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The first is when they help advance our understanding of core issues raised by the enhancement uses of the emerging biomedical technologies.
For example, as section 2.3 below shows, equivocations between biological and evaluative senses of the term “human” are rich sources of many superficial disagreements in these debates.
Is there anything special about being a member of the biological species that enhancements could threaten, or are those who criticize enhancement as “dehumanizing” really thinking about the loss of other markers of the moral status we confer on persons?
At each turn in these discussions, wide vistas of background philosophical topics also appear for exploration.
Rather than providing a detailed account of this whole landscape, this entry hikes a narrow ridge between the different dimensions of the topic, pointing out the side trails but not following them into their respective thickets.
This broad definition flows from and reflects the foundational literature in this area (Parens 1998), but it also has several implications that are sometimes forgotten.
First, it means that simple line-drawing exercises aimed at isolating “enhancement technologies” from other biomedical interventions for special precautionary regulation or oversight are destined to be ineffective (.To look ahead, we think it will become clear in the sections below that the ethical issues at the heart of the debate about human enhancement are not about policing the biological boundaries of the species .At this point, however, it is enough to note that we are foreclosing neither sense of “human” from the start, but will stay alert to both until it becomes important to distinguish and relate them.Instead, it traces a path of core concerns that winds through all the current debates on the ethics of human enhancement, as guide for those interested in exploring further.To look ahead, our claim is that three sets of philosophical considerations are key to navigating this literature: first, conceptual concerns about the limits of legitimate health care, then moral worries about fairness, authenticity and human nature, and finally political questions about governance and policy.Finally, our definition implies that enhancement interventions attempt to improve specific human capacities and traits, rather than whole persons.Unlike such comprehensive personal-improvement strategies such as prayer, psychoanalysis, or “the power of positive thinking”, biomedical enhancements are, at best, a piecemeal approach to human perfectibility.But the focus of the enhancement ethics literature is overwhelmingly on interventions that make biological changes in human bodies and brains, using pharmaceutical, surgical, or genetic techniques (Clarke, Savulescu, Coady, et. Standard examples include: Of course, the line between biomedical and other enhancements is often blurry.Caffeine is a drug that can heighten alertness, but coffee drinking is a social practice outside the biomedical sphere.Second, the definition of “enhancement” used in this entry restricts the term to biomedical interventions, even though other methods of increasing normal human capacities raise ethical issues as well.Electronic and robotic tools that enable us to listen, observe, help or harm at a distance, lifestyles designed to maximize particular talents, and social practices that foster new forms of human relationship all come with their own trade-offs and moral concerns.