediese morele verbetering ʼn aantal belangrike filosofiese vrae opper, wat van ons vereis om die praktyk, asook die moontlike implikasies daarvan, te verken, te begryp en krities te evalueer. Hierdie studie fokus op twee van daardie belangrike vrae wat deur die moontlikheid van ingrypings van biomediese morele verbetering geopper word. Die eerste vraag handel oor die aard en inhoud van die norme ingevolge waarvan morele verbetering gemeet kan word. Die tweede, selfs meer relevante kwessie, is die vraag oor of moraliteit, of ʼn ware morele ingesteldheid, versoen kan word met die sosiale beskikking wat oënskynlik onvermydelik uit projekte van morele verbetering volg. Met ander woorde, kom die feit van moreel beter wees ten koste van die uitoefening van individue se vryheid? Sal mense moreel beter wees net omdat hulle geprogrammeer of beskik is om so te wees? En as dit die geval is, hoe kan ʼn ware morele ingesteldheid, wat op die oog af die agent se vryheid behels om die minder morele opsie of gedrag te kies, versoen word met die sosiale determinisme, wat skynbaar onvermydelik uit ingrypings van morele verbeterings volg? In ʼn poging om ʼn antwoord op bogenoemde vraag te vind, ondersoek hierdie studie of ingrypings van biomediese morele verbetering individue se vryheid inperk en, as dit die geval is, of dit individue se vermoë om moreel op te tree, beïnvloed. Hierdie studie sal aanvoer dat ʼn spesifieke soort ingryping van biomediese morele verbetering, naamlik gedragsgeoriënteerde ingrypings, ʼn bedreiging vir individue se vryheid om te val inhou en tot die slotsom kom dat, hoewel ingrypings van biomediese morele verbetering mense laat optree op ʼn wyse wat die moreel-gewenste uitkoms daarstel, dit nie daarin slaag om mense moreel beter te maak nie, en die hele konsep van moraliteit betekenisloos en waardeloos maak. Dit is omdat die inperking van die vryheid om te val, d.w.s. om immoreel op te tree, ook die inperking van die vryheid om te staan, d.w.s. om moreel op te tree, behels.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/103281
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