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Protecting Minds: The Right to Mental Integrity and The Ethics of Arational Influence

Protecting Minds: The Right to Mental Integrity and The Ethics of Arational Influence

Objective

Unlike most traditional forms of behavioural influence, such as rational persuasion, incentivisation and coercion, many novel forms of behavioural influence operate at a subrational level, bypassing the targeted individual's capacity to respond to reasons. Examples include bottomless newsfeeds, randomised rewards, and other 'persuasive' technologies employed by online platforms and computer game designers. They also include biological interventions, such as the use of drugs, nutritional supplements or non-invasive brain stimulation to facilitate criminal rehabilitation.
The ethical acceptability of such arational influence depends crucially on whether we possess a moral right to mental integrity, and, if so, what kinds of mental interference it rules out. Unfortunately, these questions are yet to be addressed. Though the right to bodily integrity is well-established, the possibility of a right to mental integrity has attracted little philosophical scrutiny.
The purposes of this project are to (1) determine whether and how a moral right to mental integrity can be established; (2) develop a comprehensive and fine-grained account of its scope, weight, and robustness, and (3) determine what forms of arational influence infringe it, and whether and when these might nevertheless be justified. It will deploy a tripartite methodology comprising a bottom-up, casuistic approach, drawing on reflective responses to particular interventions; a horizontal approach, in which lessons for mental integrity will be drawn from analyses of the related phenomena of coercion, manipulation, and bodily integrity; and a top-down approach, drawing on theories of moral rights.
The analysis will establish arational influence as a new area of enquiry and yield guidance on controversial novel forms of arational influence including persuasive digital technologies, salience-based nudges, treatments for childhood behavioural disorders, and biological interventions in criminal rehabilitation.
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Host institution

THE CHANCELLOR, MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

Address

Wellington Square University Offices
Ox1 2jd Oxford

United Kingdom

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 1 910 264

Beneficiaries (2)

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THE CHANCELLOR, MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

United Kingdom

EU Contribution

€ 1 910 264

UNIVERSITAT ZURICH

Switzerland

EU Contribution

€ 50 000

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 819757

Status

Grant agreement signed

  • Start date

    1 January 2020

  • End date

    31 December 2024

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.1.

  • Overall budget:

    € 1 960 264

  • EU contribution

    € 1 960 264

Hosted by:

THE CHANCELLOR, MASTERS AND SCHOLARS OF THE UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD

United Kingdom