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Title: Authenticity and the ethics of self-change
Author: Erler, Alexandre
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This dissertation focuses on the concept of authenticity and its implications for our projects of self-creation, particularly those involving the use of "enhancement technologies" (such as stimulant drugs, "mood brighteners", or brain stimulation). After an introduction to the concept of authenticity and the enhancement debate in the first part of the thesis, part 2 considers the main analyses of authenticity in the contemporary philosophical literature. It begins with those emphasizing self-creation, and shows that, despite their merits, such views cannot adequately deal with certain types of cases, which require a third option, “true self” accounts, emphasizing self-discovery. However, it is argued that in their existing versions, accounts of this third sort are also unsatisfactory. Part 3 of the thesis proposes a new account of the "true self" sort, intended to improve upon existing ones. Common problematic assumptions about the concept of the true self are critiqued, after which a new analysis of that concept is presented, based on seven different conditions. Two specific definitions of authenticity, respectively emphasizing self-expression and the preservation of one's true self, are provided, and its relation to various associated notions, such as integrity or sincerity, are examined. Finally, part 4 looks at the implications of the previous parts for the enhancement debate. In particular, it discusses the prospect of technologically enhancing our personality and mood dispositions. Do such interventions always threaten our authenticity, as some worry? A negative answer is provided to that question. Various potential pitfalls hinted at by the inauthenticity worry are discussed and acknowledged. It is, however, argued that such enhancements could still in principle be used in a fully authentic manner, and that they have the potential to bring about genuine improvements in our mood but also to our moral capacities and our affective rationality more generally.
Supervisor: Crisp, Roger ; Kahane, Guy ; Savulescu, Julian Sponsor: Swiss National Science Foundation
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ethics (Moral philosophy) ; Philosophy ; Practical ethics ; authenticity ; enhancement ; moral psychology ; neuroethics ; normative ethics