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May 20, 2011


Brunello Stancioli

I think one of the key problems of our time is the tremendous crisis related to Human Rights (one of the major basis of Liberal Democracy). They were conceived in a very particular moment of history, and they have, as a side effect, locked the concept of "what is to be human".
It's time to rethink the ideia of what is, after all, a human being. For that, it's imperative to face the new technologies and their impact on the so called "human nature"(whatever it really means). Then, it will be possible to have new grounds for human rights, as a possible path to face new moral dilemmas.

Maria Antonietta Perna

Thank you for one more fascinating interview. I share the questions you already raised, especially those related to autonomy and to how to get those unwilling to take the 'goodness-inducing' drugs to comply without running the risk of a totalitarian world-view. Given the limited space, I'd like to raise just a couple of further points on what Savulescu said.

1. It seems that one justification for the 'morality drugs program' that attempts to avoid an understanding of this view according to which people could be somehow forced to comply with such a policy, is that people are too weak-willed to act according to what they believe it's the right thing to do, therefore the drugs would only enable them to do what they already want to do. If the drugs may only be taken by those suffering from weakness of will then, in my opinion, this would drastically reduce the number of people who would qualify for the drugs program. Consequently, one crucial rationale for adopting such a program that Savulescu puts forward, that is, the aim of solving or almost solving, the enormous problems humanity confronts today, looks rather weakened as a result. It's hard to believe that our survival today and our failure in solving the great problems of world hunger or racism is mainly due to weakness of will.

2. In a more practical vein, given that those presumably taking the 'goodness drugs' are weak-willed people, wouldn't such drugs further exacerbate their weakness by making them dependent on them? Wouldn't we run the risk of turning the weak-willed amongst us into a mass of good-hearted, tolerant, generous, etc., mass of drug addicts?

Kelsey Elder

I've often had the feeling that we humans are not very well adapted to our (urban) environment. Thanks to Julian Savulescu for articulating that.

It takes awareness, commitment, and discipline to morally improve oneself, and even with all three, there is a limited range to what we are capable of changing. Impulse control, how we spontaneously react to being wronged, irritated, etc. Although it seems that something like causal determinism is true, there is room for free will in this kind of character improvement, given the motivation.

Antidepressants can certainly facilitate that process. Thinking of Prozac as a moral enhancer...the idea fits my experience quite well.

Thanks for a thoughtful discussion.


This would make a fascinating science fiction story...or an atrocious one!

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