Conference: Biomedical Moral Enhancements in the Criminal Justice System: Ethical and Legal Aspects

9th December 2015, University of Salzburg (Austria)

Deadline for abstractsFriday 30 October 2015. 

Invited speakers:

Thomas Douglas (Oxford)

Reinhard Merkel (Hamburg)

Christoph Bublitz (Hamburg)

Generous funding by the Society for Applied Philosophy and the University of Salzburg allows us to cover travel and accommodation expenses for one additional speaker. Abstracts by researchers in the early stages of their career are particularly welcome.

The debate on biomedical means to enhance human capacities has recently shifted from bodily and cognitive enhancements to a more specific aim of enhancement measures, namely to enhance humans morally, for instance through augmented empathy or reduced aggression. For such measures Tom Douglas has coined the term ‘moral enhancement’.

Both the criminal justice and the psychiatric system seem to be straightforward areas of application for moral enhancers. Traditionally, both aim at making people morally better. However, the means used to making inmates better were very different. Most importantly, for the most part at least, they did not exert direct effects on the inmates’ brains and did not aim at altering the persons’ ‘moral integrity’. The question arises whether new directly brain-altering means of biomedical moral enhancement should be used on people incarcerated in prisons and psychiatries. Their use might be more effective in preventing recidivism. It might also help to reduce prison population. However, the incarcerated are among society’s most vulnerable groups. The standards for justification are therefore particularly high.

Nevertheless, it has recently been argued that the harms of incarceration are very similar to certain non-consensual biomedical interventions aiming at making people morally better. Douglas even argued that the two are sufficiently similar to be treated alike—since incarceration is a widely accepted practice, non-consensual biomedical interventions on inmates should also be accepted.

The workshop engages with this argument and with other ethical and legal aspects of the use of biomedical enhancements in the criminal justice system, especially concerning the boundaries for the use of such measures. We aim at deepening the discussion by bringing Tom Douglas together with scholars from criminal law, legal philosophy, and ethics.

We invite submissions of abstracts of up to 500 words.

DeadlineFriday 30 October 2015. Please send abstracts to Norbert.paulo[at]


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