Welcome to the Nexus of Ethics, Psychology, Morality, Philosophy and Health Care

Welcome to the nexus of ethics, psychology, morality, technology, health care, and philosophy

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Are You Morally Modified?: The Moral Effects of Widely Used Pharmaceuticals

Neil Levy, Thomas Douglas, Guy Kahane, Sylvia Terbeck, Philip J. Cowen, Miles
Hewstone, and Julian Savulescu
Philos Psychiatr Psychol. 2014 June 1; 21(2): 111–125.


A number of concerns have been raised about the possible future use of pharmaceuticals designed
to enhance cognitive, affective, and motivational processes, particularly where the aim is to
produce morally better decisions or behavior. In this article, we draw attention to what is arguably
a more worrying possibility: that pharmaceuticals currently in widespread therapeutic use are
already having unintended effects on these processes, and thus on moral decision making and
morally significant behavior. We review current evidence on the moral effects of three widely
used drugs or drug types: (i) propranolol, (ii) selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and (iii)
drugs that effect oxytocin physiology. This evidence suggests that the alterations to moral decision
making and behavior caused by these agents may have important and difficult-to-evaluate
consequences, at least at the population level. We argue that the moral effects of these and other
widely used pharmaceuticals warrant further empirical research and ethical analysis.

The paper is here.