On Human Enhancement : A Comparative Analysis and Application of Sovereignty and Power in the Coming Age of Liberal Eugenics
Howrigon, Cody K.
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This paper will begin with a section comprised of a comparative analysis of Friedrich Nietzsche’s theory of power and Georges Bataille’s theory of sovereignty. This will be done in an effort to layout the primary concepts of each philosophers’ thought, while also demonstrating how both are similar and different from one another. Once both theories have been explained adequately, the paper will shift its focus to an account of the contemporary philosophical debate concerning the potential future of liberal societies that permit eugenic human enhancements. To do so, the opposing arguments of two of this issue’s most prominent theorists will be examined in detail. On the side that is in favor of a future liberal eugenic society, the work of the philosopher Nicholas Agar will be considered thoroughly. Specifically, we will examine Agar’s response to the oppositional account provided by the German philosopher Jürgen Habermas. To make this contrast, the general scope of Habermas’ argument will be provided first, followed by an analysis of Agar’s direct response to the concerns put forward by Habermas. The crux of this debate is centered on the question of the relationship between human enhancement and the prospects of an enhanced person to attain or to realize authentic human existence. More specifically, the debate will deal with the potential effects liberal human enhancement might have on human identity formation, as well as with what Habermas refers to as, the “ethical self-understanding of the species.” Agar will attempt to respond to the concerns posed by Habermas by providing a relatively moderate account of liberal eugenics, one he argues sufficiently reconciles the issues raised by Habermas. However, after following the full development of their debate, it will be shown that Agar’s claim falls short of his alleged conclusion, and that his response to Habermas should ultimately be seen, at best, as being unsatisfactory. At this point, Nietzsche’s theory of power and Bataille’s theory of sovereignty will be briefly reintroduced, and then applied to the contemporary debate of liberal eugenic enhancements. The argument will be made that the theories of both Nietzsche and Bataille fit nicely within the argumentative framework of Habermas. The purpose of making this move is two-fold. Firstly, this application will be made in the attempt to provide a defense against historically unfair and inaccurate interpretations of the theories of both Nietzsche and Bataille. Secondly, this application will be made in the attempt to contribute valuable philosophical theories to the contemporary eugenic debate, theories that would have otherwise been overlooked or even discounted. In the final section of this paper, the major argumentative points will be reiterated for the application of both Nietzsche and Bataille to the contemporary eugenic debate. Ultimately, the conclusion will be made that neither Nietzsche nor Bataille should or can be situated in a position that is in favor of liberal eugenic enhancements. This determination will have dire repercussions concerning the theories of power and sovereignty, as such a situation (of permitted liberal eugenic enhancements) necessarily compromises both thinkers’ respective notions of authentic human freedom and experience. Surely, to compromise these notions is to also compromise that which is most fundamental to what it means to be a human being, and that which undergirds our understanding of humanity itself. As such, there can be no greater reason to examine this issue in detail, as it is this issue which may one day (re)define what it means to be a human being.