The epistemology of cognitive enhancement

J. Adam Carter, Duncan Pritchard*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


A common epistemological assumption in contemporary bioethics held by both proponents and critics of nontraditional forms of cognitive enhancement is that cognitive enhancement aims at the facilitation of the accumulation of human knowledge. This article does three central things. First, drawing from recent work in epistemology, a rival account of cognitive enhancement, framed in terms of the notion of cognitive achievement rather than knowledge, is proposed. Second, we outline and respond to an axiological objection to our proposal that draws from recent work by Leon Kass (2004), Michael Sandel (2009), and John Harris (2011) to the effect that "enhanced" cognitive achievements are (by effectively removing obstacles to success) not worthy of pursuit or are otherwise "trivial". Third, we show how the cognitive achievement account of cognitive enhancement proposed here fits snugly with recent active externalist approaches (e.g., extended cognition) in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)220-242
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Medicine and Philosophy (United Kingdom)
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • bioethics
  • cognitive achievement
  • cognitive enhancement
  • epistemic value
  • knowledge


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