Using the interview methodology to investigate French and English-speaking debates on human enhancement: a preliminary assessment
Ruud ter Meulen (dir.) Centre for Ethics in Medicine, University of Bristol, 12 novembre 2013
This project consists in a philosophical and empirical comparative inquiry on the French and British contemporary debates about human enhancement and an attempt to create a solid dialogue between the two communities involved. ‘Human enhancement’ refers to the improvement of human capacities by the use of new biotechnologies and other emergent technologies, in order for example to help people think better or feel happier. It has its roots in the therapeutic application of these technologies (healing of illness and relief of suffering) and in the fact that their effectiveness in this area has recently come to a second use in the efforts to elevate human feeling, improve cognition, and raise physical performance to higher levels. Some authors see the new possibilities opened as essentially ‘good’ and even a reason to anticipate a new utopia. Serious ethical concerns are also expressed, particularly about the autonomy of the individual, the nature of humanity, and justice in society and health care, most of these hopes and worries having been explored through various speculations in philosophy or fiction. Now, it appears that the French debate is using a partly different approach to the topic. Some major issues, like the distinction between ‘health’ and ‘disease’, or the question of the integration of enhancement treatments within the health care system, appear to be sometimes dealt with quite differently by French philosophers and professionals as compared to their British counterparts. However, it is of prime importance that we share a common understanding and vocabulary in the context of Europe policy-making on these sensitive questions. By learning about the Anglo-Saxon approaches to human enhancement and by learning and applying sociological research, the fellow wants to generate such a renewed understanding and shared vocabulary and thus contribute to the progress on these key questions for the future of humanity.