Posthumanity, Transhumanism and Human Nature

  • Dieter Birnbacher
Part of the The International Library of Ethics, Law and Technology book series (ELTE, volume 2)

“Posthumanity” has established itself as a label for a form of human existence radically transformed by the most advanced medical techniques and by the use of neuro, bio and nano and other technologies for human enhancement. In itself, “posthumanity” is a value-neutral term that neither implies nor excludes any specific attitude one might assume towards the prospect of a “posthuman” future. Nonetheless, the concept is bound up with a fairly fundamental controversy about values. It has done much to lay open the split in attitudes in our culture between those who welcome “posthumanity” as a positive vision appropriate to guide our strategies in scientific research, technology and medicine, and those who think that the dangers inherent in this vision so much outweigh its promise that we should resist the temptation to “improve” the human race by means of science and technology. “Transhumanists” like Nick Bostrom (cf. 2003, 2005) define themselves by taking a decidedly positive view of the prospect of a “posthuman” future, whereas “bioconservatives” like Leon Kass (cf. 1997) are more sceptical of this prospect and tend to warn us not to invest too much, mentally and economically, in what is seen as a threat rather than as a paradise. Semantically, the terms “transhumanism” and “posthumanity” are closely connected. “Transhumanism” can be defined as a movement that wants us to get on the way to “posthumanity” by going beyond humanity in its present form. Transhumanists want us to enter upon a process that will ultimately lead to “posthumanity” by attempting, now and in the near future, to transcend certain limits inherent in the human condition as we know it.


Human Nature Human Species Human Race Human Enhancement Reproductive Cloning 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Alexander S (1927) Space, time, and deity. 2nd edition, vol 2, Macmillan, LondonGoogle Scholar
  2. Bayertz K (2003) Human nature: How normative might it be? Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 28: 131–150PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bostrom N (2003) Human genetic enhancements: A transhumanist perspective. Journal of Value Inquiry 37: 493–506PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bostrom N (2005) In defense of posthuman dignity. Bioethics 19: 202–214PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Boyd R (1999) Homeostasis, species and higher taxa. In: Wilson R A (ed) Species. New Interdisciplinary Essays. MIT Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  6. Butler O E (1997) Dawn. Warner Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  7. Fukuyama F (2002) Our posthuman future. Consequences of the biotechnology revolution. Farrar, Strous & Giroux, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  8. Huxley J (1957) New bottles for new wine. Chatto & Windus, LondonGoogle Scholar
  9. Kass L R (1997) The wisdom of repugnance. The New Republic 2(6): 17–26Google Scholar
  10. Lewis C S (1943) The abolition of man. Collins, OxfordGoogle Scholar
  11. Locke J (1961) An essay concerning human understanding. In: Yolton J W (ed) Everyman's Library, London, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  12. Mill J S (1969) Collected works of John Stuart Mill. University of Toronto Press, TorontoGoogle Scholar
  13. President's Council on Bioethics (2003) Beyond therapy. Biotechnology and the pursuit of happiness. Dana, New York/Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  14. Robert J S, Baylis F (2003) Crossing species boundaries. American Journal of Bioethics 3: 1–13PubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. Silver L M (1997) Remaking Eden: How genetic engineering and cloning will transform the American family. Avon Books, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  16. Wells H G (1924) The time machine (The Works of H. G. Wells vol 1). Charles Scribner's Sons, New YorkGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dieter Birnbacher
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of PhilosophyHeinrich-Heine-UniversitätGermany

Personalised recommendations