Moral Worth, Biomedical Moral Enhancement and Communicative Punishment

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Imagine that a criminal offender were provided with a “reform pill”, which significantly weakened his desire to reoffend. After consuming the pill, he obeys the law. Is the offender’s subsequent, apparently “good” behaviour genuinely good?
Various theorists have intuited that biomedical “moral enhancement” techniques used for the purposes of reducing reoffending could somehow undermine the moral worth of the recipient’s future actions. This article draws on the communication theory of punishment in order to shed new light on a potential source of this intuition in relation to the moral bioenhancement of those who have committed serious criminal wrongs. In doing so, it will consider the contention that the ultimate source of this intuition can be attributed to the intrinsically valuable freedom to do wrong before rejecting this account. The then article proceeds to explore the implications of the communication theory of punishment for the question of whether biomedical moral enhancements would undermine the moral worth of offenders’ future law-abiding behaviour and highlights the need for the proponents of such interventions to address these issues. The arguments presented in this article have potential implications for biomedical interventions that are currently being used in the criminal justice system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)EAP1-EAP31
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Law, Information & Science
Early online date17 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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