The Role of Framing and Metaphor in the Therapy versus Enhancement Argument
F. Lucivero & A.H. Vedder (eds), Beyond Therapy v. Enhancement. Multidisciplinary analyses of a heated debate, Pisa: Pisa University Press, 2013, pp. 35-68
36 Pages Posted: 4 Apr 2014
Framing and metaphors play an important role in defining social problems, and as they carry with them implicit natural ‘solutions’, they can have a significant impact on public policy. This paper analyses how frames and metaphors feature in the academic human enhancement literature, in particular in relation to the therapy/enhancement distinction. A case study analysis of 25 academic papers on the use of psychopharmaceuticals for non-therapeutic purposes highlights the implicit associations and assumptions about human enhancement in the academic debate.
Four frames, with different sets of metaphors, can be distinguished: different territory (in which therapy and enhancement are different fields, separated by a thin or fuzzy boundary), the slippery slope (associated with concerns of, for instance, medicalisation), function creep (in which medicine moves beyond its intended purposes to serve other purposes), and individual choice (where the medical necessity of therapy contrasts with ‘lifestyle’ choices of enhancement). A discussion of these frames demonstrates how the metaphors may influence the direction of policy recommendations for problems raised by human enhancement, and why participants in the academic debate sometimes talk at cross-purposes.
The paper concludes that the therapy/enhancement distinction serves as a proxy to articulate various normative positions about what constitutes well-being and who is responsible for people’s well-being. Technological developments force us to continuously ask ourselves to what extent medicine is mainly about curing illness or also, more generally, about improving well-being. By uncovering the ways in which the therapy/enhancement argument is being framed in the literature, it becomes easier to see where authors position themselves along the spectrum of possible responses to this fundamental question.
Keywords: frames, metaphor, human enhancement, therapy, psychopharmaceuticals, medicine, public policy
JEL Classification: I18, K32, O33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation