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Truly Human EnhancementA Philosophical Defense of Limits$
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Nicholas Agar

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262026635

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262026635.001.0001

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Why Radical Cognitive Enhancement Will (Probably) Enhance Moral Status

Why Radical Cognitive Enhancement Will (Probably) Enhance Moral Status

(p.157) 8 Why Radical Cognitive Enhancement Will (Probably) Enhance Moral Status
Truly Human Enhancement

Nicholas Agar

The MIT Press

This chapter proposes that some degree of biotechnological or cybernetic enhancement could enhance the moral status of human persons. It is likely to lead to post-persons, beings with moral status higher than persons. On the way to this conclusion, I respond to a challenge to the possibility of post-persons from Allen Buchanan. He argues that statuses higher than personhood are likely to be impossible. We certainly have difficulty imagining them. This chapter offers an explanation of the apparent inexpressibility of post-personhood. Moral statuses higher than personhood can be viewed as analogous to objects including space-time singularities whose existence we can infer without our being able to directly observe them. The apparent inexpressibility of post-personhood says something about us, and not about the possible existence of a moral status superior to personhood. It is an implication of accounts that make a cognitive capacity, or collection of such capacities, constitutive of moral status, that those who do not satisfy the criteria for a given status find these criteria impossible to adequately describe. I offer an inductive argument that compensates for our limited powers of imagination. The possible existence of post-persons can be inferred from our observations about the different moral statuses of persons, sentient nonpersons, and non-sentient things.

Keywords:   Moral status, Moral status enhancement, Personhood, Mere person, Post-person, Moral inviolability

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