Abstract: Whether parents should be legally permitted to enhance the endowments of their children is a question for political philosophy insofar as it concerns which procreative measures the state may legitimately permit or prohibit citizens to take by means of law. This paper argues that even if enhancement does not harm the child or undermine her future autonomy, there are liberal reasons not to expand the scope of influence current citizens hold over future citizens, and that this gives grounds for prohibition. One particular point of concern is that in choosing the traits to be enhanced, parents (or others) must inevitably select traits by the lights of a specific conception of the good. This may give future citizens a ground of complaint that they have been unduly interfered with by being shaped by someone else’s conception of the good. I conclude, however, that if we can establish an overlapping consensus between reasonable conceptions of the good such that the converging conception will include the future citizens’ conceptions (if reasonable), then enhancement of traits conducive to the converging conception might not be at odds with the concerns of political liberalism.
Dr Lene Bomann-Larsen’s research interests lie at the intersection between moral and political theory. They include ethics of war, neuroethics, philosophy of law and public justification. Her current project focuses on challenges from the empirical sciences to our conceptions of freedom and moral responsibility, and discusses amongst other things whether these challenges call for revision of our responsibility-sensitive practices, such as punishment.
Lene Bomann-Larsen is a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of philosophy, classics, history of art and ideas at the University of Oslo, where she is also affiliated with the Centre for the study of mind in nature (CSMN). Currently she is an academic visitor at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, Oxford. She has a PhD in philosophy from the University of Oslo, and an MA and BA in philosophy and history of religion, also from the University of Oslo.