Posted by & filed under Aggression, Altruism Prosocial Behaviour, Clinical Neuropsychology, Clinical Psychology, Moral Development, Motivation-Emotion, Neuroscience.

Description: Hypothetically, if there were a way to change the brains or the brain chemistry of criminals in order to ‘make them more moral’ would that be a good idea? Should we try it out? Maybe do not answer Yes or No to this question but, rather, think about what else you would like to know, what other questions you would like to have addressed before answering the initial question. Once you have some of those questions in mind have a look at the article linked below that describes a paper in which researcher considered these questions.

Source: ‘Moral enhancement’ technologies are neither feasible nor wise, Science News, ScienceDaily.

Date: May 16, 2017

Photo Credit:  NYU Press, Nicole Rafter

Links:  Article Link —

Had you heard of any of the drugs or related treatments noted in the article? How would you answer the initial question now? The authors of the review article described in the linked article definitely say NO. Their most pointed comment is to refer to all the treatments listed a “blunt instruments.” Much in the way that ECT and lobotomies were used FAR beyond their even minimally defensible applications the authors are arguing that there is not nearly enough focus or consistency in the treatment data to support their being set to the purpose of increasing the morality of criminals and that is without even beginning to talk about the complexity of the concepts associated with morality itself. So maybe the answer for now, and likely for a long while, is or should be, NO.

Questions for Discussion:

  1. Would it be a good thing if we could tweak up the level of morality of criminals prior to their release from prison or their return to society at any point?
  2. What technique and treatments have been offered as possible ‘morality boosters’?
  3. What reservations do you and/or the article authors have about the currently available list of ‘morality booster’ treatment possibilities? Why?

References (Read Further):

Veljko Dubljević, Eric Racine. Moral Enhancement Meets Normative and Empirical Reality: Assessing the Practical Feasibility of Moral Enhancement Neurotechnologies. Bioethics, 2017; 31 (5): 338

Persson, I., & Savulescu, J. (2013). Getting moral enhancement right: the desirability of moral bioenhancement. Bioethics, 27(3), 124-131.

Savulescu, J., & Persson, I. (2012). Moral enhancement, freedom and the god machine. The Monist, 95(3), 399.

Harris, J. (2011). Moral enhancement and freedom. Bioethics, 25(2), 102-111.

Douglas, T. (2013). Moral enhancement via direct emotion modulation: a reply to John Harris. Bioethics, 27(3), 160-168.

Rafter, N. (2008). The criminal brain: Understanding biological theories of crime. NYU Press.