Brave New World versus Island--utopian and dystopian views on psychopharmacology
Schermer MH.
Department of Medical Ethics and Philosophy of Medicine, Erasmus Medical Center,
University of Rotterdam, Room AE 340, PO Box 2040,
3000 CA, Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Med Health Care Philos. 2007 Jun;10(2):119-28.


Aldous Huxley's Brave New World is a famous dystopia, frequently called upon in public discussions about new biotechnology. It is less well known that 30 years later Huxley also wrote a utopian novel, called Island. This paper will discuss both novels focussing especially on the role of psychopharmacological substances. If we see fiction as a way of imagining what the world could look like, then what can we learn from Huxley's novels about psychopharmacology and how does that relate to the discussion in the ethical and philosophical literature on this subject? 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.

Rank Theory
New anxiolytics
New antidepressants
Is depression adaptive?
An Evolutionary Approach to Mood Disorders

BLTC Research
The Abolitionist Project
The Hedonistic Imperative
When Is It Best To Take Crack Cocaine?

swan image
The Good Drug Guide
The Responsible Parent's Guide
To Healthy Mood Boosters For All The Family