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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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This doctoral dissertation critically examines what role – if any – the notion of perfection should play in the debate of the ethics of human enhancement. After distinguishing between the concept of perfection and different philosophical conceptions of perfection, I first argue that the concept of perfection is unavoidable in the context of this debate, as the notion of human enhancement itself is inextricably interconnected with the notion of human perfection. This leads to the next issue of what particular conception of perfection should be used in the debate, and in what ways. After rejecting various problematic possibilities, I argue that the concept of human perfection should fulfill certain criteria: It should be an objective ideal, yet not holding a fixed view of what a human being ought to be. This position allows for pluralism and political deliberation, while at the same time provides guidance, not only restrictions, to the real-world practice of human enhancement. I show here how philosopher Martha Nussbaum’s ‘capabilities approach’ fulfills these criteria, making it a tool that can be used to morally assess human enhancement in addition to other bioethical standards, such as safety, justice, and autonomy.

This research is located, therefore, in a balanced position between the so-called bioconservative stance, which uses some particular conceptions of perfection to argue against human enhancement, and the so-called bioliberal view, which also, at times, uses some specific conceptions of perfection (or rather, as I will further illustrate, some particular perfectionist notions of what it means...

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