The morality of transhumanism : assessing human dignity arguments

Palk, Andrea Christy (2014-03)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2014.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The transhumanist movement propounds the view that the evolution of humanity must be extricated from the contingencies of blind natural selection and actively directed by human beings themselves, utilising existing as well as nascent technologies, in order to radically enhance and thus transform individual human capabilities to levels which far surpass current capacities. Transhumanism has elicited vehement critique, however, due to the claim that the transformations it proposes will result in a new posthuman species; and thus, that its aims represent a violation of human dignity. In order to assess this claim it is necessary to firstly investigate the aims and values of the transhumanist movement, as well as the technological means through which it proposes these aims will be fulfilled. This task is the focus of the first half of this thesis. Secondly, the concept of dignity itself must be examined in order to ascertain its status as a means of critiquing transhumanism. The second half of this thesis therefore explicates the notion of dignity by tracing its historical interpretations and uses, as well as the way in which it has been employed to uphold human rights and to adjudicate bioethical dilemmas in the contemporary milieu. This investigation enables the assessment of the two most renowned dignity arguments, namely, the arguments of the bioconservative thinkers Leon Kass and Francis Fukuyama which have been lodged against transhumanism, as well as the counter-argument of the transhumanist Nick Bostrom. In light of this discussion, the conclusion is that the notion of dignity is plagued by irrevocable ambiguity, vagueness and inconsistencies, due to the presence of conflicting interpretations. These findings have implications for the concept’s efficacy to adjudicate the complex ethical conundrums posed, not only by transhumanism, but in the bioethics arena in general.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die transhumanistiese beweging verteenwoordig die standpunt dat die evolusie van die mensdom losgemaak moet word van die toevallighede van blinde, natuurlike seleksie en aktief gerig moet word deur die mens self, deur van bestaande sowel as ontwikkelende tegnologieë gebruik te maak ten einde individuele menslike vermoëns radikaal te verbeter en dus te transformeer tot op vlakke wat huidige vermoëns ver oorskry. Transhumanisme het egter hewige kritiek ontlok weens die aanspraak dat die transformasies wat dit voorstel ‘n nuwe post-menslike spesie tot gevolg sal hê en dus dat die oogmerke daarvan ‘n skending van menswaardigheid verteenwoordig. Ten einde hierdie aanspraak te beoordeel, was dit eerstens nodig om die oogmerke en waardes van die transhumanistiese beweging te ondersoek, sowel as die tegnologiese middele wat voorgestel word as dit waardeur hierdie oogmerke verwesenlik sal word. Hierdie taak is onderneem in die eerste helfte van die tesis. Tweedens is die konsep van waardigheid self krities onder die loep geneem ten einde die status daarvan as ‘n middel om transhumanisme te kritiseer, te beoordeel. Die tweede helfte van hierdie tesis verhelder dus die idee van waardigheid deur die historiese interpretasies en gebruike daarvan na te gaan, sowel as die manier waarop dit aangewend is om menseregte te ondersteun en om dilemmas in die bioetiek in die hedendaagse milieu te bereg. Hierdie ondersoek maak die beoordeling van die drie mees bekende waardigheidsargumente wat teen transhumanisme gebring is, naamlik die argumente van die biokonserwatiewe denkers Leon Kass en Francis Fukuyama, sowel as die teenargument van die transhumanis Nick Bostrom, moontlik. Na aanleiding van hierdie bespreking is die gevolgtrekking van die skrywer dat die idee van menswaardigheid deurspek is met onvermydelike dubbelsinnigheid, vaagheid en teenstrydighede as gevolg van teenstrydige interpretasies. Hierdie bevindinge het implikasies vir die doeltreffendheid van die konsep om die komplekse etiese probleme wat gestel word, nie net deur transhumanisme nie, maar deur die bioetiek arena oor die algemeen, te beoordeel.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/86727
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