Transhumanist Imagination

transhumanist imagination

Steve Fuller

TITLE

"Is transhumanism what the Western cultural project has always been about?"

DEPARTMENT

University of Warwick

EMAIL

BIO

Abstract: Much of the official inspiration and some of the rhetoric of transhumanism trades on certain science-fiction-style visions of the future that stress radical breaks with the past. Yet, it is equally noticeable that analytic philosophers sympathetic to transhumanism (e.g. John Harris, Nick Bostrom, Julian Savulescu) tend to defend transhumanist policies as simply extending intuitions about, say, self-improvement that already guide our actions. My own view is that transhumanism’s quest for ‘Humanity 2.0’ amounts to an ‘Enlightenment 2.0’, which is to say, it is ultimately only updating a project that has captivated the Western imagination for at least 400 years, if not longer. Put another way, transhumanism could easily – and perhaps should – be incorporated as the latest chapter of general education (‘liberal arts’). I shall discuss this proposal. But one question that immediately arises is why, if what I say is true, does transhumanism appear to be such a strange philosophy? There are three reasons: (1) We don’t take sufficiently seriously that deep ideas don’t survive by remaining in their historical forms but acquire new forms over time, a point that no less applies to ‘humanity’ or ‘Enlightenment’. (2) There is considerable disenchantment with the sense of species privilege that underwrites transhumanism -- after all, it has been distinctly ‘human’ traits that have been nominated for indefinite enhancement. (3) Even those who continue to support ‘Enlightenment 1.0’ admit that the project remains incomplete, and its chances for completion might well be undermined by an ideology that promotes opportunities for certain, typically already ‘advanced’ members of humanity to advance still further.