Reasons reflection and repugnance

Doug McConnell, Jeanette Kennett

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Moral conservative Leon Kass claims that repugnance is the emotional expression of deep wisdom, so intuitions generated by repugnance should guide our adoption of enhancement technologies. Contra Kass, the authors argue that plausible accounts of rational and wise action integrate intuition and reflection. The wise only rely on intuitions over reflective thought when those intuitions have been developed through reflection, training, and experience and are subject to reflective oversight. Therefore the normative authority of intuitions is parasitic on long-term reflective training. More central to wisdom are the policies of epistemic humility, open-mindedness and a willingness to justify one’s actions. These policies allow the wise agent to train both their affective responses and their reflective thinking to track their reasons more robustly. Repugnance may alert us to the need for caution but it does not have the normative authority to end the conversation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe ethics of human enhancement
Subtitle of host publicationunderstanding the debate
EditorsSteve Clarke, Julian Savulescu, C.A.J. Coady, Alberto Giubilini, Sagar Sanyal
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages17
ISBN (Print)9780198754855
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • repugnance
  • enhancement
  • moral conservative
  • wisdom
  • intuition
  • reflection
  • epistemic humility
  • justification


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