Presentation on theme: "A Reconstruction of the Self Laurens Landeweerd Discussion of the last chapter (7) of my thesis: ‘Reconstructing the Self: Eugenics and the Ontology of."— Presentation transcript:
A Reconstruction of the Self Laurens Landeweerd Discussion of the last chapter (7) of my thesis: ‘Reconstructing the Self: Eugenics and the Ontology of Moral Agency ’
October 2008: Rathenau panel discussion on human enhancement technologies (prenatal diagnosis), advice to STOA Ethical aspects of enhancement through selective reproduction –Issue of risk –Issue of democracy –Issue of prevention and cure as defining criteria for medicine –Issue of health-disease distinction –Issue of human identity
My first encounter with bioethics (medical ethics): Practical ethics in medicine was Chinese to me –Limits itself to procedural accounts of what should be done –No accounts of what should be done, merely of what methods may be applied to answering that question –Has no explicit concept of the person (only an implicit one in the sense of a general rational moral agent)
Background to this chapter Basis Rift between German-French and Anglo-American philosophy (around 1917) Anglo-American philosophy abandoned metaphysical accounts of being: no solid concept of the self, eliciting procedure over content –Background: problem of substantialism vs. poceduralism
Adorno & Horkheimer: Dialektik der Aufklärung - The ideals of the enlightenment seem to turn into their opposites Adorno - Philosophy has become a melancholic science (Minima Moralia) because it can no longer redefine a new universalistic ethical point of view. - As a consequence, philosophy has retired to the investigation of formal properties of processes of self understanding, without taking a position on the contents of these processes.
Defences of a liberal Eugenics often based on John Rawls philosophy of justice (‘A Theory of Justice’) Still defending a universalist ethics, but from a pseudo- procduralism Enhancing equality of opportunity in society People are essentially driven by self-interest. To counter this: –Rawlsian concept of a ‘veil of ignorance: Whilst not knowing one’s postition in society, one tests a rule that needs to be applicable as a general rule – Daniels, Buchanan, Brock etc. Equalise natural inequalities rather than compensate for them
Discussion on eugenics conducted from a ‘procedural’ perspective No account of personhood No view on relation of a person to how he was conceived Traits seen as separate from the person one is, the person as a general rational moral agent Choice as the main paradigm, rather than willing
First 6 chapters A short archaeology 1. Problem of current medical ethical framework 2. Problem of autopsy of old eugenics 3. Problem of defining ‘eu’ 4. + 5 Problem of choice and fate 6. Problem of applying a rule / restriction to methodology
1. Problem of current medical ethical framework The existing ethical framework on selective reproduction through prenatal diagnosis does not exclude the possibility of eugenics
2. Problem of autopsy of old eugenics Selective reproduction motivated by an ideologically burdened concept of the good society leads to an instrumentalisation of individual life to this ideology. This means the liberal eugenicist’s proposal for selection of human traits to equalise future generations’ chances of opportunity and wellbeing renders the person instrumental to these goals of equality, whilst these goals should remain instrumental to the person
3. Problem of defining ‘eu’ The idea of a liberal eugenics is contradictory in so far as one accepts that concepts of the perfect body are culturally determined: either one lays down what counts as ‘eu’genics, therefore illiberally excluding certain options, or one allows for all conceivable reproductive choices, be they generally considered as ‘eu’ or ‘dys’genics.
4. and 5. Problems with the concept of choice Since it creates a separation between the traits one has and the person one is, the concept of autonomous moral agency as presented by analytic proponents of a liberal eugenics is flawed: the concept of autonomy cannot be defined through the concept of ‘free choice’. One has to define it on the basis of a concept of a ‘self’ that ‘wills’… (Dan- Cohen)
6. Problem of applying a rule / restriction to methodology The emphasis on developing methodologies for bioethics has obscured the necessity of an ethical understanding of the subjects at hand.
7. Problems with the concept of identity in contemporary ethics Sloterdijk, Heidegger, Sartre and Habermas on ethics, identity and eugenics
American liberal eugenics contrasted with European approach, seen issues of metaphysics and identity Peter Sloterdijk: ‘Rules for the Human Theme-Park: A Reply to the Letter on Humanism’
Elmau, Bavaria, July 1999 ‘Jenseits des Seins - Exodus from Being, Philosophie nach Heidegger’
Peter Sloterdijk Building on Heidegger Biology as the new locus for a grounding of ethics as a move away from humanism (post-humanism)
Brief über dem Humanismus Martin Heidegger On the nature of ethics, the possibility of an ethics, and on the discussion between essencialism and existentialism (a hidden polemic with Sartre.
… 1946: l‘existentialisme est un humanisme’ (J. P. Sartre): marking the beginning of the existentialist movement 1949: ‘Brief über dem Humanismus’ (M. Heidegger), answering Jean de Beaufret on the issue of ethics
1999: Auf dem Weg zu einem liberalen Eugenik (Habermas) Became the basis for ‘The Future of Human Nature’ (2003) Demonstrating a different grounding for ethics through Kierkegaard Critical of liberal eugenics, indirectly criticisizing Sloterdijk’s defence of eugenics
The self not as essence but as relation “[…] If this relation which relates itself to its own self is constituted by another, the relation doubtless is the third term, but this relation (the third term) is in turn a relation relating itself to that which constituted the whole relation. Such a derived, constituted, relation is the human self, a relation which relates itself to its own self, and in relating itself to its own self relates itself to another.” (Kierkegaard 1849)
Propositions with regard to a new eugenics The problem of a liberal eugenics does not lie in that one cannot define what can objectively be defined as eugenics, but in an inequality between parent and child: eugenics may be liberal for the prospective parents, but it will not be so for the person that results from their choices. What will remain fate for the eugenically created or selected was choice for the parents and this creates an intergenerational asymmetry The connection between practical ethics, theoretical ethics and metaphysics is necessary to answer the question ‘what would be wrong with designing people?’ since practical ethics cannot deal with the age-old Diogenesian question ‘what is a person?’ One should ask whether it is ethically justifiable to make decisions for future people that will determine their identity in a specific way. Therefore, selective reproduction should not go beyond the prevention of individual suffering (this does not exclude all types of eugenics)