On Ritalin, Adderall, and Cognitive Enhancement: Metaethics, Bioethics, Neuroethics

Nythamar de Oliveira



In this article, I argue that the neuroethics of cognitive enhancement can help us bridge the explanatory gap between metaethics and bioethics (qua normative, applied ethics) and throw light on the classic gap between moral beliefs and neural correlates of brain processes. Insofar as it unveils the irreducibility of first-person propositional attitudes (esp. moral beliefs and judgments), neuroethics allows for justifying cosmetic, pharmacological interventions so as to bring about human enhancement, regardless of descriptive accounts of its neural correlates and independently of the cognitivist, noncognitivist or hybrid inputs of metanormative theories. Precisely because it cannot provide the ultimate grounds for any conservative, libertarian or liberal attitudes towards cognitive enhancement, neuroethics is better conceived in terms of a Rawlsian-like wide reflective equilibrium, procedurally and without any specific substantive commitment to any moral or comprehensive doctrine of sorts.


Bioethics; Cognitive enhancement; Metaethics; Neuroethics; Selfhood

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