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Redesigning Life

Eugenics, Biopolitics, and the Challenge of the Techno-Human Condition


Nathan Van Camp

The emerging development of genetic enhancement technologies has recently become the focus of a public and philosophical debate between proponents and opponents of a liberal eugenics – that is, the use of these technologies without any overall direction or governmental control. Inspired by Foucault’s, Agamben’s and Esposito’s writings about biopower and biopolitics, the author sees both positions as equally problematic, as both presuppose the existence of a stable, autonomous subject capable of making decisions concerning the future of human nature, while in the age of genetic technology the nature of this subjectivity shall be less an origin than an effect of such decisions. Bringing together a biopolitical critique of the way this controversial issue has been dealt with in liberal moral and political philosophy with a philosophical analysis of the nature of and the relation between life, politics, and technology, the author sets out to outline the contours of a more responsible engagement with genetic technologies based on the idea that technology is an intrinsic condition of humanity.
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Chapter Three: Enframed Life


← 88 | 89 → CHAPTER THREE

Enframed Life1

Τέχνη can merely cooperate with φύσις, can more or less expedite the cure; but as τέχνη it can never replace φύσις and in its stead become the άρχη of health as such. This could only happen if life as such were to become a technically producible artifact. However, at that very moment there would also no longer be such a thing as health, any more than there would be birth and death. Sometimes it seems as if modern humanity is rushing headlong towards this goal of producing itself technologically. If humanity achieves this, it will have exploded itself, i.e., its essence qua subjectivity, into thin air, into a region where the absolute meaningless is valued as the one and only ‘meaning’ and where preserving this value appears as the human ‘domination’ of the globe.2

Heidegger and Biotechnology

Heidegger wrote down these prophetic words as early as 1939. One must, therefore, admire his lucid appraisal of the possibilities lying dormant in the scientific project of his time, the realization of which must have seemed but the most paradigmatic case of science-fiction. It is true that considerable progress had already been made in the domain of what we today call the life-sciences, which probably allowed Heidegger to engage in these speculations about the advent of a biotechnological revolution in the first place. For example, in his essay ‘Overcoming Metaphysics’ Heidegger refers to the pioneering research of the 1938 Noble Prize winner in chemistry...

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