Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics

, Volume 28, Issue 6, pp 497–507

Imagining human enhancement: whose future, which rationality?



This article critically evaluates bettering human life. Because this involves lives that do not exist yet, the article investigates human eugenics and enhancement through the social prism of ‘the imaginary’ (defined ‘as a set of assumptions and concepts for thinking and speaking about human enhancement and its future direction’) [1]. “Exploring basic assumptions underlying the idea of human enhancement” investigates underlying assumptions and claims for human enhancement. Firstly, human eugenics and enhancement entangles a factual as well as a normative claim about what improvement/betterment maybe constitutive of. Secondly, claims about what a better life is, is often a future orientated claim about whether certain kinds of life that do not exist yet should ever exist. Moral images of thought are introduced and how they work to make normative judgments about lives that do not exist. This implicates the moral problem of difference, where an image of a ‘better’ life—classically expressed in eugenics as a ‘superior’ and/or ‘normal’ life—necessarily entails inferiority and/or deviance from a norm. “Moral imagination in contemporary fiction and the history of old eugenics”, introduces moral images in history of eugenics and demonstrates how examples fall foul of the problem. “The new (liberal) eugenics and the moral image of therapy” examines progress in contemporary debates, the move from authoritarian to non-authoritarian eugenics (human enhancement), and how, to some extent, this has solved the problem of difference, through liberal defence of personal choice. “The heart of the eugenic issue” suggests that personal choice in liberal non-authoritarian eugenics is not immune to basic drive behind all eugenic arguments; desire as lack which is expressed as the continual dissatisfaction of not having our future expectations met.


Eugenics Human enhancement The moral problem of difference Moral imagination and moral images of thought Authoritarian and non-authoritarian eugenics Personal choice Desire as lack 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ESRC Centre: Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects for Genomics, Institute for Advanced StudiesLancaster UniversityLancasterUK

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