Public Reason and Biotechnological Moral Enhancement of Criminal Offender


  • Elvio Baccarini University of Rijeka



Autonomy, allocative justice, biotechnological moral enhancement, public reason, Rawls


There are two prominent classes of arguments in the debate on mandatory biotechnological moral enhancement (MBME) of criminal offenders. Some maintain that these interventions are not permissible because they do not respect some evaluative standards (my illustration is represented by autonomy). Others, however, argue that this type of intervention is legitimate. One of the latter argumentative lines appeals to the reduction of the high costs of incarceration. In this paper, I argue that such polarization in the debate suggests handling the problem of the protection of autonomy in the case of MBME of offenders as an allocative question. Moreover, I offer a novel approach to this question by adopting the Rawlsian method of public reason. According to this method, public decisions are legitimate only if they can be justified through reasons that can be accepted by each free, equal, and epistemically reasonable agent. I argue that, within this framework, for a specific class of criminal offenders, we can conclude that MBME, although undermining a certain form of autonomy, could be legitimately mandatory.  Because of reasonable pluralism, the final verdict on legitimacy is made based on the results of fair procedures of decision-making among proposals supported by persons in a condition of reasonable disagreement.