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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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Preface by Nicholas Agar


In his work, Johann Roduit makes a fascinating case for a view of human enhancement centered on the concept of perfection, in which he presents perfection as an objective ideal, one informed by the study of actual human characteristics. Roduit offers an illuminating commentary on the apparent aversion to the concept expressed by many participants in the philosophical debate about enhancement. He suggests that the concept of perfection is nonetheless an unacknowledged assumption to the views of many philosophers who explicitly disavow any interest in it.

I must confess that I initially approached Roduit’s project with some skepticism. I first encountered the concept of perfection within the philosophical debate about enhancement in political philosopher Michael Sandel’s article “The Case Against Perfection,” published in the April 2004 issue of U.S. magazine The Atlantic Monthly. As a relatively unknown philosopher myself, I was flattered to be quoted in the piece – admittedly, as one of the “bad” guys. In Sandel’s critique of enhancement, I was cast in the role of the philosophical naïf who thinks that genetic enhancement can extend procreative liberty rather than being used to restrict it. I proposed that parents could think about selecting for their children’s genes in a similar way to how they currently go about selecting their children’s educational influences (see Sandel, 2007). When it comes to educating children in a liberal society, parents do not have an entirely free hand: Minimum standards must be achieved and certain eccentric choices are justly...

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