AbstractsBiology & Animal Science

A Journey to the Good Life: A philosophical inquiry into the bioethical concept of human enhancement

by Stacey Lauren Broom

Institution: University of Otago
Year: 0
Keywords: human enhancement; bioethics; philosophy; méconnaissance; good; happiness; enhancement
Record ID: 1299581
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/10523/5407


If we wish to live a good life, then we ought to be good people. In order to be a good person one must respect and revere the will to live and promote life for ourselves and others in ways motivated by charity and benevolence. If being charitable and benevolent, and acting in ways that promote life for yourself and others, by respecting and revering the will to live does not provide you with happiness, well-being, and the good life, then perhaps you might look to a radical enhancement. I question, however, how successful you will be in attaining happiness and a good life from radical enhancements if even the acts involved in being a good person do not enhance your life. This thesis will gradually show that when it comes to recognising ourselves we can be lacking in rationality (in the sense of reason informed by real insight into the truth about ourselves). It is this misrecognition of the state of ourselves that is driving our need to continuously improve upon our individual nature. I explore the bioethical arguments regarding human enhancement alongside different philosophies and draw links that guide us toward a different way to attain the good life. In particular, I examine the theories of Albert Schweitzer and Jacques Lacan, whose work, while although working in obviously different spheres, can be connected in such ways that they can add value to the enhancement debate. Schweitzer claims that existence is something that we experience in ourselves and that it is something that is valuable in the world. We will to live, Schweitzer says. World and life negation occurs when we view our experiences within ourselves and within the world as something “meaningless and sorrowful”. Lacan emphasises that our experiences, especially during the integral I-formation stage, shape who we are and if they develop incorrectly can lead to méconnaissance, a misrecognition of the self. In connecting these two distinct philosophies, that of Schweitzer and Lacan, we arrive at an even deeper need to understand our desires for instant gratification that manifest in the form of biotechnological and radical enhancements. In my thesis, I will not go as far as claiming that enhancement in the forms advocated for by enhancement proponents such as Julian Savulescu and John Harris cannot be used alongside my alternative. The arguments contained within this thesis are not anti-enhancement in the same sense as Michael Sandel’s and Leon Kass’s are. The theory I propose suggests an alternative, but allows for the possibility of it being incorporated into a radically changed technological world. My argument, is that if we subscribed to the theory I suggest, our need to radically change our world may not be nearly so urgent, given that our focus and values will be different. Our aim in life will not necessarily be on achieving perfection per se, but rather on our will to live and a reverence for life. Throughout my thesis, I walk you through some of the main arguments for and against enhancement, during which I pay particular…