A pill to enhance moral behaviour? | The Guardian

It is good that the title of this article refers to “moral behaviour” rather than the rather stronger and more mysterious morality, because it goes on:

But would pharmacologically-induced altruism, for example, amount to genuine moral behaviour? Guy Kahane, deputy director of the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics and a Wellcome Trust biomedical ethics award winner, said: “We can change people’s emotional responses but quite whether that improves their moral behaviour is not something science can answer.”

I find this quotation from an expert a little more worrying:

”Science has ignored the question of moral improvement so far, but it is now becoming a big debate,” he said. “There is already a growing body of research you can describe in these terms. Studies show that certain drugs affect the ways people respond to moral dilemmas by increasing their sense of empathy, group affiliation and by reducing aggression.”

Giving someone (or, since our society’s mental health ethics are screwed up, forcing them to have) control over their emotions when they wouldn’t otherwise have this is one thing, and if they’ve got chemicals flooding their brains that are impeding them then helping them out with that is good. It seems to me to be important to claim that we’re doing this and not that we’re doing anything to do with morality though because I reckon that by definition morality can’t be impeded by forces as powerful as drugs if it is to remain morality. I’d draw parallels with moral responsibility being thrown out the window in situations of duress.

Increasingly turning away from the ever-tempting moral relativism. Then we might characterise this sort of stuff as cutting someone off from (okay let’s go Kantian) the moral law that as a rational being they have access to. I must stress that I’m using words here that I do not have a clear meaning behind in my mind.