Hire a writer
Paper Types
Disciplines

The Ethical Questions Surrounding Transhumanism, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1075

Essay

The progresses of various scientific research that investigate the very material constitution of the human being, such as the Human Genome Project, offer a formidable challenge to the very anthropological and social conceptualization of what is understood to be human. These forms of technological advancements entail so-called “transhumanist” scientific discourses and programs, according to which genes that are identified as related to specific human traits, such as compassion and aggression, can be re-structured to so as either to augment or suppress these same traits. Accordingly, the existence of such technological innovations and their advocates, such as the aforementioned transhumanist school of thought, which supports not only this research but also its eventual implementation, necessarily suggest a profound ethical question: to what extent should we encourage these projects? For example, an argument against transhumanism would entail that this is a Frankensteinian  example of human beings play-acting God. This project radically alters human nature with potentially disastrous consequences. Such ethical concerns, however, are ultimately based upon the prejudice that there is a singular account and concept of what is a human being. In other words, this line of argument neglects that human beings have themselves greatly changed across the millennia. The human being has developed from primitive hunters and gatherer societies to the architects of master civilizations. At the same time, various societies have also offered their own definition of human, which in the contemporary era would be considered entirely racist, as entire ethnic groups have been portrayed by particular ideologies as “subhuman” and therefore not earning any anthropological status. With these remarks, transhumanism can be understood as a part of this continual re-definition of what it means to be human, however, with an additional ethical aspect that is universal: genetic enhancement programs could be, for example, supported in terms of theoir attempts to enhance good genes and eliminate bad genes, since this is consistent with the vision of humans as an ever-changing animal. At the same time, the endorsement of such a project necessitates intelligent legislation of these activities, a legislation that is determined by the ethical desire to ameliorate the quality of human life without exception.

Firstly, it is necessary to clearly define what enhancing “good” genes and eliminating “bad” genes means: as we continue to learn that many of our traits, from intelligence to our health to our moral qualities, possess a significant genetic basis, we have to clearly distinguish what such transhumanist programs may target in their attempt to improve human existence. For example, the manipulation of genes in relation to issues of morality should be averted, because this presupposes that there are constant human viewpoints concerning what is morally good and what is morally bad. Accordingly, the danger exists that a hegemonic stratum of society possessive of its own particular value-system may determine genes are good and which are bad in line with this same value system. For example, in a capitalist society, this value-system would praise character traits such as aggressiveness, competitiveness and greed as qualities that are to be desired; at the same time, empathy for other human beings and a general commitment to equality would be portrayed as the monster of “socialism.” As Walters and Palmer (1997) note, »Some types of…behavior are either morally neutral or even morally laudable.« (p. 125) This means that such a »moral« interpretation of genes, or one that is based on highlighting particular human character traits, is simply too tied up to particular social formations: this approach to transhumanism could end up in a totalitarian nightmare.

On the other hand, it seems entirely legitimate to identify “good” and “bad” genes, as the transhumanists wish to do, in the area of medicine. With continued research and development, a number of purely genetic diseases could easily be eliminated. If someone argues that the elimination of such bad genes still tampers with some prefabricated notion of what it means to be human, or that it means a challenging of God’s will, the ethical tables can easily be turned: it is precisely such a line of argumentation that reeks of inhumanity, since this position discourages the improvement of the quality of human life on the level of health.

However, this is only one aspect, although legitimate, of the transhumanist agenda. One of the more problematic aspects of transhumanism is the aforementioned idea of gene enhancement, whereby, undisputable valuable traits such as intelligence could be improved. Bostrom and Sandberg (2009), two of the major proponents of transhumanism define enhancement as follows: enhancement is »an intervention that improves a subsystem in some other way other than repairing something or that is broken of remedying a specific dysfunction.« (p. 312) The enhancement of intelligence would be precisely an example of such improvement of a subsystem, with greater social effects. This may seem like a totalitarian vision, however, it bears noting that many of our social institutions aim to precisely improve such subsystems: that is why we make ethical commitments to education and health care, trying to improve the quality of these institutions and thus improving our overall social and anthropological life. In this regard, careful and thought-out enhancement of particular “subsystems” are based on the same ethical imperative as improving our educational system. Furthermore, it is necessary to underscore that intelligence is itself not purely genetic, but is also a product of social environment: in this regard,  enhancement would not mean that everyone immediately becomes hyper-intelligent. Rather, enhancement is the careful attention to a subsystem to generate greater effects in the overall system that is human existence.

Certainly, there are pitfalls to such transhumanist projects. Yet precisely for this reason it demands our philosophical reflection. In this regard, it is necessary that our approach to the possibilities opened up by science are entirely organized by the ethical commitment to the amelioration of human life in its entirety. The investigations of science should not be fettered by moralistic worldviews, since these morals are ultimately inhumane when they attempt to protect an imaginary picture of the human ideal. Tranhumanism, in contrast, understands that this ideal is not something we have already achieved, but something that we should work towards. This is where the ethical aspect of transhumanism emerges as arguably an even more crucial aspect of the movement than the sciences that have made it possible.

Works Cited

Bostrom, N: & Sandberg, A. (2009). “Cognitive Enhancement: Methods, Ethics, Regulatory Challenges.” Ethics. 15. pp. 311-341.

Walters, L. & Palmer, J.G. (1997). The Ethics of Human Gene Therapy. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Time is precious

Time is precious

don’t waste it!

Get instant essay
writing help!
Get instant essay writing help!
Plagiarism-free guarantee

Plagiarism-free
guarantee

Privacy guarantee

Privacy
guarantee

Secure checkout

Secure
checkout

Money back guarantee

Money back
guarantee

Related Essay Samples & Examples

The Importance of Origin in Borowski, Essay Example

The Importance of Origin in Borowski’s “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman” “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman” places great emphasis [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 271

Essay

A Case Study of Henri, Essay Example

Close Reading and Reading Closely: A Case Study of Henri Henri is a unique character because even though he comprises half of the dialogue, the [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 495

Essay

Intertextuality in the Myth of Hua Mulan, Essay Example

Intertextuality is defined as the shaping of a text’s meaning by another text. The myth of Hua Mulan is a primary example of intertextuality because [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 306

Essay

Recreating Mulan, Essay Example

Recreating Mulan: Hua Mulan, a Woman before Her Time From the Ballad of Mulan: “Facing the window she fixes her cloudlike hair, Hanging up a [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 298

Essay

A Rapid Change in Information Technology, Essay Example

A Rapid change in information technology has widespread the user friendliness in computer systems. The desire of organizations to implement state of the art computers [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 988

Essay

Standard Ethical Principles, Essay Example

Write about the following topic: Think of the standard ethical principles — truth-telling, generosity, non-malfeasance (this means: do no harm), do not insult, fulfill your [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 654

Essay

The Importance of Origin in Borowski, Essay Example

The Importance of Origin in Borowski’s “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman” “This Way for the Gas, Ladies and Gentleman” places great emphasis [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 271

Essay

A Case Study of Henri, Essay Example

Close Reading and Reading Closely: A Case Study of Henri Henri is a unique character because even though he comprises half of the dialogue, the [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 495

Essay

Intertextuality in the Myth of Hua Mulan, Essay Example

Intertextuality is defined as the shaping of a text’s meaning by another text. The myth of Hua Mulan is a primary example of intertextuality because [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 306

Essay

Recreating Mulan, Essay Example

Recreating Mulan: Hua Mulan, a Woman before Her Time From the Ballad of Mulan: “Facing the window she fixes her cloudlike hair, Hanging up a [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 298

Essay

A Rapid Change in Information Technology, Essay Example

A Rapid change in information technology has widespread the user friendliness in computer systems. The desire of organizations to implement state of the art computers [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 988

Essay

Standard Ethical Principles, Essay Example

Write about the following topic: Think of the standard ethical principles — truth-telling, generosity, non-malfeasance (this means: do no harm), do not insult, fulfill your [...]

Pages: 1

Words: 654

Essay