Authenticity and Enhancement
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Wanting to change ourselves is nothing new; the means with which we are able to do so are. With our ever-advancing technology, the physical and mental aspects of ourselves that we can target and change are continually increasing. However, enhancement technologies are met with some hesitation: just because we can do something, it does not mean that we should. This dissertation will focus on one such reason that these technologies ought to be rejected: in certain circumstances these enhanced changes are incompatible with authenticity. There are various types of enhancements, but the ones I will focus on in this project are psychological enhancements that are aimed at improving one’s personality or character traits. These types of enhancements often pose a more difficult challenge to authenticity than those that do not target fundamental aspects of the self. I will focus on the effects the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor Prozac (fluoxetine) can have on people who are not clinically depressed and take Prozac for enhancement purposes. On Prozac, the habitually timid are given social confidence, the sensitive become brash, and the drug seems to “lend the introvert the social skills of a salesman” (Kramer 1997, xii). Prozac appears to transform some individuals and profoundly challenge their notions of the self and as such gives rise to authenticity-related worries. While Prozac will serve as the main example, I will show that these worries apply to a range of other psychological interventions as well. I argue that in many cases psychological enhancements that are aimed at improving one’s character or personality traits are incompatible with authenticity and this incompatibility is a reason to reject these types of enhancements. This does not mean that we are not able to change, just that we must do so through authentic methods that reveal and bring us closer to our true selves, such as introspection, meditation, journaling, and therapy. The difference between authentic and inauthentic change is that the former is the result of the exertion of the will, while the latter bypasses the will and the change is brought about via the enhancement itself thus rendering the user inauthentic. The sacrifice a person makes by forfeiting her authenticity by enhancing herself is real loss to her in important ways, and this is an independent reason not to enhance even when the enhancement may have other benefits, or other costs.
Cite this work
Catherine Gee (2016). Authenticity and Enhancement. UWSpace. http://hdl.handle.net/10012/11043