Transhumanist Imagination

transhumanist imagination

Christoph Rehmann-Sutter


“Ethics of wishing”


University of Lubeck



Abstract: Some enhancements of our bodies, regardless of their technical feasibility, immediately look desirable: the improvement of cognitive power, the improvement of capacities that are useful in the arts or in sport, a retardation of ageing, strengthening the body against diseases, or just against the side-effects of medicine, for instance of aggressive chemotherapies. They look desirable because they harmonize with goals that I pursue in everyday life: I invest in learning, I train my body to play the violin, I avoid dangers that threaten my life, and so forth. The hope to improve limited capacities is a motor of much we are doing with passion. But is there a straight line from this everyday ethics of wishing to the ethics of choice over the objectives of human enhancement biotechnology? I will argue that this would be far too simple. There are differences to notice. One difference is inheritability, a second are the side effects. A third is a completely different approach to social differences. We need an ethics of wishing that considers the proper political implications of enhancement biotechnologies, the social and the institutional contexts of improvements. Who is defining 'limits'? Whose and which ideas dominate in the alleged improvements of good life? What makes us to see a hoped-for state of embodiment as 'better' and 'desirable'? And how can we cope with finitude, which will probably persist, even in a posthuman world?