Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Ethics of Designing People: The Habermasian Critique

Philosophy News image
Suppose in the not-too-distant future we master the art of creating people. In other words, technology advances to the point that you and I can walk into a store (or go online!) and order a new artificial person from a retailer. This artificial person will be a full-blown person in the proper philosophical sense of the term “person”. They will have all the attributes we usually ascribe to a human person. They will have the capacity to suffer, to think rationally, to desire certain futures, to conceive of themselves as a single coherent self and so on. Furthermore, you and I will have the power to design this person according to our own specifications. We will be able to pick their eye colour, height, hairstyle, personality, intelligence, life preferences and more. We will be able completely customise them to our tastes. Here’s the question: would it be ethical for us to make use of this power?Note that for the purposes of this thought experiment it doesn’t matter too much what the artificial person is made of. It could be a wholly biological entity, made from the same stuff as any human child, but genetically and biomedically engineered according to our customisation. Or it could also be wholly artificial, made from silicon chips and motorised bits, a bit like Data from Star Trek. None of this matters. What matters is that (a) it is a person and (b) it has been custom built to order. It is ethical to create such a being?Some people think it wouldn’t be; some people think it would be. In this post I want to look at the arguments made by those who think it would be a bad idea to design a person from scratch in this fashion. In particular I want to look at a style of argument made popular by the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas in his critique of positive eugenics. According to this argument, you should not design a person because doing so would necessarily compromise the autonomy and equality of that person. It would turn them into a product not a person; an object. . .

Continue reading . . .

News source: Philosophical Disquisitions

blog comments powered by Disqus