Human Enhancement: Living Up to the Ideal Human

Human Enhancement: Living Up to the Ideal Human

Johann A. R. Roduit (University of Zurich, Switzerland & University of Oxford, UK & NeoHumanitas, Switzerland), Vincent Menuz (University of Montreal, Canada & NeoHumanitas, Switzerland) and Holger Baumann (University of Zurich, Switzerland)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6010-6.ch004

Abstract

Two major problems persist in the debate regarding the ethics of human enhancement. First, there is a lack of discussion and agreement on a definition of human enhancement. Second, the commonly used bioethical principles of justice, safety, and autonomy are jointly insufficient to assess the morality of human enhancement. This chapter attempts to define these problems and to propose a possible solution. Defending a qualitative definition of human enhancement, the authors suggest examining “perfectionist notions” of what it means to live a good human life in order to give additional normative tools to assess the morality of human enhancements. This chapter will help to clarify the debate and move it along by arguing that characteristics of the ideal human life, once defined and seen as the goal of human enhancement, can help assess the morality of a given human enhancement.
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The Conundrum Of Defining Human Enhancement

Human enhancement is tacitly defined of technologically modifying human bodies and/or minds by combining medical science with emerging technologies (such as nano- or biotechnologies) to affect individuals’ cognitive (e.g. memory, intelligence), emotional (e.g., happiness, self-confidence) or physical (e.g., need for sleep, endurance) function. This kind of consensual agreement on what could be considered as a human enhancement does not constitute a definition of the concept. Interestingly, when examining the literature addressing ethical issues related to human enhancement, very few authors have explicitly defined the concept of human enhancement (see e.g., Buchanan, 2011; Menuz, Hurlimann, & Godard, 2013; Savulescu, 2006); most of the time, authors merely give an implicit definition of the concept that appears in their argumentations. However, it is possible to separate these implicit or explicit ways of defining human enhancement into different categories (see e.g., Chadwick, 2008; Menuz et al., 2011).

In this section, we will therefore discuss three approaches that have been used to understand human enhancement: i) the beyond therapy approach, ii) the quantitative approach and iii) the qualitative approach. We will argue that while the qualitative approach is the most plausible definition of human enhancement, they all have some serious shortcoming, which we will resolve in the last part of this chapter, using a recent defintion suggested by Menuz et. al.

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