Human Enhancement and the Giftedness of Life

Philosophical Papers 40 (1):55-79 (2011)
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Michael Sandel's opposition to the project of human enhancement is based on an argument that centres on the notion of giftedness. Sandel claims that by trying to ?make better people? we fall prey to, and encourage, an attitude of mastery and thus lose, or diminish, our appreciation of the giftedness of life. Sandel's position and the underlying argument have been much criticised. In this paper I will try to make sense of Sandel's reasoning and give an account of giftedness that defends its relevance for the ethical assessment of the human enhancement project. In order to do so, I will also look at virtue-related notions, such as gratitude and humility, and distinguish the gifted from the merely given. The failure to acknowledge this distinction gives rise to one of the most common objections to Sandel's argument. Other objections will be shown to rest on similar misunderstandings
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