Buddhism and Neuroethics: The Ethics of Pharmaceutical Cognitive Enhancement
Developing World Bioethics 2009 August; 9(2): 47-56
This paper integrates some Buddhist moral values, attitudes and self-cultivation techniques into a discussion of the ethics of cognitive enhancement technologies - in particular, pharmaceutical enhancements. Many Buddhists utilize meditation techniques that are both integral to their practice and are believed to enhance the cognitive and affective states of experienced practitioners. Additionally, Mah?y?na Buddhism's teaching on skillful means permits a liberal use of methods or techniques in Buddhist practice that yield insight into our selfnature or aid in alleviating or eliminating duhkha (i.e. dissatisfaction). These features of many, if not most, Buddhist traditions will inform much of the Buddhist assessment of pharmaceutical enhancements offered in this paper. Some Buddhist concerns about the effects and context of the use of pharmaceutical enhancements will be canvassed in the discussion. Also, the author will consider Buddhist views of the possible harms that may befall human and nonhuman research subjects, interference with a recipient's karma, the artificiality of pharmaceutical enhancements, and the possible motivations or intentions of healthy individuals pursuing pharmacological enhancement. Perhaps surprisingly, none of these concerns will adequately ground a reflective Buddhist opposition to the further development and continued use of pharmaceutical enhancements, either in principle or in practice. The author argues that Buddhists, from at least certain traditions - particularly Mah?y?na Buddhist traditions - should advocate the development or use of pharmaceutical enhancements if a consequence of their use is further insight into our self-nature or the reduction or alleviation of duhkha.
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