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The Case for Perfection

Ethics in the Age of Human Enhancement

Johann Roduit

The author critically examines what role the notion of perfection should play in the debate regarding the ethics of human enhancement. He argues that the concept of «human perfection» needs to be central when morally assessing human enhancements. This anthropological ideal provides an additional norm to evaluate enhancing interventions, extending the well-established bioethical principles of autonomy, justice, and safety.
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Chapter 2: Human enhancement and perfection

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Summary

Both bioconservatives and bioliberals should seek to discuss the ideas of human perfection, making explicit their underlying assumptions about what makes a good human life. This is relevant because these basic and often implicit ideas underlying each camp’s views inform and influence judgments and choices about human enhancement interventions. Both neglect and polemical but inconsistent use of the complex ideas of perfection have resulted in confusion within the ethical debate about human enhancement interventions. This can be avoided by tackling the notion of perfection directly. In recent debates, bioconservatives have prominently argued against the ‘pursuit of perfection’ by biotechnological means. In the first part of this chapter, I show that—paradoxically—bioconservatives themselves explicitly embrace specific conceptions of human perfection and perfectionist assumptions about the good human life in order to advocate against the use of enhancement technologies. Yet, I argue that the bioconservative position contains an untenable ambiguity between criticising and endorsing ideas of human perfection. Hence, they still need to clarify their stance on human perfection. In the second part of the paper, I ask whether bioliberals in fact (implicitly) advocate for a particular conception of perfection, or whether they are correct in holding that they do not, maintaining that the concept of perfection is obsolete. I demonstrate that bioliberals also rely on a specific idea of human perfection, based on the idea of autonomy. Hence, their rejection of the relevance of perfection in the debate is unconvincing and should be revised.

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