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Are we becoming "post-human"?

Developments in the field of biotechnology give us an unprecedented ability to intervene in nature. But what are the implications of these developments for our identity as humans and are we facing a new human species?

A sign prohibiting entry to those with a pacemaker
A sign prohibiting entry to those with a pacemaker

In recent decades, the "posthuman" concept has become popular among researchers in the philosophy of science and bioethics. But it turns out that the post-human concept has many contradictory definitions and meanings. For some thinkers, the posthuman warns of a world of technologically engineered humans who have lost all connection to "natural" or "authentic" life. For others, the posthuman points to another stage in human evolution, where we can master the randomness of nature and live eternal life. Other thinkers see posthumanism as a transition from humanism, as a philosophical and historical framework in which we are used to thinking about the human and the natural, to posthumanism. In the doctoral thesis written in the interpretation and culture program at Bar Ilan University, Dr. Tamar Sharon maps the discourse about the posthuman. This mapping makes it possible to explore the social, ethical and philosophical implications of modern biotechnologies.

In her work, Dr. Sharon identified four central approaches in the post-human discourse: the dystopian, the liberal, the radical and the methodological. The dystopian approach Opposes the use of technology whose purpose is to change or "improve" the person, such as selecting embryos through genetic diagnosis or taking psychiatric drugs in order to improve concentration and memory abilities. The use of medical technologies to heal as opposed to using them to improve or "reshape" ourselves, according to those who hold this approach, may create new forms of discrimination, as well as damage a basic human essence.

Against this approach, id The liberal approach Bio-technologies are a way to overcome the biological, neurological and psychological limitations inherent in man. This approach advocates the improvement of man through technology, and sees the right to use these technologies as an expression of the exercise of individual freedom and the right to choose.

The dystopian approach and the liberal approach are the dominant approaches in the discourse about the post-human and they dictate the discussion of the social and ethical consequences of the use of biotechnology. Although this discussion is often conducted in terms of risk and benefit, Dr. Sharon claims that the main discussion in practice centers on the issue of human nature - even if this issue is not obvious to the eye. Moreover, even though these approaches seem to be opposite, they share a common theoretical basis that originates from liberal humanism: both see man as an independent, fixed and autonomous being, existing separately from his environment and from technology.

Therefore, for the dystopian approach, technology is seen as something that penetrates "inside" the human "from the outside" - therefore technologies that do not respect the boundaries of the subject are interpreted as a threat to freedom and human dignity. On the other hand, in the liberal approach, people use technology to take control of that "outside", when the urge to take control of the environment is seen as natural to man. These two approaches assume a clear separation between man and technology.

However, the sharp demarcation between man and technology is undermined precisely in light of the use of modern bio-technologies, which produce "hybrid" beings that combine the organic and the technological, the natural and the unnatural. Indeed, what significance does this distinction have in light of genetically modified food or test-tube children, pacemaker transplants and transgenic mice? As Dr. Sharon claims, it seems that the clear separation between humans and technology prevents us from understanding the ways in which the two factors, the "natural" and the "unnatural", are intertwined. According to her, human existence is shaped by our interaction with technology at different levels.

In other words, in order to understand the consequences of modern biotechnologies, there is a need for an approach that is not based on the separation between man and technology, but assumes their integrated nature - as the radical approach and the methodological approach do. for The radical approach, technology is not "external" to human nature or an "addition" to human abilities. Instead, technology has always been an integral part of being human. This means that we have always been post-human. This approach sees a blessing in the ability of modern biotechnologies to create hybrid entities, which destabilize concepts such as "natural" and "human". Modern bio-technologies, according to their approach, constitute a kind of proof of the idea that the human and the natural are artificial categories and hence also that there is a potential for political resistance to the meta-narratives of modernity.

in a similar way, The methodological approach Sees the distinction between humans and technology as nothing more than an illusion that impairs our ability to understand the relationship between the two. This approach attributes to technology the role of a mediator between humans and their environment: we experience the world, among other things, through the technologies we use. Thus, for example, we experience closeness to a distant friend through the Skype software, just as we take responsibility for the life of an abnormally developing fetus through an ultrasound examination. According to this approach, technology is not a neutral tool under the control of humans, as claimed by those who hold the liberal approach, nor is it a force that alienates humans from their environment or from an "authentic" life, as claimed by the dystopian approach. Instead, technology offers one kind of engagement with the world.

Dr. Sharon offers this mapping of the post-human discourse as a theoretical framework in which to place the many approaches that exist today to evaluate modern biotechnologies. It turns out that the important distinction between the different approaches is not the position taken regarding the use of biotechnologies, but rather in their perception of human nature. So the main distinction in the discussion of biotechnology is whether human nature is defined by his separation from technology, or alternatively, by the interactions that man maintains with the technologies that surround him.

5 תגובות

  1. Valerie Nakash, it's hard for me to understand, what exactly is the connecting line that you see between religion and "humanity"? Maybe I would say Efi, the opposite of you, religion is humanity as it is natural to man (I am only talking about Judaism).
    Another thing, you can't express an opinion about something you have no idea about and no interest in. You have never seen a rabbi that you can say is immoral. More than that, let's take a population area in Israel - Binyamin area, unlike other cities (such as Tel Aviv), there has never been any case of stabbing, etc. "Marginal youth are always there, but in % there are far more drugs, stabbings, thefts, rudeness and vandalism in Tel Aviv than in any area of ​​Benjamin.

    If you want, you can read a bit of the book "Mesilat Isharim" by the Ramchal (a little more than 10 pages). See how moral Judaism is, even more than you.

  2. Valerie Naksh
    Your objection to religion is legitimate from a scientific point of view, but on what human value system do you base your belief in secularism?

  3. In order for us to become post-human we need to be human first, and as long as we exist
    People who see the world from a religious point of view then we are in a big problem.

  4. An interesting article but sometimes difficult to understand because of the use of undefined concepts, for example: meta-narratives of modernity. This makes it difficult to understand parts of the article and especially the methodological approach
    But for that there is Google and you have to delve into the article.
    Shabbat Shalom
    Sabdarmish Yehuda

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