Is human enhancement intrinsically bad?

Karolina Kudlek*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
108 Downloads (Pure)


A pertinent concern in the human enhancement debate is that human enhancement technologies (HET) are intrinsically bad and, hence, morally impermissible. This article evaluates the related claims about the intrinsic badness of HET by looking into philosophical theories of intrinsic value. It investigates how well-established conceptions of intrinsic value map onto typical bioconservative arguments about HET's intrinsic badness. Three predominant variants of these arguments are explored and found wanting: (i) HET are intrinsically bad owing to their unnaturalness; (ii) the pursuit of HET reveals intrinsically bad character (“the desire for mastery”); and (iii) HET will necessarily undermine intrinsically valuable things (e.g., human dignity). My analysis shows that the debate on intrinsic value places serious constraints on claims about the intrinsic badness of HET. More specifically, the analysis shows that bioconservative arguments are, for the most part, inconsistent, misconceived, and overly speculative. Enhancement interventions cannot be bearers of intrinsic value on any of its plausible understandings, and, even if we could grant such a possibility, there are no compelling reasons to presume that the intrinsic value of HET would be necessarily negative. As a result, claims regarding their moral impermissibility are unwarranted.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-279
Number of pages11
JournalMedicine, health care and philosophy
Issue number2
Early online date18 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2021


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Human enhancement
  • Intrinsic badness
  • Intrinsic value
  • Moral permissibility
  • Bioconservatives


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