The Irrelevance of a Moral Right to Privacy for Biomedical Moral Enhancement

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In opposition to what we claimed in Unfit for the Future, Jan Christoph Bublitz argues that people have a right to privacy which stands in the way of the use of biomedical moral enhancement. We reply that it is not clear that he has understood what we mean by a right to privacy, that we were speaking of moral and not a legal right to privacy, and that we take a moral right to privacy to be a right against others that they don’t acquire (and sustain) certain (true) beliefs about us. This is compatible with the fact that the means they use to acquire beliefs about us, or the use to which they put these beliefs could violate our moral (or legal) rights. Once these points are taken on board, it becomes clear that the existence of a right to privacy is irrelevant to biomedical moral enhancement which consists in changing us rather than simply acquiring information about us.

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... In Unfit for the Future [1], we argued that there is no moral right to privacy. This argument was criticized by Jan Christoph Bublitz in this journal [2] and defended by us in the same issue [3]. More recently, our argument has met opposition from Björn Lundgren [4]. ...
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This paper clarifies and defends against criticism our argument in Unfit for the Future that there is no moral right to privacy. A right to privacy is conceived as a right that others do not acquire information about us that we reserve for ourselves and selected others. Information acquisition itself is distinguished from the means used to acquire it and the uses to which the information is put. To acquire information is not an action; it is to be caused to be in an internal state. By contrast, means of acquisition and uses of information are actions that can be voluntarily controlled. We can therefore have rights against others that they stay away from certain means and uses but not from information acquisition in itself. An omniscient, omnipotent and omnibeneficient being is not thought to violate a right to privacy because its means and uses of information are morally acceptable.
... The point is simply that the right to privacy is much broader than the right not be intruded upon. See Persson and Savulescu (2019). ...
Currently, humans lack the cognitive and moral capacities to prevent the widespread suffering associated with collective risks, like pandemics, climate change, or even asteroids. In Moral Enhancement and the Public Good, Parker Crutchfield argues for the controversial and initially counterintuitive claim that everyone should be administered a substance that makes us better people. Furthermore, he argues that it should be administered without our knowledge. That is, moral bioenhancement should be both compulsory and covert. Crutchfield demonstrates how our duty to future generations and our epistemic inability to promote the public good highlight the need for compulsory, covert moral bioenhancement. This not only gives us the best chance of preventing widespread suffering, compared to other interventions (or doing nothing), it also best promotes liberty, autonomy, and equality. In a final chapter, Crutchfield addresses the most salient objections to his argument.
... Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu (2008, 2010, 2011a, 2011b, 2014a, 2014b, 2015a, 2015b, 2019a, 2019b, 2019c have defended on multiple occasions the ethical necessity to enhance the moral character of humankind. The core idea behind the argument of this academic tandem is that there is an obvious mismatch between our moral psychology resulting from evolution and the moral challenges raised by the developments of our techno-scientifically advanced societies. ...
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Tackling climate change is one of the most demanding challenges of humanity in the 21 st century. Still, the efforts to mitigate the current environmental crisis do not seem enough to deal with the increased existential risks for the human and other species. Persson and Savulescu have proposed that our evolutionarily forged moral psychology is one of the impediments to facing as enormous a problem as global warming. They suggested that if we want to address properly some of the most pressing problems that cause catastrophic harm to our existence, we should enhance our moral behavior by biomedical means. The objective of this paper is, precisely, to reflect on whether a Moral Bio-Enhancement (henceforth MBE) program would be a viable option to confront the climate emergency. To meet this goal, I will propose the Ultimate Mos-tropic (hereafter UM) thought experiment, a hypothetical situation where we have already discovered the UM, an available, safe (without any del-eterious secondary effects), extremely cheap and effective pill to enhance our cognitive, affective and motivational abilities related to morality. After briefly presenting the main argument of Persson and Savulescu regarding MBE and climate change, I will point out some of the difficulties that make MBE a daunting but exciting philosophical and scientific debate. In order to overcome these complications, I will describe the UM thought experiment, which involves two scenarios of the MBE program: (a) the state-driven, compulsory and universal enterprise, and (b) the initiative of voluntary individuals. I will show that the shortcomings of MBE programs through the UM in both scenarios make Persson and Ramon Llull Journal_11.indd 277 4/5/20 13:57 278 RAMON LLULL JOURNAL OF APPLIED ETHICS 2020. ISSUE 11 PP. 277-303 Savulescu's proposal a not appealing pathway to mitigate climate change. In the final section, I will suggest that an inaccurate attribution of responsibilities underlies their proposal and that the collective inaction problem should be redirected primarily through a reinforcement of the political nature of the solutions.
Freedom of thought is one of the core international human rights, enshrined in Art. 18 of the Universal Declaration and almost all subsequent instruments. It enjoys an exceptionally strong level of protection and cannot be limited. However, it does not play a role in legal practice as its contents and contours remain vague. This chapter discusses the sparse case law and suggests crucial elements for future constructions of the right. In particular, it identifies five explananda that theories of freedom of thought need to address, examines the scope of the right as well as tensions between different conceptions of freedom of thought, and proposes an interpretation of the right with a rationalist tone and special emphasis on freedom of belief. It aslo develops a test for, and a taxonomy of, interferences and suggests narrow exceptions to the unconditional protection.
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Recently, Ingmar Persson and Julian Savulescu argued that an action that does not violate a moral right to privacy cannot violate that right if it is extended over time. Specifically, they argue that a moral right to privacy does not protect against gawking or stalking. In this reply the reverse position is defended. Specifically, it is argued that their arguments fails on according to their own definition of the right to privacy. Furthermore, it is argued and illustrated by examples that this conceptual conclusion holds for many other conceptions of the right to privacy. Moreover, it is argued that Persson and Savluescu fail to recognize the privacy-related harm extended to individuals through gawking or stalking. Lastly, the article ends by sketching how the role of privacy in public and consent relates to the given examples.
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