How to Think About Enhancement: A Welfarist Approach
This thesis sets out to answer two questions: What are the implications of the welfarist account of enhancement, and on what basis should enhancements be developed and distributed? The welfarist account defines enhancement as any change in the biology or psychology of a person which increases their chances of leading a good life in the relevant set of circumstances. Herein, I systematically break down the account, interrogating each component of its definition, and explore its scope and limitations. My goal is to show how, despite some of its counter-intuitive implications, the account can help us think more clearly about enhancement, allowing opponents and proponents of enhancement to articulate their arguments in ways that offer a constructive way forward in debating this topic. It does so by avoiding what I will argue are contestable terminologies, boundaries and controversial values, instead re-orienting our attention to what is of central value to questions of enhancement: how bodily and mental states tend to impact well-being. On this account, for something to be an enhancement, it must tend to improve people’s well-being. In that way, the account compels us to first be clear about what we mean by a good life and what sorts of bodily and mental changes contribute to it, before we consider an intervention to be enhancing. However, this by no means resolves all ethical concerns: some interventions could be good for users – that is, they may be enhancements – but their development or distribution may nevertheless be unjust. This relates to the second question driving this thesis, and here I argue that the welfare-maximizing approach of utilitarianism can act to adjudicate between different moral stances on the development and distribution of enhancements. Tying it all together, I propose and defend a mechanism, the Well-Being Impact Fund, that links the welfarist account with a utilitarian approach in a way that reduces the chances of emerging enhancements leading to a neglect of vital disease treatments, or an exacerbation of existing inequalities within and between societies. Altogether, I argue this thesis provides a framework for thinking about enhancement in a way that can largely overcome theoretical disagreements, and that offers actionable conclusions and strategies for responding to challenges raised by enhancement.
Advisor: King, Mike; McMillan, John
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: Bioethics Centre
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Enhancement; Well-being; Utilitarianism; Equality
Research Type: Thesis