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Theory and Practice of Transhumanism

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Abstract

This chapter sets out a detailed overview of the concepts and practices of transhumanism starting from what appears to be its pivotal concept: enhancement. It also addresses the various criticisms of enhancement practices and their consequences. The functions and organs of the human body that transhumanism aims to enhance are then analysed: cognitive and physical performance, feelings and emotions, morality, and above all the extension of the human life span. The numerous problematic aspects of these practices are highlighted. Beyond the improvements that transhumanism aims to accomplish, its purpose appears to be the achievement of immortality or, more modestly, the elimination of death. The final section of the chapter discusses and criticises this attempt to achieve immortality.

Keywords

  • Enhancement
  • Immortality
  • Human body
  • Ethics

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Tom Beauchamp (2015) expressed a strong perplexity on the possibility of giving a correct picture of MBE, which stems from the theoretical weaknesses of Persson and Savulescu’s work. Persson and Savulescu clearly state that the central aim of MBE is to enhance altruism and a sense of justice, as Beauchamp observes, although this choice is not justified by any argument, nor is it clearly specified which sense is assigned to empathy and a sense of justice nor, above all, is there an indication of what the indispensable level of these two qualities is in order to regard MBE as having been achieved. The latter observation is decisive as the need for MBE is justified by an alleged supposed deficiency of these “functions”.

  2. 2.

    David DeGrazia (2014) is much more thorough and precise than his interlocutors, first of all because he sets out a fairly exhaustive list of the defects that MBE should eliminate. Secondly, he specifies where to intervene: on motives, character traits or emotions; then on cognition and understanding of what is right or the context in which one acts; and finally on behaviour making it more compliant with moral standards considered valid. Thirdly, it proposes a list of pharmacological means to be used. However, his proposal does not seem to gain legitimacy or solve the theoretical problems that undermine the very idea of moral bioenhancement.

  3. 3.

    In a work succinctly and emblematically entitled The Temptation to Exist, Émile Cioran highlights the existential aspect of death: “Life, far from being what Bichat once called an ensemble of functions for resisting death, is rather an ensemble of functions for bearing us toward it. Our substance diminishes with every step, yet it is of this very diminution that all our efforts should tend to make a stimulant, a principle of efficacity. Those who cannot benefit from their possibilities of nonexistence are strangers to themselves: puppets, objects ‘furnished’ with a self, numbed by a neutral time that is neither duration nor eternity” (Cioran, 1968, 113).

  4. 4.

    For example: “Death is the real inspiring genius or Musagetes of philosophy, indeed, without death there would hardly have been any philosophising” (Schopenhauer, 1969, 1021; cf. Bauman, 1992).

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Adorno, F.P. (2021). Theory and Practice of Transhumanism. In: The Transhumanist Movement. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-82423-5_4

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