A Cure for Humanity: the Transhumanisation of Culture
EWHA Institute for the Humanities
This paper examines the increasing integration of the radical human enhancement project into the cultural mainstream. The tacit identification of enhancement with therapy is no longer contested, but widely accepted. Transhumanism leads the way by pointing out the deficiencies of our nature and presenting radical human enhancement as the urgently needed cure. The paper traces this particular self-conception, which I call the enhancement-therapy identity thesis, and how it is reflected in our culture. I look at what I consider the two main arguments in support of the identity thesis, namely the moral argument, which was made by John Harris, and the biological argument, which was made by Allen Buchanan. According to the moral argument there is no relevant moral distinction between repairing a dysfunction and enhancing a function, so that if the former is a duty, then the latter is too. According to the biological argument we have been so poorly constructed by nature that we can only survive by radically enhancing ourselves. The analysis of these two arguments is followed by examples of public discourse that rely on or otherwise make use of the enhancement-therapy identity thesis. The chosen examples cover the four main areas of human enhancement: emotional enhancement, cognitive enhancement, moral enhancement, and life extension. In each of these cases I identify a diagnosis relating to the supposedly intrinsically pathological human condition and a proposed cure that consists in the successful execution of some form of capacity enhancement. I conclude with a brief reflection on the change in our normative attitude that the endorsement of the enhancement-therapy identity thesis induces.