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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 3: Evaluating human enhancements: the importance of ideals



Is it necessary to have an ideal of perfection in mind to identify and evaluate true biotechnological human ‘enhancements’? To answer this question, I call upon the distinction between ideal and non-ideal theory, found in the political philosophy debate on theories of justice. This debate brings together the distinctive views about whether one needs an idea of a perfectly just society, or not, when it comes to assessing the current situation and recommending steps towards increasing justice. In this chapter, I argue that evaluating human enhancements from a non-ideal perspective has some serious shortcomings, which can be avoided by endorsing an ideal approach. My argument begins with a definition of human enhancement as improvement, which can be understood in two ways: the first approach is backward-looking and assesses improvements with regard to a status quo ante, and the second, forward-looking approach evaluates improvements with regard to their proximity to a goal or according to an ideal. After outlining the limitations of an exclusively backward-looking view (non-ideal theory), I answer possible objections to the forward-looking view (ideal theory). Ultimately, I argue that the human enhancement debate lacks some important moral insights if a forward-looking view of improvement is not taken into account.

Ideal and non-ideal views about human enhancement

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