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Why Less Praise for Enhanced Performance?

Moving Beyond Responsibility-Shifting, Authenticity, and Cheating Toward a Nature-of-Activities Approach

FILIPPO SANTONI DE SIO, NADIRA S. FABER, JULIAN SAVULESCU, AND NICOLE A VINCENT

Introduction

Good performance often attracts praise. But suppose that Llana improves her performance on a Latin language test by using modafinil or transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to enhance her ability to memorize new words (e.g., see Gilleena et al.1; or Meinzer et al.2). Would Llana be due less praise than if she had obtained the same grade but without cognitive enhancement?

Those who endorse the less praise intuition (LPI)—for instance, lay people in our own and in others’ studies—might appeal to responsibility-shifting, authenticity, or cheating arguments to support the intuition that less praise is indeed due to people like Llana. However, we draw on examples from performance enhancement in sport and professional contexts to demonstrate that these arguments leave something out, and then we develop a better justification for LPI. On our account, praise is diminished not because it is shifted to someone else, because it is due to an inauthentic self, or because an otherwise good performance is blemished by cheating, but because enhanced actors engage in very different activities; because of this, we need different yardsticks to assess their performance.

This chapter offers a novel perspective on the issue of praise in the presence of cognitive enhancement,1 but it also presents an outline of a methodology for ethical reflection on performance enhancement more generally.u

 
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