Partiality for humanity and enhancement

Jonathan Pugh, Guy Kahane, Julian Savulescu

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Bioconservative opposition to enhancement often appeals to the value of preserving human nature as it is. But if human nature is the product of blind natural processes rather than divinely given, why shouldn’t we radically change it in beneficial ways? This chapter explores a different strategy for opposing enhancement: the thought that we should preserve human nature simply because it is our nature. A theoretical basis for this strategy can be found in Bernard Williams’ defence of what he calls the ‘human prejudice’ and Jerry Cohen’s defence of a ‘conservative bias’. Having identified some problems with their respective arguments, the chapter briefly sketches a potentially better approach that appeals to the idea of reasonable partiality. It suggests that reasonable partiality for humanity can ground an interesting—if limited—objection to enhancement that is in keeping with themes found in the work of Williams and Cohen.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Ethics of Human Enhancement:
Subtitle of host publicationUnderstanding the Debate
EditorsSteve Clarke, Julian Savulescu, C. A. J. Coady, Alberto Giubilini, Sagar Sanyal
Place of PublicationOxford UK
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages14
ISBN (Print)9780198754855
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • enhancement
  • bioconservatism
  • human nature
  • Bernard Williams
  • Jerry Cohen
  • human prejudice
  • conservative bias
  • partiality

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