Being Better Bodies [Book Review]

Hastings Center Report 47 (6):46-47 (2017)
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[Excerpt]: Bioethics has an uneasy relationship with embodiment. Only with vigilance does knowledge of the body as it is lived counterbalance the momentous inertia of knowledge of the body as an object brought about by modern medical sciences. As a field tethered to detached, technical ways of knowing the world, bioethics must toil to treat the body as more than mere material and machine. To be more is, among other things, to be social—to live in the thickets of interdependence and the institutions and practices we build, hone, and defend to facilitate it. I take this tension to define the ultimate stakes of Melinda Hall's The Bioethics of Enhancement: Transhumanism, Disability, and Biopolitics. Hall homes in on transhumanism, the idea that we should embrace technology to vault beyond current human limitations. Yet the work serves as a reminder for all bioethicists and philosophers of how easily one can be led astray by otherwise irreproachable values when they are disconnected from the conditions and realities of human life, including being irremediably interdependent embodied beings. Put more acerbically, the book is a reminder of how thinking goes wrong when divorced from the principal sources out of which human appraisals emerge: our fleshy, messy, social bodies.
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