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Saturday, July 27, 2019

An Obligation to Enhance?

Anton Vedder
Topoi 2019; 38 (1) pp. 49-52. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3407867

Abstract

This article discusses some rather formal characteristics of possible obligations to enhance. Obligations to enhance can exist in the absence of good moral reasons. If obligation and duty however are considered as synonyms, the enhancement involved must be morally desirable in some respect. Since enhancers and enhanced can, but need not coincide, advertency is appropriate regarding the question who exactly is addressed by an obligation or a duty to enhance: the person on whom the enhancing treatment is performed, or the controller or the operator of the enhancement. Especially, the position of the operator is easily overlooked. The exact functionality of the specific enhancement, is all-important, not only for the acceptability of a specific form of enhancement, but also for its chances of success for becoming a duty or morally obligatory. Finally and most importantly, however, since obligations can exist without good moral reasons, there can be obligations to enhance that are not morally right, let alone desirable.

From the Conclusion:

Obligations to enhance can exist in the presence and in the absence of good moral reasons for them. Obligations are based on preceding promises, agreements or regulatory arrangements; they do not necessarily coincide with moral duties. The existence of such obligations therefore need not be morally desirable. If obligation and duty are considered as synonyms, the enhancement involved must be morally desirable in some respect. Since enhancers and enhanced can, but need not coincide, advertency is appropriate regarding the question who exactly is addressed by an obligation or a duty to enhance: the person on whom the enhancing treatment is performed, or the controller or the operator of the enhancement? Especially, the position of the operator is easily overlooked. Finally, the exact functionality of the specific enhancement, is all-important, not only for the acceptability of a specific form of enhancement, but also for its chances of success for becoming a duty or morally obligatory. 

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