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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. My latest books are THE TYRANNY OF OPINION: CONFORMITY AND THE FUTURE OF LIBERALISM (2019); AT THE DAWN OF A GREAT TRANSITION: THE QUESTION OF RADICAL ENHANCEMENT (2021); and HOW WE BECAME POST-LIBERAL: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOLERATION (2024).

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Enhancement anxiety - a short thread at richarddawkins.net

Over at richarddawkins.net there is a short but useful thread about enhancement anxiety (with a nice comment by Richard himself).


Anonymous said...

I've justed finished reading Bill McKibben's book Enough, have you read it? What did you think?

Russell Blackford said...

I'm rather critical of it. My PhD thesis was actually on the philosophy of enhancement - the views expressed in it are similar to those in the Free Inquiry article, although the latter is more up to date while the former is a lot longer and covers a lot more issues. I did have a fair bit to say about McKibben there, and perhaps one day it will see the light of day.

Anonymous said...

I was critical too. One of McKibben's main arguments is that if we do utilise enhancement technology we will change the human species. McKibben does not like this as it will change the meaning in our lives. What we once valued as being human we will no longer be able to in a posthuman future. If you have read the book you will know what I am talking about.

Anyway, the question I thought about the most in regards to this is, can we legislate to stop enhancement technology due to it enfringing upon 'meaning'? Can a 21st century liberal democracy pass laws based on supposed 'meaning'? Your thoughts would be appreciated.

Russell Blackford said...

I was just debating something like this on one of the other threads.

My short answer is - no, the state should not try to do that. That is a very illiberal use of state power.

Now, the long answer would have to justify liberalism (in the relevant sense) and probably the whole notion of secular government as a starting point. As I said to Verbose Stoic on the other thread, I don't think you can do that all the way down in a way that is intellectually compelling to all comers, irrespective of what their starting presumptions might be. I do, however, think you can justify it to a lot of people who are not committed to their comprehensive view of the world prevailing at all costs. Many people, when they think about it, don't really want their comprehensive view of the world imposed by state power so long as they free to live in accordance with it themselves (and perhaps have some reasonable chance of persuading others to do so).

Anonymous said...

Thanks, that was pretty much what I was thinking of.