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Australian philosopher, literary critic, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE and HUMANITY ENHANCED.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Transhumanism seminars

I'm conducting three two-hour seminars on transhumanism, aimed at postgraduate and honours students, the first of which took place today. In that time, it's only possible to scratch the surface of the huge body of relevant literature, but I did put together a set of relevant readings, avoiding anything of book length except a recommendation of James Hughes's Citizen Cyborg. I wanted a set of materials that would introduce the synchronic and diachronic dimensions of the transhumanist movement, provide participants with a sound basis from which to apply the law of expanding footnotes to get a more comprehensive picture of the literature, introduce some specific aspects of the controversy, and also, I must admit, frame some of the issues from my own particular viewpoint. Here is what I came up with.

World Transhumanist Association, "Transhumanist FAQ",

Nicholas Agar, "Liberal Eugenics", Public Affairs Quarterly 12 (2) (April 1998): 137-55.

—. "Whereto Transhumanism? The Literature Reaches a Critical Mass", Hastings Center Report 37, No. 3 (2007): 12-17.

G. Annas, L. Andrews, and R. Isasi, "Protecting the Endangered Human: Toward an International Treaty Prohibiting Cloning and Inheritable Alternations", American Journal of Law and Medicine 28, nos. 2/3 (2002): 151-78.

Ronald Bailey "Transhumanism: The Most Dangerous Idea? Why striving to be more than human is human", Reason Online, August 25, 2004. http://www.reason.com/news/show/34867.html

F. Baylis and J. Robert. "The Inevitability of Genetic Enhancement Technologies", Bioethics 2004. 1-26.

Russell Blackford, "Who's Afraid of the Brave New World?" Quadrant 396 (May 2003): 9-15.

—. "Human Cloning and 'Posthuman' Society", Monash Bioethics Review 24 (2005): 10-26.

—. "Sinning against Nature: The Theory of Background Conditions", Journal of Medical Ethics 32 (2006): 629-34.

Nick Bostrom. "Human Genetic Enhancements: A Transhumanist Perspective", Journal of Value Inquiry 37 (2003): 493-506.

—. "A History of Transhumanist Thought", Journal of Evolution and Technology. 14 (2005): 1-25. http://jetpress.org/volume14/bostrom.html

—. "In Defense of Posthuman Dignity", Bioethics 19 (3) (2005), 202-214.

Dov Fox, "The Illiberality of 'Liberal Eugenics'", Ratio 20 (1) (2007), 1-25.

Leon R Kass, "Preventing a Brave New World: Why We Should Ban Human Cloning Now", The New Republic 21 May 2001: 30-39.

Ronald A. Lindsay, "Enhancements and Justice: Problems in Determining the Requirements of Justice in a Genetically Transformed Society", Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 15 (1) (March 2005): 3-38.

M.J. McNamee and S.D. Edwards, "Transhumanism, Medical Technology and Slippery Slopes", Journal of Medical Ethics, 32 (2006): 513 - 518.

Michael J. Sandel, "The Case Against Perfection: What’s Wrong with Designer Children, Bionic Athletes, and Genetic Engineering", The Atlantic Monthly, 293 (4) (2004): 51–62.

Next time, we'll look at the bioconservative pieces by Annas et al, Kass, and Sandel, plus Bostrom's "Posthuman Dignity" article. I had a small group, but some interesting discussion, so I hope for more of the same next week.


Blake Stacey said...

This looks like an interesting reading list. If any interesting viewpoints pop up in upcoming seminar sessions, please do write about them! :-)

Russell Blackford said...

I have one student who wants to write a longish (4,500 word) essay exploring the psychological basis for fear of technology. The small group of us spent a fair bit of the last seminar discussing this issue, and she now has a lot of leads, including a copy of a rather speculative lecture that I gave on the topic last year. I'll be fascinated to see what she comes up with, as I have a real interest in the whole issue of why pre-scientific ways of thinking persist.

She'll be reading up on the theory of background conditions, Paul Bloom's work, and various other things.