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Rethinking Cognitive Enhancement$
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Ruud ter Meulen, Ahmed Mohammed, and Wayne Hall

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198727392

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198727392.001.0001

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Enhancement and therapy: is it possible to draw a line?

Enhancement and therapy: is it possible to draw a line?

(p.193) Chapter 12 Enhancement and therapy: is it possible to draw a line?
Rethinking Cognitive Enhancement

Alex McKeown

Oxford University Press

Here I analyze the therapy/enhancement distinction as it relates to pharmaceutical cognitive enhancements claimed to improve capacities such as concentration and memory retention. I also consider it in relation to genetic cognitive enhancements, should they become available. I advance three arguments. Firstly, consistent with views found in pro- and anti-enhancement literature, I argue its distinction from therapy is ambiguous and logically unstable. Secondly, despite the threat this appears to pose for determining an ethical allocation of medical resources anchored by “normal health,” a simple theoretical solution exists. Thirdly, despite the simplicity of this solution, it cannot be implemented because of the conventional appeal to “normality” as the boundary of appropriate medical practice. Consequently, despite any possible widespread benefits offered by cognitive enhancements, their realization remains distant. I conclude we should limit expectations about what they can deliver until the assumptions of healthcare and medical education have undergone reorientation.

Keywords:   therapy, enhancement, normality, cognition, medicine, education, ethics, pharmaceuticals, genetics

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