Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Jon Garthoff

Committee Members

Sadie P. Hutson, David R. Reidy, Clerk Shaw, Adam Cureton


Discussions about the permissibility of students using enhancements in education are often framed by the question, “Is a student who uses cognitive-enhancing drugs cheating?” Some argue that students who use these cognitive-enhancing drugs are cheating because these drugs provide an unfair advantage that violates rules of fair competition in education. Others argue that students who use cognitive-enhancing drugs are not cheating because these drugs are merely another progressive educational tool, such as a calculator or computer. While the question of cheating is interesting, it is but only one question concerning the permissibility of enhancement in education. Another interesting question is, “What kinds of students do we want in our academic institutions?” I suggest that one plausible answer to this question concerns the ideals of human excellence or virtues. The students we want in our academic institutions are virtuous or, at least minimally, possess certain virtues.I argue that a virtuous student may choose to use cognitive-enhancing drugs for reasons of self-improvement. That a virtuous student may choose to use cognitive-enhancing drugs for reasons of self-improvement illustrates that under certain conditions motivation can determine the permissibility of using enhancements. Building upon this I suggest a virtues-based institutional rule for governing and guiding students use of cognitive enhancers in an academic institution to be for the right reasons. This ideals of human excellence or virtues approach offers interesting and unique insights for issues of enhancement in education (and for issues of pharmaceutical enhancement in general) because, as it might turn out, that uneasiness many people have about students using cognitive-enhancing drugs has less to do with issues of enhancement and more to do with the motivation and character of students.

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