The Ethics of Generating Posthumans
eBook - ePub

The Ethics of Generating Posthumans

Philosophical and Theological Reflections on Bringing New Persons into Existence

Calum MacKellar, Trevor Stammers, Calum MacKellar, Trevor Stammers

  1. 248 pagine
  2. English
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eBook - ePub

The Ethics of Generating Posthumans

Philosophical and Theological Reflections on Bringing New Persons into Existence

Calum MacKellar, Trevor Stammers, Calum MacKellar, Trevor Stammers

Dettagli del libro
Anteprima del libro
Indice dei contenuti
Citazioni

Informazioni sul libro

Should transhuman and posthuman persons ever be brought into existence? And if so, could they be generated in a good and loving way? This study explores how society may respond to the actual generation of new kinds of persons from ethical, philosophical, and theological perspectives. Contributors to this volume address a number of essential questions, including the ethical ramifications of generating new life, the relationships that generators may have with their creations, and how these creations may consider their generation. This collection's interdisciplinary approach traverses the philosophical writings of Aristotle, Aquinas, Kant, Nietzsche, and Heidegger, alongside theological considerations from Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions. It invites academics, faith leaders, policy makers, and stakeholders to think through the ethical gamut of generating posthuman and transhuman persons.

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Informazioni

Anno
2022
ISBN
9781350216563
Edizione
1
Argomento
Philosophy
Part I
Who is a transhuman and posthuman person?
1
The concept of a ‘person’ and its history
Michael Fuchs
When we enter an elevator, we often find a sign, mostly a small plate, indicating the capacity. ‘Ten persons are the equivalent to 800 kg.’ One person is the equivalent to a certain quantity of matter – a body weight of 80 kilograms. However, when we enter the field of philosophy and try to learn something about the notion of ‘person’ or ‘persons’, we do not learn anything about the load-bearing capacity of elevators. Instead, the discussion very much relates to the problem of the identity of persons, more specifically their identity over time. As the Belgian-born American philosopher, Amélie Oksenberg Rorty, stated: ‘Disagreements about the criteria for personal identity have been persistently unresolved.’1
Thus, it is possible to ask what does identity mean and is there something special about the identity of persons? ‘Most of us believe’, as the British philosopher Derek Parfit (1942–2017) wrote in his famous 1984 book Reasons and Persons, ‘that our own continued existence is, in several ways, unlike the continued existence of a heap of sand.’2 When Parfit writes about identity, he is well aware of the English philosopher and physician John Locke’s (1632–1704) famous chapter 27, ‘Of Identity and Diversity’, in his Essay Concerning Human Understanding. Locke added the chapter, in which he treats persons and the conditions of their persistence, to the second edition of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding in 1694 only after being encouraged to do so by his Irish friend William Molyneux (1656–1698). However, Locke’s treatment of personal identity is one of the most discussed aspects of his entire work and it is the regular starting point of ongoing contemporary debates on the topic. To answer the question of whether something or someone stays the same requires an idea about the core of this entity, be it the core of a person or the core of a tree.3 Judgements about personal identity over time require an answer to the question of what the person is. In this regard, for Locke:
To find what personal identity consists in, we must consider what ‘person’ stands for. I think it is a thinking intelligent Being, that has reason and reflection, and can consider itself as itself, the same thinking thing in different times and places; which it does only by that consciousness, which is inseparable from thinking, and, as it seems to me, essential to it: . . . For, since consciousness always accompanies thinking, and it is that which makes everyone to be what he calls self, and thereby distinguishes himself from all other thinking things, in this alone consists personal Identity, i.e. the sameness of a rational Being.4
Conditions of identity and persistence are also relevant in the discussion on the ontological and moral status of human embryos and whether they are persons. Some of the discussants, such as the Australian philosophers Helga Kuhse and Peter Singer, dismiss the notion of embryo or infant as a person:
We must recall, however, that when we kill a new-born infant there is no person whose life has begun. When I think of myself as the person I now am, I realize that I did not come into existence until sometime after my birth. At birth I had no sense of the future, and no experiences which I can now remember as ‘mine’. It is the beginning of the person, rather than of the physical organism, that is crucial so far as the right to life is concerned.5
In contrast, those who argue in favour of an early onset of human identity or even personhood use arguments that the stages of development are linked. The Catholic scholar Norman Ford stated in 1991:
[T]he human person is a living individual with a human nature, i.e. a living ontological individual that has within itself the active capacity to maintain, or at least to begin, the process of the human life-cycle without loss of identity.6
In analysing this and other positions like it, philosophers have distinguished a species argument, an identity argument, a continuity argument and a potentiality argument, which have all been carefully discussed elsewhere.7 But I will skip these and return to Locke’s argument. In An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (II, XXVII § 16), he makes it clear that, for him, the identity of the subject or the person results from self-consciousness; identity of the subject is not logical prior to self-consciousness. His concept of consciousness always has the connotation of reflexivity.
Locke’s thesis has a negative aspect. Consciousness and personal identity are not necessarily tied to a substance, such as a body8 or a soul.9 The positive part is the focus on mental connectedness – the memory criterion. British philosopher Quassim Cassam (among others) calls this a functional concept of a person: According to the functional view, ‘possession of a range of specific psychological capacities is both necessary and sufficient for being a person’.10
But if we think in terms of ordinary language, this functional concept is not broad enough. American philosopher Arthur Danto (1924–2013) stressed this point as far back as 1967:
Neither in common usage nor in philosophy has there been a univocal concept of ‘person.’ Rather, the word ‘person’ and its almost exact cognates in the modern Western languages, as well as in Sanskrit (purusa), have numerous uses which at best seem only to border on one another. In recent common usage, ‘person’ refers to any human being in a general way, much as the word ‘thing’ refers unspecifically to any object whatsoever.11
Danto has found several usages and discussed their conceptual connectivity: a person as something that is distinct from a (mere) thing and that may be regarded as an end-in-itself, a legal person and a ‘person’ as synonym with ‘role’ or ‘part’ in a comedy or a tragedy (cf. dramatis personae). Indeed, the concept of a person has a long history and it is not easy to understand the semantic connectivity of different meanings. In my historic outline, I will not seek to address whether something like an original meaning existed while leaving open the question of whether a core concept is present.
Ordinary Greek language and ancient philosophy
I start with some contexts where the notion of person and the Greek equivalent were used prior to a philosophical analysis of the term and then sketch some steps of the philosophical history of the notion.12
According to the dictionary of Liddle/Scott, the Greek word πρόσωπον (prósōpon) can be used in the sense of face, visage, countenance, front, mask or character, part in a drama or appearance or legal person or person.13 As far as the contexts in which the notion of person are concerned, there is no clear historical order; I begin with the context of theatre, though not claiming that this was the original context.14 Since the Greek πρόσωπον can mean ‘mask’ it was suggested that person (cf the Latin word ‘persona’) signifies the actors in dramatic performances. In ancient and medieval times, many approaches used this idea for etymological analysis. It has also been suggested that person could come from the Latin verb ‘personare’, which means ‘sound through’ or from the participium ‘personando’: sounding through. Although philologists do not accept this etymology, the idea that πρόσωπον could not only stand for the mask but also for an actor speaking through the mask or an individual playing a certain role in a community or society is of great importance. In Latin, for instance, in texts of the Roman poet Horace (65–8 BC), ‘personatus’ still means ‘being masked’. Moreover, the concept of person is used in the theory of the verb in texts on grammar. This is shown by the grammar of the Greek, Dionysius of Thrax (170–90 BC) in the passage ‘On the Verb’ (ῥῆμα).15
Another context where the notion of πρόσωπον appears is in law, more precisely the teaching of the theory of law, such as the Institutes of the Roman jurist Gaius (130–80), an introductory textbook of legal institutions written about AD 161. These Institutes or commentarii of Gaius are the most important works of this literary genre. They consist of four books which may be traced back to a lecture transcript. The first is concerned with persons and their different legal status; the topic of the second is related to things and how rights over things are acquired; the third is about the law of inheritance, succession and obligations; and the fourth book treats legal actions and legal procedures.16 The idea is that there is a complete classification of everything that can be regulated by law: ‘All the law which we make use of has reference either to persons, to things, or to actions.’17
There is neither in grammar nor in the theory of law a formal definition of a person. In grammar, a person is an entity that is either speaking, can be addressed or something that is spoken about. In the theory of law, persons are not things and are not legal actions. All ‘men’ are either free or slaves. It is not clear if, or how, these ways in which the term ‘person’ is used are related to the idea of the mask or the idea of an actor on a stage.
In preclassical ancient philosophy, we only find short sentences about the individual human being. The Greek philosopher Heraclitus (c. 535–c. 475 BC) is not only concerned with the world-order (κόσμος) but also with his own thinking,18 and, for him, thinking is more a general universal process than an individual attempt.19 However, for the Greek scholar Empedocles (c. 494–c. 434 BC), the understanding of the κόσμος (cosmos) and an adequate way to live one‘s own life are connected. A correlation seems to exist between the perceiving subject and the material world: ‘For it is by earth that we see earth, by water water, by aether divine aether, and by fire destructive fire, and fondness by fondness, and strife by baleful strife.’20 In other words, we might say that Empedocles had some idea of the human being as a microcosm.
For the Greek medical writer and presocratic philosopher Alcmaeon of Croton (fifth century BC), as for Homer, human beings are ‘mortals’ and, in some sense, they are the only mortal beings. Alcmaeon notes: ‘Human beings perish because they are not able to join their beginning to their end.’21
In classical ancient philosophy, we find many texts giving abstract descriptions of the individual human being who can be defined as a living being with rationality (ζῷον λόγον ἔχον) and who is able to discuss practical and moral issues (ζῷον πολιτικόν). But in the works of the Greek philosophers Plato and Aristotle, as in presocratic writing, there is no concept of human dignity or of a person.22
The idea of dignity as a concept of moral philos...

Indice dei contenuti

  1. Cover
  2. Half-Title
  3. Title
  4. Contents
  5. A note on the text
  6. List of contributors
  7. Faith perspectives
  8. Introduction
  9. Part I Who is a transhuman and posthuman person?
  10. Part II How can transhuman and posthuman persons be generated?
  11. Part III Philosophical aspects in generating transhuman and posthuman persons
  12. Part IV Theological aspects in generating transhuman and posthuman persons
  13. Part V Ethical aspects in generating transhuman and posthuman persons
  14. Conclusion
  15. Appendix: Scottish Council on Human Bioethics recommendations on the generation of transhuman and posthuman persons
  16. Index
  17. Copyright