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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 Five: Prosthetic Life


← 126 | 127 → CHAPTER FIVE

Prosthetic Life1

[A]t stake here will be the attempt to think, instead of the birth of the human qua entity related to its end, rather its invention or even its embryonic fabrication or conception, and to attempt this independently of all anthropologism, even if this would mean considering with the utmost seriousness this other question: “And if we already were no longer human?”2

The Forgetting of Epimetheus

Bernard Stiegler’s ongoing philosophical project Technics and Time3 is one of the most original and promising efforts in contemporary continental philosophy to rethink the relationship between the human and technology.4 Drawing on the writings of Leroi-Gourhan, Husserl, Heidegger, Derrida, and Simondon, Stiegler seeks to argue that “anthropogenesis corresponds point by point to a technogenesis,”5 in the sense that human beings and technical artifacts have always been involved in a mutually constitutive relationship. In the first volume of Technics and Time, ‘The Fault of Epimetheus,’ Stiegler sets up his argument around the emblematic figure of Epimetheus, Prometheus’ slow brother whose role in the infamous myth, just as that of technics, is usually forgotten by the philosophical tradition.6 Since this story contains in broad outlines the central ← 127 | 128 → features of Stiegler’s theory, it is worthwhile to summarize it briefly. In Protagoras’ version of the story as narrated by Plato, Epimetheus convinces his brother Prometheus to entrust him with the task of distributing the qualities or powers among the...

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