An Aristotelian Approach to Cognitive Enhancement

Radoilska, Lubomira V. (2010) An Aristotelian Approach to Cognitive Enhancement. Journal of Value Inquiry, 44 (3). pp. 365-375. ISSN 0022-5363. E-ISSN 1573-0492. (doi: (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)
Official URL


There is an underlying tension between the notion of cognitive enhancement and the idea that knowledge presupposes creditable agency. By drawing on an Aristotelian theory of action, it becomes clear that cognition is routinely considered as a human activity susceptible to kinds of appraisal, to which mere physiological processes, such as digestion, are not. In essence, we appreciate knowledge as a distinctive achievement. It includes good epistemic outcomes that are also epistemically creditable, as opposed to others that, although attributable to an epistemic agent, are, nevertheless, epistemically null. In contrast, the term “cognitive enhancement” is related primarily to physiological and, more specifically, neuronal processes. It covers various medical techniques, including pharmacological interventions, brain stimulation and genetic manipulation that can modify neuronal functions and, possibly, convey certain epistemic benefits.1 Examples are prolonged attention span and memory retention. As a result, the issue of cognitive enhancement is typically addressed within its dedicated field of neuroethics.2 Considerations of distributive justice, such as fair access to enhancing procedures often come to the forefront of the discussion.3 Further concerns pertain to prospective effects on personal identity and individual freedoms.4 Although such concerns will not be directly addressed in the following discussion, their relevance to the existing debate will be indicated in conclusion. The following analysis builds upon an Aristotelian theory of action as applied to epistemic pursuits.5 In this respect, it shares some background assumptions with virtue epistemology, such as a general understanding of knowledge as an apt, creditable performance.6 This, however, does not confine the conclusions to this particular theory of knowledge. They are consistent with any theory, which distinguishes between the successful exercise of someone’s intellectual abilities and sheer epistemic luck.

Item Type: Article
Additional information: number of additional authors: 0;
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > B Philosophy (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BJ Ethics
Divisions: Faculties > Humanities > School of European Culture and Languages > Philosophy
Depositing User: Lubomira Radoilska
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2014 00:05 UTC
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2016 10:02 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
  • Depositors only (login required):