Bioethics Blogs

The moral bioenhancement of psychopaths

Guest Post: Elvio Baccarini and Luca Malatesti

Paper: The Moral Bioenhancement of Psychopaths

We argue that the prescription of mandatory moral bioenhancement (from now on MB) of psychopaths is justified because it satisfies the requirement of public reason as elaborated in political philosophy. This is the requirement that a moral or political prescription should be justifiable to all those persons over whom the prescription purports to have authority.

We maintain that, in this case, a notion of open justification is appropriate to state the requirement of public reason. An open justification of a prescription addressed to an agent is a reasoning grounded on premises that consider the system of reasons (such as beliefs, preferences, etc.) of that agent. Thus, it could be said that this type of justification has an internal dimension, given that it considers reasons that are endorsed by the agent. However, an open justification has also an external dimension. This type of justification does not require that the agent is aware or accepts all its inferential steps. It requires, instead, that she would be aware or accept them by reasoning correctly from her system of reasons. Furthermore, we argue that the mandatory MB is openly justified to psychopaths.

We are aware of the controversies about the MB of psychopaths that stem from empirical and theoretical issues concerning the robustness of the construct of psychopathy and the validity of different diagnostic measure, the specific nature of their differences with non-psychopathic agents and the availability of safe and reliable biomedical treatments.  We think, however, that it is meaningful investigating the moral significance of the application of present or proximate future scientific research on the enhancement of individuals with antisocial conditions.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.