Have we Reached Peak Moral (bio)Enhancement?

The other day I read an article ‘Procedural Moral Enhancement’ written by Schaefer and Savulescu and recently published in Neuroethics. The argument can be summarized as follows: All things being equal a procedural approach to moral deliberation can improve the quality of that deliberation and the reliability of its conclusions. Moral deliberation that is conducted in accordance with their procedural approach is ‘generally acceptable across a wide range of normative and meta-ethical theories’ (p.2) and, more than this, is said to be neutral with respect to the substantive content being addressed. Thus advocating for moral (bio)enhancement is an ethically neutral proposal when such enhancement targets the abilities or skills (intelligence, empirical competence, openness to revision, empathetic understanding, and bias avoidance) that support procedural deliberation. 

Although this procedural approach is a not uncommon Rawlsian position there is no acknowledgement of the almost equally common critiques of its ‘liberal neutrality’ rooted in feminist perspectives (see Anderson’s fantastic book which does similarly for the related Habermasian attempt to proceduralise moral debate in the public square). Whilst this is a failing of the paper, there is something more interesting at play. Whilst this essay purports to be about moral enhancement and/ or bioenhancement very little is actually said on this point. There is no mention of this, that or the other bioenhancing neurochemical, merely a note that “our proposal suggests a promising approach to moral bioenhancement … [and m]any of the capacities we identify should be susceptible to biological improvement, at least in principle” (p.11). Somewhat drily the authors subsequently state: “much more research needs to be done in this area before interventions can be seen as viable” (p.11).