Human enhancement: Conceptual clarity and moral significance

Chris Gyngell, Michael J Selgelid

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (Book)Researchpeer-review


Debates about human enhancement and capacity-altering biotechnologies are often impeded by a lack of clarity about the concept of enhancement. This chapter identifies seven different accounts of enhancement that have been described in the literature. It argues that there is no need to abandon the term ‘enhancement’, as has been suggested by some theorists. One way in which the term is useful is by drawing our attention to morally relevant spectra. For example, if we understand interventions to be enhancements to the degree that they involve improvement over a (relatively) high level of functioning, and interventions to be treatments to the degree that they involve improvement over a (relatively) low level of functioning, then the concept of enhancement will be morally relevant. This is because interventions at the treatment end of the spectrum will tend to be equality-promoting, and those at the enhancement end will tend to increase inequality.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Ethics of Human Enhancement
Subtitle of host publicationUnderstanding the Debate
EditorsSteve Clarke, Julian Savulescu, C. A. J. Coady, Alberto Giubilini, Sagar Sanyal
Place of PublicationOxford UK
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9780198754855
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • human enhancement
  • functioning
  • equality
  • morally relevant spectra
  • capacity-altering biotechnologies

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