Cognitive liberty

Cognitive liberty , or the “right to mental self-determination”, is the freedom of an individual to control his or her own mental processes , cognition , and consciousness . It has been argued for an extension of, and the underlying principle, the right to freedom of thought . [1] [2] [3] The cognitive concept of cognitive liberty as being of increasing importance in the field of neuroscience. [4] Cognitive liberty is not a recognized right in any international human rights treaties, but has gained a limited level of recognition in the United States , and is subject to the following. [5]


The term “cognitive liberty” was coined by neuroethicist Dr. Wrye Sententia and legal theorist and lawyer Richard Glen Boire, the founders and directors of the non-profit Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics (CCLE). [6]Sententia and Drinking cognitive liberty as “the right of each individual to think independently and autonomously, to use the full power of his or her mind, and to engage in multiple modes of thought.” [7]

Sententia and Drinking concept of cognitive function and cognitive function of cognitive function, and the corresponding increase of individual cognitive autonomy and privacy. [8] Sententia divides the practical application of cognitive liberty into two principles:

  1. As long as their behavior does not involve others, they should not be compelled against their will to use technologies that directly interact with the brain or be forced to take certain psychoactive drugs.
  2. As long as they do not subsequently become involved, they should not be prohibited, or criminalized for, using new mind-enhancing drugs and technologies. [9]

These two facets of cognitive liberty are reminiscent of Timothy Leary’s “Two Commandments for the Molecular Age”, from his 1968 book The Politics of Ecstasy :

  1. Thou shalt not alter the consciousness of thy fellow man
  2. Thou shalt not prevent thy fellow man from altering his own consciousness. [10]

Supporters of cognitive liberty thus seek to impose both a negative and a positive obligation on states: to refrain from non-consensually interfering with an individual’s cognitive processes, and to allow individuals to self-determine their own inner realm and control their own mental functions. [11]

Freedom from interference

This first obligation, to refrain from non-consensually interfering with an individual’s cognitive processes, seeks to protect individuals from their mental processes, or “setting up a defensive wall against unwanted intrusions”. [12]Ongoing improvements to neurotechnologies such as transcranial magnetic stimulation and electroencephalography (or “brain fingerprinting”); and to pharmacology in the form of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and other psychoactive drugs , are continuing pour augmenter the Ability to monitor and Both Directly affect human cognition. [13] [14][15] As a result, many theorists have emphasized the importance of recognizing cognitive liberty in order to protect individuals from the state using such technologies to alter those individuals’ mental processes: “States must be barred from invading the inner sphere of persons, from using their thoughts, modulating their emotions or manipulating their personal preferences. ” [16]

This evidence of cognitive impairment has been raised in the field of cognitive dysfunction, from the obligatory psychiatric treatment of homosexuals in the US before the 1970s, to the non-consensual administration of psychoactive drugs to US exposure. citizens during CIA Project MKUltra , to the enforcing administration of mind-altering drugs. [17] [18] Futurist and bioethicist George Dvorsky , Chair of the Board of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies, has identified this element of cognitive liberty as being of relevance to the debate about the curing ofautism spectrum conditions. [19] Duke University School of Law Professor Nita Farahany has also proposed legislative protection of cognitive liberty as a way of protection of self-incrimination in the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution, in the light of the increased ability to access human memory. [20]

Though this element of cognitive liberty is Often defined as an individual’s freedom from state interference with human cognition, Jan Christoph Bublitz and Reinhard Merkel Among Others suggest That cognitive liberty shoulds aussi prevent prevention other, non-state entities from interfering with an individual mind’s “inner realm “. [21] [22] Bublitz and Merkel proposes the introduction of a new criminal offense punishing “interventions severely interfering with another’s mental integrity by undermining mental control or exploiting pre-existing mental weakness.” [23]Direct interventions that reduce or impair cognitive capacities such as memory, concentration, and willpower; alter preferences, beliefs, or behavioral dispositions; elicit inappropriate emotions; or inflict clinically identifiable mental injuries would all be prima facie impermissible and subject to criminal prosecution. [24] Sententia and Drinking have also expressed concern about the fact that corporations and other non-state entities may utilize emerging neurotechnologies to alter individuals’ mental processes without their consent. [25] [26]

Freedom to self-determine

Where the first obligation is to protect individuals from the context of cognitive processes by the state, or other individuals, this second obligation seeks to ensure that individuals have the freedom to alter or enhance their own consciousness. [27] An individual who enjoys this aspect of cognitive liberty has the freedom to alter their mental processes in any way they wish to; whether through indirect methods such as meditation , yoga or prayer ; or through direct cognitive intervention through psychoactive drugs or neurotechnology .

Psychotherapeutic drugs are a powerful method of altering cognitive function, many advocates of cognitive liberty are also advocates of drug law reform; claiming that the ” war on drugs ” is in fact a “war on mental states”. [28] The CCLE, cognitive liberty advocacy groups such as Cognitive Liberty UK , have been re-examined and reformed by the law. One of the CCLE’s key guiding principles Is That “gouvernements shoulds not criminally Prohibit cognitive enhancement or the experience of Any mental state .” [emphasis added] [29] Calls for reform of restrictions on the use of cognitive-enhancement drugs prescription (aussi called smart drugs or nootropicsSuch as Prozac , Ritalin and Adderall have been made on the grounds of cognitive liberty. [30]

This element of cognitive liberty is also of great importance to proponents of the transhumanist movement , a key tenet of which is the enhancement of human mental function. Dr. Wrye Sententia has emphasized the importance of cognitive liberty in ensuring the freedom to pursue human mental enhancement, as well as the freedom to choose against enhancement. [31] Sententia argues that the recognition of a “right to (and not to) direct, modify, or enhance one’s thought processes” is vital to the application of emerging neurotechnology to enhance human cognition; and that something beyond the current conception of freedom of thought is needed. [32]Sententia claims that “cognitive liberty’s strength is that it protects those who want to alter their brains, but also those who do not”. [33]

Relationship with recognized human rights

Cognitive liberty is not currently recognized as a human right by any international human rights treaty. [34] While freedom of thought is reconnu by Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), freedom of thought can be distinguished from cognitive liberty le fait que le train is Concerned with protecting an individual’s freedom to think whatever They Want, whereas cognitive liberty is concerned with protecting an individual’s freedom to think however they want. [35]Cognitive liberty seeks to protect an individual’s right to control their own state of mind and to control their condition of mind, rather than just protecting the content of an individuals’ thoughts. [36] It has been suggested that the lack of protection of cognitive liberty in previous human rights instruments was lacking in relation to the lack of technology. [37] As the human mind has been considered invulnerable to direct manipulation, control or alteration, it has been deemed unnecessary to expressly protect individuals from unwanted mental interference. [38] With modern advances in neuroscienceand in anticipation of its future development, however, it is argued that such express protection is necessary. [39]

Cognitive liberty then can be seen as an extension of or an “update” to the right to freedom of thought as it has been traditionally understood. [40] Freedom of thought should be understood to include the right to determine one’s own mental state of mind. However, some of them have already been argued that they are already an inherent part of the international human rights framework and the principle of freedom of thought, expression and religion. [41]The freedom to think in whatever manner is a “necessary precondition to those guaranteed freedoms.” [42] Daniel Waterman and Casey William Hardisonhave argued that cognitive liberty is fundamental to freedom of thought because of its ability to have certain types of experiences, including the right to experience or non-ordinary states of consciousness. [43] It has beens aussi That suggéré cognitive liberty can be seen to be apart of the inherent dignity of Human Beings have reconnu by Article 1 of the UDHR. [44]

Most proponents of cognitive liberty, however, which cognitive liberty should be expressly recognized as a human right in order to provide individual protection for individual cognitive autonomy. [45] [46] [47]

Legal recognition

In the United States

Main article: Sell ​​v. United States

Richard Glen Bury of the Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics filed an amicus brief with the US Supreme Court in the case of Sell ​​v. United States , the Supreme Court in qui Examined whether the short Had the power to make an order to Forcibly administer antipsychotic medication to an individual Who HAD Such refused treatment, for the sole purpose of making ’em competent to stand trial. [48] [49]

In the United Kingdom

In the case of R v Hardison , the defendant, charged with eight counts under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 (MDA) Including the manufacture of DMT and LSD , Claimed That cognitive liberty Was Safeguarded by Article 9 of the European Convention on Human Rights . [50] Hardison argued that “individual sovereignty over one’s interior environment is one of the most important things in the world”, and that psychotropic drugs are a potent method of altering an individual’s mental process, the prohibition of MDA was opposition to Article 9. [51]The court disagreed HOWEVER, calling Hardison’s arguments a “portmanteau defense” and Relying upon the UN Drug Conventionsand The Earlier box of R v Taylor to deny Hardison’s right to appeal to a superior court. [52] Hardison was convicted and given a 20-year prison sentence, though it was released on 29 May 2013 after nine years in prison. [53]


See also: Drug policy reform and Human enhancement

While there is little publicized criticism of the concept of cognitive liberty itself, the drug policy reform and the concept of human enhancement, both closely linked to cognitive liberty, remain highly controversial issues. The risks inherent in removing restrictions on controlled cognitive-enhancing drugs, which can not be avoided, have caused many to remain skeptical about the wisdom of recognizing cognitive liberty as a right. [54] Political philosopher and Harvard University professor Michael Sandel J. , when examining the prospect of memory enhancement, wrote that “some who worry about the ethics of cognitive enhancement point to the danger of creating two classes of human beings – those with access to enhancement technologies, and those who must make do with a unaltered memory that fades with age.” [55] Cognitive liberty then faces opposition obliquely in these interrelated debates.

See also

  • Cognitive ergonomics
  • Morphological freedom
  • neuroenhancement
  • Neuroethics
  • Neurolaw
  • Personalized medicine
  • Psychonautics
  • Responsible drug use
  • The Rhetoric of Drugs by Jacques Derrida
  • Self-ownership
  • Techno-progressivism
  • Thomas Szasz
  • Transhumanism


  1. Jump up^ Sententia, Wrye (2004). “Neuroethical Considerations: Cognitive Liberty and Converging Technologies for Improving Human Cognition”. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences . 1013 : 223. doi : 10.1196 / annals.1305.014 .
  2. Jump up^ Bublitz, Jan Christoph; Merkel, Reinhard (2014). “Crime Against Minds: On Mental Manipulations, Harms and a Human Right to Mental Self-Determination”. Criminal Law and Philosophy . 8 : 61.
  3. Jump up^ Waterman, Daniel (2013). Hardison, Casey William, ed. Entheogens, Society & Law: Towards Politics of Consciousness, Autonomy and Responsibility . Melrose Books. p. 18. ISBN  9781908645616 .
  4. Jump up^ Walsh, Charlotte (2010). “Drugs and human rights: private palliatives, sacramental freedoms and cognitive liberty” (PDF) . International Journal of Human Rights . 14 (3): 433. doi : 10.1080 / 13642980802704270 .
  5. Jump up^ Bublitz and Merkel, 60-1
  6. Jump up^ Sententia, Wrye (2013). “Freedom by Design: Transhumanist Values ​​and Cognitive Liberty”. The Transhumanist Reader: Classical and Contemporary Essays on the Science, Technology and Philosophy of the Human Future . John Wiley & Sons. p. 356.
  7. Jump up^ “FAQ – Center for Cognitive Liberty & Ethics (CCLE)” . General Info . Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics. 2003-09-15 . Retrieved 2007-10-20.
  8. Jump up^ Sententia (2004), 223
  9. Jump up^ Sententia (2004), 227
  10. Jump up^ Leary, Timothy (1968). The Politics of Ecstasy . Berkeley, California: Ronin Publishing. p. 95. ISBN  1579510310 .
  11. Jump up^ Bublitz and Merkel, 60
  12. Jump up^ Bublitz and Merkel, 60
  13. Jump up^ Sententia (2004), 223-224
  14. Jump up^ Blitz, Marc Jonathan (2010). “Freedom of Thought for the Extended Mind: Cognitive Enhancement and the Constitution” . Wisconsin Law Review (1049): 1053-1055, 1058-1060.
  15. Jump up^ Rosen, Jeffrey (11 March 2007). “The Brain on the Stand” . New York Times Magazine . Retrieved 3 May 2014 .
  16. Jump up^ Bublitz and Merkel, 61
  17. Jump up^ Drink, Richard Glen (1999). “On Cognitive Liberty Part I” . Journal of Cognitive Liberties . 1 (1).
  18. Jump up^ Drink, Richard Glen, (2002). Brief Amicus Curiae Of The Center For Cognitive Liberty & Ethics In Support Of The Petition ,Sell ​​v United States
  19. Jump up^ Dvorsky, George. “Cognitive liberty and the right to one’s mind” . Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies . Retrieved 3 May 2014 .
  20. Jump up^ Farahany, Nita (February 2012). “Incriminating Thoughts” . Stanford Law Review . 64 : 405-406.
  21. Jump up^ Drink, Part I
  22. Jump up^ Bublitz and Merkel, 68
  23. Jump up^ Bublitz and Merkel, 68
  24. Jump up^ Bublitz and Merkel, 68-70
  25. Jump up^ Sententia (2004), 223
  26. Jump up^ Drink, Part I
  27. Jump up^ Drink, Part I
  28. Jump up^ Drink, Richard Glen (2000). “On Cognitive Liberty Part II” . Journal of Cognitive Liberties . 1 (2).
  29. Jump up^ “Keeping Freedom in Mind” . Center for Cognitive Liberty and Ethics . Retrieved 3 May 2014 .
  30. Jump up^ Blitz, 1058-1060
  31. Jump up^ Sententia (2013), 356
  32. Jump up^ Sententia (2013), 355-6
  33. Jump up^ Sententia (2013), 356
  34. Jump up^ Bublitz and Merkel, 60
  35. Jump up^ Bublitz and Merkel, 64
  36. Jump up^ Drink, Part II
  37. Jump up^ Drink, Part I
  38. Jump up^ Bublitz and Merkel, 61
  39. Jump up^ Walsh 433
  40. Jump up^ Sententia (2013), 356
  41. Jump up^ Bublitz and Merkel, 63
  42. Jump up^ Drink, Part II
  43. Jump up^ Waterman, 345
  44. Jump up^ Bublitz and Merkel, 63
  45. Jump up^ Drink, Part I
  46. Jump up^ Farahany, 405-6
  47. Jump up^ Sententia (2004), 226-7
  48. Jump up^ Drink, Richard Glen, (2002). “Brief Amicus Curiae Of The Center For Cognitive Liberty & Ethics In Support Of The Petition, In The Case Of Sell v United States”
  49. Jump up^ Sell ​​v. United States 539 US 166 (2003)
  50. Jump up^ R v Hardison [2007] 1 Cr App R (S) 37
  51. Jump up^ Walsh, 433
  52. Jump up^ Walsh, 437
  53. Jump up^ Walsh, 437
  54. Jump up^ Blitz, 1063
  55. Jump up^ Sandel, Michael J. (2007). The Case against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering . Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN  9780674036383 .

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