The paper argues that in the current ethical discussion the dystopian vision on psychopharmacology is dominant, but that a comparison between Brave New World and Island shows that a more utopian view is possible as well. This is illustrated by a discussion of the issue of psychopharmacology and authenticity. The second part of the paper draws some further conclusions for the ethical debate on psychopharmacology and human enhancement, by comparing the novels not only with each other, but also with our present reality. It is claimed that the debate should not get stuck in an opposition of dystopian and utopian views, but should address important issues that demand attention in our real world: those of evaluation and governance of enhancing psychopharmacological substances in democratic, pluralistic societies.
Excerpts from Authors final remarks:
First, the effects of psychopharmacological substances depend greatly on the society in which they are embedded.
It would be an illusion to think that we can predict exactly what the social effects of new substances will be, how society will react and how common values and practices might be changed due to these new substances.
I believe, thirdly, that this value and life-style pluralism that characterize our world should be taken more seriously. As we have seen, the enhancement debate is in an important sense a debate about the good life and about human flourishing or human happiness. Underneath the discussion on authenticity lies a deeper discussion on what it is to be human. The moral evaluation of new psychopharmacological substances or mind-influencing drugs depends greatly on one’s ideas in this respect.
Should we aim to show that one view of the good life is correct and that consequently the use of such drugs should be banned or stimulated? Should we discuss and argue about our various views of the good life and the place of psychotropic drugs in the hope that we will reach a shared view?