Technology and the Limits of Humanity (NWO-VIDI)

NWO-Vidi project: Technology and the Limits of Humanity

Project leader: Peter-Paul Verbeek

Duration: 01-09-2008 - 01-04-2014

Technology and the Limits of Humanity

The Ethics and Anthropology of Posthumanism

Brief summary

Technological development has started to interfere explicitly with human nature. Technologies like biotechnology, brain implants, and enhancement technologies make it possible to reshape humanity in various ways. These ‘posthumanist’ developments are highly contested, though. The current discussion about posthumanism is dominated by two positions. The utopian transhumanist movement explicitly welcomes the enhancement of homo sapiens as an inevitable step in human evolution, while dystopian defendants of human dignity fiercely oppose all attempts to fiddle with human nature. These positions find themselves in a deadlock, however, which impedes proper moral discussion. Peter Sloterdijk’s proposal, e.g., to start thinking about how to use the new ‘anthropotechnologies’ properly, rather than opposing them and placing humanity outside the realm of technology, was immediately rejected as fascist.

Time seems ripe to find a way out of this deadlock. Technological development urges us to ask ourselves how to deal with posthumanist technologies in a responsible way. And for answering this question, we need to develop a better understanding of the posthuman being we might become, and better moral frameworks to deal with this. Therefore, this research project will elaborate an anthropology and ethics of the posthuman.

To accomplish this, the project will connect posthumanism to the philosophy of technology, taking it out of the realm of science-fiction and also including everyday technological mediations of human practices and experiences which help to shape what it means to be human. Second, the project will augment the current debate with earlier critiques of humanism and approaches to the human being in philosophical anthropology and the humanist tradition. Third, the project will contribute to the ethics of posthumanism by expanding Foucault’s ‘ethics of life’ – which focuses on subject constitution – to a framework relevant for dealing with posthumanist technologies and with the urgent question of what we will make of humanity.

Lucie Dalibert (promovenda),
Theo Wobbes (promovendus),
Peter-Paul Verbeek (researcher, promotor)