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The Case Against Perfection: Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering

July 10, 2007

Three years ago in The Atlantic, the Harvard philosopher Michael Sandel wrote a critique of genetic engineering titled “The Case Against Perfection.” Now he has turned it into a book. The title is the same, but the text has changed, and sections have been added. That’s what human beings do. We try to improve things.

Sandel thinks this vision of freedom is flawed. Part of freedom, he argues, “consists in a persisting negotiation with the given.” To abolish the given by re-engineering not only our world but also ourselves would “leave us with nothing to affirm or behold outside our own will.” This is a profound insight. But it’s not fatal to freedom. It’s fatal to perfection.

Source: NY Times.

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2 Comments
  1. Chris permalink

    “consists in a persisting negotiation with the given.” To abolish the given by re-engineering not only our world but also ourselves would “leave us with nothing to affirm or behold outside our own will.”

    What?? This is the usual jibberish of bio-cons and those who promote the pre-Enlightenment concepts of God’s will that we all suffer and die like mindless animals.

    Freedom is the right of the individual to choose to take as much control of thier own personal destiny as is possible, or to choose not.

    “Freedom is Slavery” “War is Peace” is just a more simplistic version of the same thought .

    Do we not always try to “perfect”ourselves within the limits of what is possible? Using genetics or nano-technology will just give us better tools.

  2. Chris permalink

    Another quote by another philosopher might help with this question as well, with regard to narrow concept individuals like Mr. Sandel..

    “Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”

    Arthur Schopenhauer

    Why should we listen to people who would have us limit ourselves to such a narrow vision?

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